4R Nutrient Stewardship is a framework encouraging growers to use the four ‘Rights’: Right Source at the Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place. The principle is to use nutrient sources that the crop needs and can take up, apply them at a rate to match crop use, apply them at the right time of the season to minimize losses and be available when the crop needs it, and put them in the right place to minimize loss and maximize crop access to the nutrient.
Find out more about Fertilizer Canada’s 4R designation at fertilizercanada.ca/nutrient-stewardship/4r-designation/
The Canola Council of Canada’s sustainability targets include a goal to have 90 per cent of canola production acres under 4R Nutrient Stewardship by 2025. Canadian farms following the 4Rs can submit their acres under the 4R Designation program described at fertilizercanada.ca. [Editor’s note: This was originally set at 50 per cent, and the original print version of this article uses the 50 per cent number.]
Following the 4Rs will lead to improved nutrient use efficiency, which is good for business and for soil health and air and water quality. Implementing 4R Nutrient Stewardship across all acres in Western Canada will lead to a one- to two-million-tonne reduction in greenhouse gases, which is equivalent to removing 215,000-430,000 cars from the road annually.
Over three years, nine leading researchers of the Canadian 4R Research Network (including Jeff Schoenau from the University of Saskatchewan, Miles Dyck from the University of Alberta and Mario Tenuta from the University of Manitoba) tested various 4R practices for common Canadian crops. They noted two practices of particular value for canola growers:
- Regardless of fertilizer source, growers can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase crop yields by applying nitrogen fertilizer bands as close to the seed row as safely possible and deeper than the seed row to ensure that the crop accesses applied nitrogen early in the growing season.
- Applying phosphorus fertilizer as an in-soil placement at the recommended rate reduces runoff (as much as 75 per cent) while increasing economic efficiency and profitability. Broadcasting in the fall without incorporation can greatly increase the risk of phosphorus in snowmelt run-off. This is an especially important observation for large-acre Prairie producers who may be trending towards broadcast methods.
Steve Barron with Double Diamond Farm Supply in Manitoba is an agronomist and an active part of the province’s 4R Nutrient Stewardship program, led by Fertilizer Canada, the Manitoba government and Keystone Agricultural Producers. He answered this question:
What key 4R principle is not being done enough in Western Canada?
A key 4R Nutrient Stewardship principle that needs more attention is enhanced efficiency fertilizer (EEF) nutrition placed in the right places at the right rates. The sticker shock of new EEF products might turn off some farmers, but these products need to be discussed with a return on investment (ROI) mindset. EEF products and the placement of these products are more important today than ever before. Our traditional canola nutrition practices were researched and developed for older generation canola genetics. Canola genetics have evolved, and the nutrition consumption habits of these new generation varieties need to evolve as well.