Nutrients where they belong — it’s a phrase we use often to help explain what we do. We manufacture many of our fertilizers with a carbon base, which helps them quickly enter the soil food chain. Once there, the nutrients are far more likely to remain available, move into the crops, and ultimately into the resulting food. They are also far less likely to end up in the atmosphere or water supply.
That phrase — nutrients where they belong — means different things to different people.
To producers, the phrase often means less waste. And less waste means a chance at better profits. One of our founders, Gary Zimmer, sees it this way. Whenever he sees maps showing dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico — the result of excess phosphorous and nitrogen runoff — he doesn’t view it as an environmental issue. He sees it as waste. “A bunch of farmers wasted money,” he says, “by applying nitrogen and phosphorous that ended up in the river. It left the field without being used as intended. That’s a waste of money.”
The phrase also suggests higher yields, and profits, for every dollar spent by producers. Their goal is often to increase the amount of food they grow without increasing the amount they spend. When nutrients are kept where they belong — in soil life and in plants — a larger percentage of the fertilizer product is actually drawn into the plants, leading to healthier, more robust crops. That, in turn, leads to higher yields and higher profits.
To consumers and food processors, it means better tasting and more nutritious food. Oats grown on our fertility program have been shown to have 30 percent greater protein content and beta glucans. (Beta glucans are the soluble fibers that allow a food to be called “heart healthy.”)
To land owners, “nutrients where they belong” is a reminder of our focus on soil life and soil health. We work with our farmers to generate yield increases in their current season, while building the farm’s long-term production potential. We encourage steps to use the plant and soil systems to hold and cycle nutrients in the soil between growing seasons.
To conservationists, hunters, anglers and others, keeping nutrients where they belong means rivers can be restored after decades of nutrient loading. It means greenhouse gas emissions associated with farming can be greatly reduced. Higher yields also mean that valuable wildlife habitat can be protected. When farmers make current farms more productive, marginal lands can be protected or restored as wildlife habitat.
The phrase indeed means many things to many people. And that, in itself, is a reminder: All things, especially when it comes to farming, are connected.