New Program Assesses Performance of Fertilizer Management Tools

NutrientStar evaluates commercially available fertilizer efficiency tools, software and products

March 3, 2016
Cristina Mestre, 919-451-2383,

(NEW ORLEANS – March 3, 2016) The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today launched NutrientStar, a new independent, science-based program that reviews the performance of commercially available nutrient management tools.

Nitrogen fertilizer is one of the most important inputs in agriculture, but up to 50 percent of nutrients applied are not absorbed by crops, leading to air and water pollution and wasted money for farmers, who spend approximately half of their input costs (seed, nutrients, and chemicals) on fertilizer. 

Major food companies are launching sustainable sourcing programs to reduce fertilizer runoff, improve air and water quality, and reduce the risk of supply chain disruptions. Precision agriculture tools, in particular those that improve nutrient management, can help farmers meet this demand and reduce fertilizer losses, but little data is publicly available on how these tools work in the field.

NutrientStar will showcase how well products work in real-world farming scenarios,” said Karen Chapman, agricultural sustainability project manager at EDF and administrator of the NutrientStar program. “NutrientStar’s independent science review panel conducts rigorous assessments of all tools on the market, particularly looking at on-farm field trials, to determine how a tool works in croplands, in different regions, and on different soil types.”

Fertilizer management tools reviewed through NutrientStar include enhanced efficiency fertilizer compounds, such as nitrogen stabilizers, and decision support tools, such as optical sensor technologies or models used to aid nutrient applications in the field. Tools and products already assessed or soon to be assessed include:

  • Adapt-N (made by Agronomic Technology Corp.), an online software program that uses a linked crop model and soil model to estimate nitrogen rates for individual fields or areas within fields.
  • Fertilizer management products including N-Serve® (made by Dow AgroSciences); AGROTAIN®, AGROTAIN PLUS®, and SUPER U® (made by Koch Agronomic Services).
  • Reviews being made public this spring include: Nutrisphere N (made by Verdesian); Instinct II (made by Dow AgroSciences), ESN (made by Agrium); DCD; Thiosulfate; and, Slow Release Foliar N products made from methylene urea.

Assessments later in 2016 will focus on Fieldview Pro Nitrogen Advisor (made by Climate Corporation) and Encirca (made by DuPont Pioneer).

NutrientStar is the first-ever review program to provide famers, their advisors, and agricultural supply chain companies with reliable data on the performance of these popular tools,” added John McGuire, EDF advisor and precision agriculture expert. “Farmers need certainty that the tools they purchase will work as advertised.”

An independent review panel, composed of leading soil and agronomy scientists from across the country, establishes the criteria for NutrientStar review. The panel assesses tools based upon available data demonstrating their ability to improve nutrient use efficiency, defined as unit of yield over unit of applied nutrient, in the field. NutrientStar review will also show yield impacts from use of a tool and summarize key characteristics important to farmers and advisors such as cost/benefit, ease of use, and required data inputs.

The NutrientStar program also establishes guidelines for field testing nutrient-use efficiency tools, setting standards and providing a geographical framework that can substantially advance the research agenda in ways that will benefit the entire agriculture industry.   

NutrientStar assessments provide numerous other benefits, including:

  • Farmers gain confidence by knowing that the nutrient management tools they purchase will work as advertised to reduce fertilizer losses, improve soil health, lower input costs, and maintain yields. Farmers can also showcase their stewardship to food companies and suppliers by using the NutrientStar review to inform their decisions.
  • Ag retailers and crop advisors earn a competitive advantage by offering field-tested and geographically relevant products to their grower customers.
  • Food companies improve transparency with customers, more easily navigate the fertilizer management world, and can now directly support farmers in implementing on-farm conservation practices.
  • Agribusinesses ensure they are offering the most competitive, farm-tested products to growers, thereby earning customer loyalty.

“As food companies’ demand for sustainably produced ingredients continues to skyrocket, they’ll need to support farmers and the entire supply chain in implementing on-farm conservation practices,” added Chapman. “NutrientStar will help food companies navigate the fertilizer management world, and will spark further innovation, research and development for better nutrient management tools.”

