New fertilizer program aims to maximize inputs

Farmers across the Prairies can take part in a new program aimed at improving fertilizer efficiency, so more goes into crops and less is lost into the atmosphere.

The 4R Designation program, developed by Fertilizer Canada, aims to get producers to use the right source of fertilizer at the right rate, right time and in the right place.

The organization wants 20 million acres on the program by 2020. It’s estimated that there are about seven million acres already using similar methods when applying fertilizer, said Garth Whyte, president and chief executive officer with Fertilizer Canada.

“The program will help increase productivity and reduce impacts on the environment,” he said, adding nitrous oxide emissions are 300 times worse than carbon emissions.

“You can reduce nitrous oxide by 30 percent, so it’s a real game changer.”

Producers and other industry stakeholders who want to take part can follow four main steps.

The first step requires retailers and agronomists to take an online course for training. They will then be required to submit a from to state they’ve met all the requirements. After that, farmers will be able to sign off on that plan to become designated.

Then Fertilizer Canada will count acres to get an exact number of participating producers.

“There is high awareness and strong usage already, but now we’ll be able to record it,” Whyte said.

Each 4R plan will be tailored to each producer. Application practices will depend on the type of crop, regional climate and soil types, among others.

Before this program, Whyte said farmers who were doing such practices had a hard time proving it because there was no tracking mechanism.

As well, he noted that governments are looking to improve their environmental track records, so this program could help them with their strategies to reduce emissions and address climate change.

If the organization reaches its 20 million goal, he said about one-quarter of Canada’s farmland will be managed more sustainably.

“By reaching this goal, we will ensure Canada remains a leader in on-farm environmental stewardship,” he said.

More information on 4R designation is available at bit.ly/2J2wtVP.

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