A quick glance at the tidy office of John Fritz at The Andersons, Inc. Fremont facility, a 4R Certified facility, would suggest that he works in a fairly standard desk job. One look at his weathered work boots, however, belies how he really spends most of his time and what drives the passion for what he does.
Fritz was recently named Ohio’s 2018 Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) of the Year. Fritz has more than 39 years of crop advising experience providing a variety of services to clients. He specializes in precision technology including nutrient management plans, soil sampling, scouting, weed management and seed recommendations, and variable rate planning. At The Andersons, Fritz has been a driving force for change through implementation of new technologies, including the introduction of variable rate technology at the farm center in the mid-1990s. He is also the head of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Management program and oversees all fertilizer recommendations and rates for customers.
“John does not hesitate to go above and beyond for his customers,” said Jim Gosche, who nominated Fritz for the award. “His dedication as a crop adviser is not just an occupation to him; it’s his way of life.”
Sponsored by the Ohio CCA Program, the state award recognizes an individual who is highly motivated, delivers exceptional customer service for farmer clients in nutrient management, soil and water management, integrated pest management, and crop production, and has contributed substantially to the exchange of ideas and the transfer of agronomic knowledge within the agricultural industry in Ohio. Fritz was recognized at the 2018 Conservation Tillage Conference on March 6 in Ada. He received a plaque and a $1,500 cash award, courtesy of the Ohio Association Independent Crop Consultants, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and Nutrien.
Fritz was among the first Ohioans to earn the title of CCA.
“I became a CCA the first year they started the program. I was working here in Fremont,” Fritz said. “They started the program because they wanted us to be able to go out to the farm as agronomists who could be more professional and have the knowledge to work with the grower and help them with their operation. The code of ethics was a big thing with the CCA program too. You’re not just going out and pushing products. Everything is based on good agronomic information.”
Nutrient management has been a focus for Fritz, especially in recent years. His extensive knowledge in the areas of nutrient management and precision technology positioned him to take on a key leadership role in addressing water quality challenges of Lake Erie.
“With Lake Erie being so important for tourism, we in ag really have to help with the issues with the algae. We are right on the Sandusky River here, which dumps into the Bay and we also have two other watersheds — the Portage and the Maumee — that go right into Lake Erie. We need to do everything we can to keep phosphorus out of the Lake,” he said. “We all watch when we are applying fertilizer and stay away from times when there could be excessive runoff. We have also worked with customers doing a lot more looking at different ways of applying nutrients, whether it is deep placement, the timing, or making sure that it is incorporated so we don’t have the surface runoff potential. We are doing a lot more variable rate application — a lot of that has been driven by the 4R certification program. Things there are changing so fast. It is a constant learning curve. Also variable rate nitrogen is big. For the equipment side, for the direct injection of nutrients and the whole realm of precision ag there is always something new. You have to understand the soil chemistry and know the proper products and timing to use and understand the different application techniques to get the most efficient use of fertilizer and do the right things environmentally. We continue to work with customers on those things.”
Ohio’s recent move to classify Lake Erie’s open waters as “impaired” may further increase the important role of Fritz and other CCAs in the Lake Erie Watershed.
“If they do call it impaired, will that mean all farmers need to do nutrient management plans? CCAs will have to help with those because there will be a lot to do,” Fritz said. “If there is a widespread need for that it will be a more important role for CCAs down the road.”
Though Fritz has seen extensive measures put in place to address agricultural nutrient loss in the farms he works with, he also wants to stress that there are many factors beyond the control of agriculture.
“There are things we can still improve on but there are many things we can’t control like the weather and the heavy rains. We have to figure out a way to offset those heavy rain events,” Fritz said. “Agriculture in general has taken a proactive response to this and we are not sure what all this ‘impaired’ designation could mean. Are we still shooting for the 40% reduction in phosphorus or are there other new regulations that come along with that? The big thing with water quality is that we need to be able to show the public what ag is doing and that we are doing our part to address the problem. We are going to continue to improve and CCAs need to be in front of that.”
Weed control has been another challenging and complex problem facing Ohio’s CCAs.
“How do we handle the chemical resistance and try to keep fields clean? In this area it seems like we are using a lot of LibertyLink soybeans to control marestail. Luckily, though we have some Palmer and waterhemp, it is not very much. We have some customers looking at the dicamba or Xtend soybeans. We are trying to find the best way to use that technology to help the farmer but also be good stewards to neighbors with sensitive crops,” Fritz said. “When you look at some of the Xtend beans and using dicamba, overall we feel we can apply it fairly safely in a burndown situation. We will apply in a burndown but we will not apply it post-. There are enough vegetables around here that we won’t do that. It is up to us as CCAs to follow the labels and make sure we are telling farmers about how to apply it. I think the label changes will help the situation. Whether it is a grower or an applicator, you have to look at it and decide if the risk is worth the application issue that could happen. You really have to pick and choose when you are going to use dicamba.”
The training and ongoing education required to be a CCA has helped Fritz tackle these and other agronomic challenges in his work for The Andersons.