A Canola Council of Canada goal is to have 90 per cent of canola acres using 4R practices by 2025. Fertilizer Canada’s latest fertilizer use survey found that currently 51.6 per cent of Canadian canola acres would qualify as 4R.
The question of 4R adoption came up during the Canola Discovery Forum panel discussion. Panelists were Lyle Cowell, an agronomist with Nutrien in Saskatchewan, Mario Tenuta, a research scientist with the University of Manitoba, Dean Nelson, a canola grower from Alberta, and Adam Gurr, a canola grower and independent researcher from Manitoba. Gurr took the lead in answering the question about why more growers don’t follow 4R.
“This one really puzzles me,” Gurr says. “We have been using 4R practices on our farm for as long as I can recall. With the use of 4R nutrient stewardship, we are more profitable than we would be if we didn’t use it, simple as that. It makes perfect sense to band your fertilizer as close to seeding as possible and at rates that will maximize profitability.”
In the live discussion during Canola Discovery Forum, panelists emphasized the importance of placing fertilizer into the soil. “I think subsoil banding is absolutely critical,” Tenuta says. “The concentration of nutrients results in less interaction with the soil and means more availability to the plant. It is one of the things farmers have some ability to control.”
When asked about the next breakthrough fertility research or management options, Cowell says, “I don’t think there is a new breakthrough on the horizon. … Perhaps the next step is to target the 4R practice per field or per landscape. Too many farms are now applying the same rate of nitrogen nutrients per crop across every acre. This is very 1990. We can do better with more accurate 4R practices.”
When asked what fertilizer changes should take place to increase yield to 52 bu./ac. in the next five years, which is a target for the Canola Council of Canada strategic plan, Nelson answers, “I think we have all the tools we need to reach those goals. …The most significant factor now is taking the time to do the little things to get that extra five to 10 bushels we need. We need to take that 10 minutes to double check how the seeder is seeding in each field. And take the time to double check that our combine is set the best we can, not just on that first day of combining.”
These answers represent just a small sample from the panel discussion. The live panel is captured in a Canola Watch podcast, which is posted under the Canola Watch tab at canolawatch.org. Panelists also answered questions that weren’t addressed during the live event. For these, look for the article “Canola Discovery Forum 4R panel – more Q&A” at canolawatch.org.
As part of the discovery process, Canola Discovery Forum 2020 included an interactive poll to gather input from all participants. When asked for the first word they think of when they think about 4R, the most common reply was “sustainability”, followed by “efficiency”. When asked about barriers to 4R adoption, the top answer was “education” followed by “cost” and then “logistics”. Complete poll results are attached to the article “Highlights from Canola Week 2020” at canolawatch.org.