The 4R nutrient stewardship concept was introduced by Bruulsema et al. (2009) to define the right source, rate, time, and place to apply fertilizers to produce not only the most economical outcome in any given crop but also to provide desirable social and environmental benefits essential to sustainable agriculture. The concept was structured around agronomic crops, including corn (Zea mays), soybean (Glycine max), and wheat (Triticum aestivum), but the principals are easily adaptable to other cropping systems. In this article, the utility of the concept is illustrated to discuss the importance of “right” fertilizer placement in horticulture.
Proper fertilizer placement is an integral part of effective and appropriate crop nutrient management. It is basically defined as applying the fertilizer to a location in the soil that maximize plant nutrient uptake and minimize soil nutrient losses (because of leaching, volatilization, and runoff as well as immobilization associated with soil chemical and microbiological processes). Considerations include movement and availability of soil nutrients, size and distribution of the crop's root system, and the method of fertilizer application. Fertilizers placed correctly ensure that nutrients are readily available for plant uptake during peak and critical crop demand periods and reduce any potential losses that may result in negative economic and environmental consequences. This article will address fertilizer placement according to common and basic factors, recognizing that final placement decisions are site and situation specific.
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