The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Agri-Retailer Award
Sponsored by Fertilizer Canada
Richardson Pioneer isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to taking a fully-formed approach to best agronomy practices.
Luckily for their customers, and the environment, the parameters of Fertilizer Canada’s 4R Nutrient Stewardship program align perfectly with the efficient, effective and profitable crop planning that Richardson Pioneer’s staff bring to the field.
Heather Durie, agronomy manager and the company representative who accepted this year’s award, sees these parallels as a likely reason why her organization stood out as a strong example of nutrient stewardship.
“In a lot of ways, this system is similar to things that we’re doing already,” she says. “We spend a lot of time training our staff on the principles of the 4Rs. We probably use a lot more of the 4R terminology now than we did a few years ago, but the concepts are something we’ve been using in our training program for a while.”
The company’s agronomists help their customers improve yields and increase profits using the 4R system to make a soil- and crop-specific fertility plan that uses the right source, at the right rate, in the right place at the right time. The program matches nutrient supply with crop requirements, reducing runoff of excess product – thereby making an operation not only more efficient, but more environmentally sustainable.
Durie can see the benefits from an operation standpoint. “Hopefully we can help growers realize production efficiencies,” she says, “and producers will find that they’re more productive and profitable on their farm, through using these best practices in nutrient management.”
But the staff at Richardson Pioneer’s many locations across western Canada are also privy to a perspective many other suppliers and agri-retailers don’t see. Because their organization is a purchaser of commodities, pressure from end users and consumers to use environmentally-friendly practices also influences their strategy decisions.
“We will likely be one of the first agri-retailers to feel the pressure from consumers and end users, because we are also the ones selling the commodity to them,” says Durie. “Hopefully (proper management through nutrient stewardship) will just continue to strengthen producers’ position in the end markets they’re targeting – so they’re not restricted as far as what they can sell, where they can sell, and at what price.”
To help producers fully realize the benefits of these practices, Richardson Pioneer embraces a sustainable philosophy that extends beyond nutrient management.
“We have donated towards the 4R Research Fund,” says Durie, noting that there are still some unknowns in defining the best sustainable Canadian agriculture practices – something her company hopes the research fund will help to clarify.
Research also takes an important role in Richardson Pioneer’s responsible approach to their product offering. New products that may enable more precise delivery of nutrients are always on their radar, and testing new solutions is part of the company mandate.
“More efficiency products and specialty products are starting to pop up in the market,” says Durie. “We’re taking the time to evaluate them and see where the fit is, where the benefit is, and a lot of the time the benefit is the way they release nutrients into the environment and how that allows the crop to better utilize the nutrient. We support a lot of those products, carry them at our retails and promote them to our farm customers.”
Ultimately, Durie sees the 4R system as a boon to all groups – retailers, suppliers, producers and end users, as well as to the future of sustainable Canadian agriculture. Richardson Pioneer’s involvement in this program serves to strengthen their service offering to customers, while providing transparency to appease consumer groups and the knowledge that the industry is moving in the right direction.
“There’s two benefits that we can hopefully show from nutrient management best practices,” she says. “The first is increased crop productivity and profitability, and the second is knowing that we’re doing a good job as an industry, and as a country, to be sustainable.”
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