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Adapted from USDA-NRCS

Adaptive nutrient management is a process used to evaluate and adjust nutrient application and utilization strategies based on data collected at the field level. Adaptive nutrient management promotes the coordination of amount, source, timing, and placement of plant nutrients to minimize nutrient losses.  This is often referred to as 4Rs:

  • Right Rate

  • Right Source

  • Right Time

  • Right Place


Adaptive management can help producers make better nutrient management decisions leading to reduced nutrient inputs, increased profits, and improved environmental benefits such as water quality.

Four basic steps are involved:

  1. Develop the plan for the evaluation.

  2. Implement the nutrient management plan.

  3. Evaluate the plan based on lessons learned.

  4. Adjust the nutrient management.


While all nutrient management plans involve initial planning or predicting, most involve

only implementation of the plan and do not include a systematic evaluation component.


Adaptive nutrient management requires evaluation at least once a year when a crop is harvested. If in-season adaptive management tools are used, the evaluation occurs at least twice a year, when a soil or plant tissue test is completed and when a crop is harvested.


Adaptive nutrient management is an ongoing evaluation and learning process. Specifically, adaptive nutrient management tailors nutrient management for the grower’s unique farming operation. The evaluation also helps growers to better tailor conservation practices that are best suited to their operations to address identified natural resource concerns.



Tools and Resources

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