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4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification


4R Nutrient Stewardship is a new innovative approach for fertilizer best management practices adopted by the world’s fertilizer industry. This approach considers economic, social and environmental dimensions of nutrient management and is essential to sustainability of agricultural systems.

The concept is simple—apply the right source of nutrient, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place—but the implementation is knowledge‑intensive and site‑specific. Through participation in Minnesota's 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program, Agricultural Retailers and Nutrient Service Providers (NSPs) can showcase the good work they do maximizing agricultural productivity while minimizing impacts to the environment. 

What are the 4Rs?


Matches type of fertilizer type to crop needs.


Matches amount of fertilizer to crop needs.


Makes nutrients available when crops needs them.


Keep nutrients where crops can use them.

The 4R nutrient stewardship principles are the same globally, but how they are used locally varies depending on field and site specific characteristics such as soil, cropping system, management techniques and climate. The scientific principles of the 4R framework include:

RIGHT SOURCE – Ensure a balanced supply of essential nutrients, considering both naturally available sources and the characteristics of specific products, in plant available forms.

RIGHT RATE – Assess and make decisions based on soil nutrient supply and plant demand.

RIGHT TIME – Assess and make decisions based on the dynamics of crop uptake, soil supply, nutrient loss risks, and field operation logistics.

RIGHT PLACE – Address root-soil dynamics and nutrient movement, and manage spatial variability within the field to meet site-specific crop needs and limit potential losses from the field.

View Minnesota's 4R Certification Standard Requirements for Ag Retailers here

Benefits of Using the 4Rs

Agriculture Must Respond to the Pressures of Increasing Population and Regulation

4R nutrient stewardship can help improve agricultural productivity

  • Optimizing nutrient management is simply good business in dealing with fluctuations in prices of fertilizers and other inputs, as well as in process of crops sold.

  • Higher crop yields are well documented with better crop and soil management.

  • Improved fertilizer efficiency increases the quantity produced per acre for each unit of nutrient applied, without sacrificing yield potential.

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4R nutrient stewardship can help minimize impacts to the environment:

  • Adopting nutrient stewardship contributes to the preservation of natural ecosystems by growing more on less land.

  • Retaining nutrients within a field’s boundaries and in the crop rooting zone greatly reduces the amount that is not utilized by plants and thereby escapes into the environment as pollution.

Becoming 4R Certified in Minnesota

Since 2016, Minnesota’s Agricultural Community has been developing a proactive and responsible commitment to reducing nutrient losses in Minnesota. In 2020, the Minnesota Crop Production Retailers Association (MCPR) launched a 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program for agricultural retailers.

The certification program is governed by an eleven-member board called the Minnesota Nutrient Stewardship Council (MNSC) and administered by MCPR.


Within the MNSC, there is an advisory committee comprised of twenty-six companies and organizations that provides recommendations to the Council for improving the program.

View Nutrient Stewardship Council Membership here


Retailers and Nutrient Service Providers interested in more information, training opportunities, or beginning the certification process can begin by visiting MCPR's 4R Certification program page at or getting in touch with one of the contacts below.


Bill Bond

Executive Director

Minnesota Crop Production Retailers Assn.
Phone: 763-235-6473


Peter Mead

Agriculture Project Manager

The Nature Conservancy
Phone: (218) 849-6170

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