Nutrien Ag Solutions, Western Canada

This year’s 4R Nutrient Stewardship Agri-Retailer is Nutrien Ag Solutions (Nutrien Ag), a company that has made 4R Nutrient Stewardship an integral part of the service they provide to their grower customers.

Nutrien Ag’s retail employees quickly embraced the formal 4R program when it launched just two years ago and found they didn’t have to change their way of thinking to align with the 4R principles.

“At the very beginning the response from our team was – Right Time, Right Rate, Right Source, Right Place – well that’s what we do every day,” says Michelle Nutting, Nutrien Ag’s agriculture sustainability manager. “We have always supported the principles the 4R program has labelled. We believe it can be a natural part of every crop nutrition consultation at Nutrien Ag Solutions. It also forms the framework for much of our crop nutrition training with new team members.”

At the very beginning the response from staff was – Right Time, Right Rate, Right Source, Right Place – well that’s what we do every day. Michelle Nutting

Nutrien Ag began executing a formal 4R program in 2017 to help producers achieve higher yields with less environmental impact and get them thinking about fertilizer stewardship in a new light. Nutting was part of the internal team who developed and launched the Nutrien Ag Solutions 4R program.

“In 2016 we looked at the value and integrity of the program, the training needs and qualifications required for our team, and the types of supporting tools we would need,” she says. “In 2017 we rolled out our program in a limited way so we could learn if we had developed a program that worked for us. Building on that success, we expanded the program in 2018.”

From the outset, Nutting says employees asked many challenging questions about the program, like what it meant to be doing 4R, or what would or wouldn’t be considered a 4R practice. If they were going to commit, she says, they wanted to do it with a high degree of integrity.

Lyle Cowell, manager of agronomic services, says the first step in the program’s implementation was for staff and growers to see fertilizer as more than just a product, but as one of many important factors required to grow a crop with success.

“The 4R program is not just something for our staff to ‘sign up farmers.’ We engage the customer in the field and at the farm table to best understand how we can help improve fertilizer use,” says Cowell. “It’s important that we make the customer a partner in best agronomy practices that include the 4R Nutrient Stewardship program.”

According to Nutting, having a program that encourages and supports retailers to achieve an advanced level of nutrient management knowledge has increased confidence and brings new solutions that might not have been considered previously. “It has helped us ask different questions and uncover new opportunities,” she says.

Tracking their 4R acres by participating in Fertilizer Canada’s 4R Acre Reporting program is showing the team the magnitude of impact they can have. Counting over 300,000 sustainably-managed acres in 2018 alone, the team has been able to show the effective and responsible use of nutrients by Canada’s farmers and see the difference they have made.

Participating in the program has also allowed the team to better connect with customers. “It is an easy discussion with a producer and fits our initiative of being on the farm more,” says Gary Topham, manager of agronomic services and development team member.

The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Agri-Retailer award, sponsored by Fertilizer Canada, recognizes the dedication, hard work and leadership demonstrated by the Nutrien Ag Solutions team through the execution of their 4R program.

“We are extremely proud of our team’s ability to work with producers on important initiatives like 4R,” says Roger Bortis, regional manager for Nutrien Ag Solutions Canada. “We believe we have some of the best agronomists on the Prairies and awards like this confirm it.”

Perhaps the best signal that they are on the right track, however, is the impact with their customers. Accepting the award on behalf of the Nutrien Ag team, Kevin Poole, manager of agronomic services, touched on some of the positive feedback they’ve received.

“The conversations that occurred with our growers were quite successful in a number of ways,” said Poole. “We received numerous compliments back from our growers in regards that they quite enjoyed the deeper discussions around crop fertility and the impact of implementing the 4R principles on their farms.”

Do you know a CAAR member who deserves to be recognized? Click here to download application forms for the 2019 CAAR’s Choice Awards.

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