New 4R Designation is specific to Western Canada.

Certified Crop Advisers (CCAs) who provide nutrient management advice in Western Canada can now achieve a 4R Nutrient Management Specialist (NMS) designation, specific to the three Prairie provinces, offered by the Prairie Certified Crop Adviser (PCCA) Board.

Curtis Cavers, past-chair of the PCCA Board, says the need to give Prairie CCAs the tools to better address local conditions was the motivation behind creating a program specific to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

“We wanted to make sure that if people are taking this type of training, it’s relevant to what they’re dealing with on a regular basis, and they’re not being asked questions about crops or practices that aren’t done in this part of the world,” explains Cavers.

“Our goal was to create thorough nutrient management training specifically designed for established CCAs who wish to specialize in this area.”

Prior to the introduction of this Prairie-specific designation, agronomists in Western Canada could achieve a 4R NMS designation using study materials offered by the International Plant Nutrition Institute and the Ontario CCA Board.

A Unique Program for the Prairies

Available to all CCAs in good standing, the voluntary Prairie 4R NMS course dives deeper into nutrient management than standard CCA certification, and incorporates the principles of 4R Nutrient Stewardship – the right fertilizer source at the right rate at the right time in the right place – which are quickly becoming the standard for global fertilizer best practices. While 4R principles are the same around the world, how those principles are applied can depend on location-specific conditions.

With that in mind, the PCCA Board solicited expertise from throughout Western Canada to develop the course’s performance objectives, exam and study guide; all specifically tailored to the weather, soil, cropping practices and regulations of the Prairie provinces.

The study guide, which was produced with the help of Fertilizer Canada, provides an in-depth study of nutrient management. It includes the 4R approach, key components of nutrient management planning, the dynamics of how nitrogen works in agriculture systems, nutrients and micronutrients, soil amendments, manure, compost, biosolids and waste water.

“It gets fairly comprehensive as we start drilling down, but that is its strength,” says Cavers.

An Opportunity to Specialize

Kelly Boles, owner and president of Center Field Solutions in Three Hills, Alta. and incoming PCCA Board chair, decided to pursue the new 4R NMS designation because location-specific training will help him to more-accurately assess conditions within the prairie context.

“Assessments will vary depending on a number of factors, including crop type, soil type, precipitation, growing season, etc.,” says Boles. “Wheat or canola production is different here in Three Hills than in the Dakotas, for example.”

Boles, who provides ag production consulting services to both large and small operations, says his clients look for recommendations on crop inputs that take into consideration land stewardship, along with crop health, safety and performance; and that maintain or optimize yield and risk under varying conditions.

Added Credibility

After completing the course, Boles will have a designation indicating that he has a higher level of expertise in nutrient management and 4R stewardship, specific to the area in which he works. This, he predicts, will give his clients an additional level of trust in his assessments.

“Local knowledge is a locally trusted solution,” says Boles. “Knowing they are following the 4R principles and applying the targeted sources and rates and timing of product, is extra assurance.”

Boles believes having this knowledge will not only help retailers make more accurate assessments, it can help them overcome the perception that their recommendations are made strictly in the interest of making the sale.

“Specializations like this will add credibility and assurance that there is a supported product and recommendation being provided,” he says.

When he sits down to write the Prairie 4R NMS exam in February, Boles will be breaking ground as a member of the first group in Western Canada to do so. There will be more opportunities to take the exam in the near future, however, and interested CCAs who missed the February exam are encouraged to contact the PCCA Board for information on upcoming sittings.

According to Cavers, due to the depth of study and specialization of this designation, CCAs will have to do a little more work to keep it up-to-date.

“Once a CCA has passed the exam and achieved the 4R NMS designation, they will be required to earn additional continuing education units, or CEUs, to maintain it,” explains Cavers. “Normally, they’d need to earn five CEUs in the area
of nutrient management over a two-year cycle – with this designation they will need ten.”

To address other specialties, such as precision agriculture, resistance management and sustainability, the PCCA Board is looking at developing more specialized programs like this in the future. And, like the nutrient management specialty, the programs would be tailored to Prairie conditions and cropping practices. Cavers says CCAs who are interested in those areas of specialization should “stay tuned.”

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