CAAR and Fertilizer Canada pair up to promote the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program
Fertilizer Canada’s 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program was the subject of much curiosity at the Crop Management Forum, hosted by CAAR last fall in Brandon, MB. The program is based on the four R’s of nutrient stewardship – Right fertilizer source at the Right rate, at the Right time and in the Right place – focusing on how growers can apply fertilizer in the most efficient and responsible way.
“We are seeing more and more consumer demand for sourcing sustainable food products,” says Lynda Nicol, communications and membership manager with CAAR. “As an industry we understand that this is a need we have to not only meet, but be ahead of. Programs like 4R provide much needed support for farmers to be able to be proactive in their ability to say ‘This is how I farm. This is where your food comes from,’ which is what consumers want to hear.”
In order for the system to work, farmers must submit their acres for designation, a task which can only be accomplished with the help of a 4R designated agronomist or retailer. “That’s where CAAR members come in,” says Nicol. “A 4R designated retailer can help a farmer in two key ways. One, they are able to ensure the farmer is using nutrient management best management practices, an act which protects the sustainability of the crop, land and farm business. And, two, they can work with the farmer to sign off on the acres to ensure they are properly certified through Fertilizer Canada.”
Mitchell Timmerman, agri-ecosystems specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development and 4R Nutrient Stewardship ambassador, explains that the program will help farmers continue the work they do, while satisfying the evolving demand for responsible fertilizer practices in crop production.
“We recognize the inherent value of nutrients – how they’re essential for life,” he says. “Unfortunately they do also pose some environmental risk, so we need to protect farmers’ interests and social license to have independent decision-making. Those concepts, along with economic and agronomic sustainability, are rolled up into this program.”
Timmerman sees benefits that can be passed on to producers: increased yields and efficiencies thanks to smart nutrient management, and the potential for a better bottom line. “The fertilizer bill is often the largest item on a farm’s annual budget,” he says. “If the rate can be adjusted based on source, time and place, that can save a farmer money.”
Katlyn Richaud, agronomist with Munro Farm Supplies, thinks that the market is ready to embrace 4R certification, and thinks that earning a 4R designation can help agri-retailers better serve their customers. “We’re already having these conversations, because of companies that are becoming more concerned about sustainability,” she says. “A lot of consumers are concerned.”
The participation of agri-retailers and agronomists is key to the success of the program. To this end, the involvement and support of CAAR – a Fertilizer Canada sister association – has been essential in sharing the message across Canada. “We’re here to provide the technical side,” says Timmerman, “and partners like CAAR help bring audiences into the room.”
In an industry where sustainability and transparency have become major factors, especially in the eyes of the public, the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Program will be a useful asset – both to producers, and the agronomists and agri-retailers who serve them.
What are the Four Rs?
The 4R program refers to four basic principles of sustainable nutrient management:
Right Source – Fertilizers that are in – or easily converted to – compounds best used by the target crop.
Right Rate – Match the nutrient supply with the crop requirements
Right Time – Ensure that the nutrients will be available when crop demand is high
Right Place – Apply or maintain fertilizer where crop can access nutrients most effectively
Source: Fertilizer Canada
Become a 4R Retailer
4R Designations can be earned by either agronomists or agri-retailers. To get started today, visit Fertilizer Canada's Nutrient Stewardship page. You can learn more about the program, and get started on the eLearning programs available online.
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