I’ve been talking about the four R’s a lot lately: right timing, right placement, right source, right rate. They are important guiding principles for our endeavors in the field, but there’s a problem:
What the heck do we mean by “right”?
I dabbled a bit with this idea last week when we talked about “good” placement (in this case, “good”=”right”). “Good” placement for Potassium is quite different than “good” placement for Nitrogen. It’s really easy for us to set a goal to do something “right.” It takes a bit more brain work to actually get “right” right though.
So, friends, I introduce to you the Three P’s: Predictive elements, Proactive elements, and Prescriptive elements.
Here’s the idea: each R contains within it the Three P’s. While the R serves as your goal, the Three P’s serve as the ways to get there. They are each small process goals within the bigger picture and together provide a framework for your decision-making in pursuit of the big RIGHT.
Lest you think I’m just going through the alphabet with you, or you’re wondering where these P’s have been all your life, their introduction here and now is due to all that cutting edge science stuff I talked about last week. This is the very first time in history—a long-awaited merging of innovative thought and technology—that we’ve actually had all the tools to leverage the Three Ps. So it’s kind of awesome.
How’s it work? Let’s apply this to the discussion about right placement that opened this whole can of
worms last week:
Okay, so: right placement. That’s your goal. Put the nutrients in the right spot, watch your plants grow big and tall.
But what’s the right spot?
Predictive elements of this decision are based in the fact that through the magic of science and good old experience, we have an idea of how something will act in the future. For example, we know that corn plants get 60% of their Nitrogen from the soil within seven inches of the stalk so we can predict that Nitrogen will be best used by our plants if we place it within that range. Crop modeling and other technologies are going to help us be greatly more predictive.
Proactive elements are the action pieces. If the predictive element tells us that we need to place our N within seven inches of the stalk, the proactive element is getting it there. We have a greater capacity to be proactive today than ever before, in thanks to the application technology that we have available to us today.
Prescriptive elements are there to help us better manage efficiency through a better understanding of the relationship between yield and nutrient requirements. Using variable rate applications is a good first start but we will in the future be using technologies delivering us information through imagery with a tremendous amount of resolution helping us quantify real time crop demand
In sum, the Three P’s make the Four R’s work for us. They do rather unleash a flood of scenarios on us, but once we work with it a bit and wrap our heads around it, we (happily) find ourselves truly engaged in our work in the kind of way that’s good for the world and the wallet.