“NutrientStar also enables farmers to more easily execute the 4Rs of nutrient stewardship, which include applying fertilizer at the right source, the right rate, the right time, and the right place,” noted McGuire. “NutrientStar complements the 4Rs by informing farmers on tools that will most effectively help implement these important practices.”

For more information on NutrientStar, including scientific assessment criteria, visit

What companies, ag retailers and ag associations are saying about NutrientStar [listed alphabetically]:

Campbell Soup Company

“Campbell is committed to growing and sourcing ingredients as sustainably as possible while supporting farmers in their stewardship efforts. NutrientStar will provide science-based review of fertilizer efficiency tools so that farmers and companies can invest in the best available technologies and products to optimize their crop.”

  • Dan Sonke, Manager of Agricultural Sustainability Programs at Campbell

Kellogg Company

“At Kellogg, we strive to make great-tasting food people love. People care about where their food comes from, the people who grow and make it, and that there’s enough for everyone. NutrientStar is a great tool for farmers to ensure the highest quality ingredients for our foods.”

  • Amy Braun, Senior Sustainability Manager at Kellogg Company

National Corn Growers Association

“Our corn farmers rely on a growing set of tools to help make better decisions to improve entire farm sustainability. The NutrientStar review system can help us find solutions that are tested and effective – saving time and money while promoting better yields, improved economics and healthier soils.”

  • Chip Bowling, Newburg, Maryland; President, National Corn Growers Association

Smithfield Foods

“We’ve been overwhelmed with the positive response to Smithfield’s MBGro program, which offers free agronomic advice to independent grain growers to help them improve productivity, profitability and sustainability. The program also offers farmers free trials of precision agriculture tools that help to improve fertilizer applications and soil health. NutrientStar is the perfect complement to MBGro because it provides growers certainty that the tools we’re recommending work as advertised.”

  • Kraig Westerbeek, VP of Engineering and Environmental Support Services, Smithfield Foods 


“At Unilever, our purpose is to help make sustainable living commonplace. Through our sustainable sourcing goals, Unilever is working to find the best ways to support farmers in their sustainability efforts. NutrientStar is a great instrument for growers to utilize to help determine which tools work best for achieving tangible environmental results.”

  • Stefani Grant, Senior Manager, External Affairs and Sustainability at Unilever

What growers and ag experts are saying about NutrientStar [listed alphabetically]:

Keith Alverson, Corn & Soybean Farmer & President, South Dakota Corn Association (South Dakota)

“The more information growers have on the tools and technologies available to them, the better choices we can make to save money and protect the land. NutrientStar will help growers keep their strong tradition of stewardship.”

Brent Bible, Corn & Soybean Farmer, Farmer of the Soil Health Partnership (Indiana)

“As a corn producer, my highest input cost after land and seed is fertilizer, specifically nitrogen.  A tool that can objectively verify, with confidence, ways to make more efficient use of this input will absolutely help us save money and reduce our environmental footprint. In a time where profit may be measured in single dollars per acre, NutrientStar has can positively impact the economic return for our operation.”

Todd Hesterman, Farmer and Certified Crop Advisor (Ohio)

“We really don’t know which nutrient management tools work, since there isn’t adequate data to prove their efficacy. I welcome NutrientStar as a way to help me make better decisions on fertilizer efficiency products.”

Bruce Knight, Consultant and former Chief, Natural Resources Conservation Service

“The more we can help farmers meet the dual challenges of increased production and greater fertilizer efficiency, the better off we’ll be. Programs like NutrientStar that step into the void by providing third-party, unbiased efficacy information and ratings not served by university or government agencies is a big step forward in helping them meet those challenges.”

Fred Yoder, Farmer and Chairman of the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (Ohio)

“The Paris Climate Accord didn’t include specifications for agriculture, but that won’t stop global momentum for climate-smart agriculture practices. Agriculture must do its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and farmers must adapt to climate change impacts. They are invested in stewardship because land is their livelihood, and resilience must constantly be improved. Margins are tight these days, so it makes great sense to strive to do better in stabilizing the nutrients in the soil profile. NutrientStar is a proven way to help farmers reduce the environmental impacts of farming, with great potential for reducing input costs. NutrientStar is an important tool for moving the ag industry towards adoption of climate-smart practices.”

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