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Saskatchewan commits to 4R Nutrient Stewardship

October 2018

The right source at the right rate, right time and the right place.

Those four Rs make up the 4R Nutrient Stewardship, a Canadian-made program that allows producers to grow more food using existing farmland and ensures the protection of the environment.

The 4R best management practices enable producers in the province – and across the country – to increase their productivity while improving environmental sustainability by reducing fertilizer losses to air, water and soil. 

Many Saskatchewan farmers were already using 4R practices, but the Government of Saskatchewan furthered its commitment to the practice in May 2018 by signing a three-year extension to a Memorandum of Co-operation with Fertilizer Canada.

The extension to the original November 2016 agreement will see the expansion of the 4R program to include access to training and education, with a new Saskatchewan-based 4R Nutrient Stewardship eLearning training course and a 4R Nutrient Management Specialty Certification for Certified Crop Advisors. 

But that’s not where Saskatchewan’s commitment to 4R ends.

Its practices and techniques are being explored in the Agriculture Demonstration of Practices and Technologies (ADOPT) program, which is supported by both provincial and federal governments through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP).  ADOPT’s goal is to accelerate the transfer of knowledge to Saskatchewan producers and ranchers.

While ADOPT lives primarily under the Ministry’s Agriculture Research Branch, Senior Research Specialist Jeff Braidek points out that it is definitely a demonstration program.

“The distinction is, in research, we’re looking to generate new knowledge and in a demonstration program like ADOPT, the research has been done,” Braidek explained. “Something has been proven and now we’re just taking it out to the community so they can see it.”

ADOPT brings new practices and technologies to producers in their own region to see how they work under local environmental conditions. Producers can then use that demonstration to decide if they want to implement the new practices or technologies in their own operations.

“The idea is to enhance or speed up adoption of these new practices by facilitating demonstrations,” Braidek added. 

The projects have to be framed as demonstrations, which mean the projects have been researched or used somewhere else in the world, to see how it applies in Saskatchewan. While the ideas can come from producers, applications can only be brought forward by producer groups, such as SaskFlax SaskCanola, Agri-ARM sites and others. 

“The concept is to have the groups vet the ideas that are brought to them so there is already a degree of review that has happened before the applications land on our desks,” said Braidek. 

Eighty per cent of the approved ADOPT projects are tied to another Ministry program, the Agriculture-Applied Research Management program, or Agri-ARM, which also looks to increase the adoption of new agricultural production technologies and practices.

There are currently eight Agri-ARM sites in Saskatchewan with which ADOPT shares a close working relationship. 

“They have the advantage of already being regionally distributed, already set up to do demonstration plot work, they have the staff and equipment,” explained Braidek. “Many other producer groups that don’t have those tangible assets also work with the Agri-ARM sites to fund other projects.”

But whether a project is approved or not also comes down to its relevance.

“Does this concept mesh with current farming practices and can it extend and improve current farming practices?” Braidek added.

That brings us back to 4R Nutrient Stewardship.

Since 2016, the Ministry has funded 25 ADOPT projects, totaling $156,000, focusing on 4R. Fertilizer Canada co-funded eight of those projects for a total of $24,000. 

In 2017, ADOPT demonstrated 4R principles for nitrogen and phosphorus in wheat and canola in various Agri-ARM sites throughout the province, including Swift Current, Melfort and Indian Head.

“Look at all of these projects together – they’re in different parts of the province so you’re going to have different results,” said Shannon Chant, the Crops Extension Specialist in Swift Current. “I think that’s the value of the ADOPT (program). Even if this research is conducted in Saskatoon at the University (of Saskatchewan), it’ll be a little bit different in how it’s applied in different areas, different soil zones.” 

This type of work will continue under the Ministry’s and Fertilizer Canada’s Memorandum of Co-operation, which identified 4R producer-focused demonstrations via programs such as ADOPT. The Ministry’s commitments include facilitating the demonstrations at Agri-ARM sites, providing guidance to ensure the 4R demonstrations reflect the Ministry’s Strategic Plan and sustainable production objectives, and assisting with public education on the benefits of nutrient management, including 4R principles, via field days, presentations and other communications.

During July and August 2018, the regularly scheduled field days for the eight Agri-ARM sites included at least one stop at a 4R nutrient demonstration project to describe the 4R nutrient principles and discuss the specifics of the demonstration projects. The crops on these demonstration plots were then harvested. Harvest results will be tabulated and incorporated into extension activities that will be delivered over the winter. 

Many of these 4R demonstration projects will begin this fall, with fall-applied fertilizer applications. Remaining applications will be applied in spring 2019. Crops will be planted in the spring and these plots will grow throughout 2019, serving as visually effective demonstration projects. The 2019 growing season will also feature 4R Nutrient Stewardship for winter wheat and winter rye, including both fall and spring applications, as well.  

All of this information will build Saskatchewan’s knowledge of 4R Nutrient Stewardship practices and principles. 

More information on the ADOPT program can be found by contacting Jeff Braidek, Senior Research Specialist, at 306-933-6016 or Lei Ren, Research Specialist, at 306-787-6588. 

This article was originally published in the October 2018 issue of Agriview.

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