By Austin Baron AAg, Agri-Environmental Specialist, Swift Current
Saskatchewan producers are well known for their ability to adapt to new practices and balance their economic requirements with social demands and environmental benefits. As new technologies and best management practices become available, producers are quick to adopt changes that help make the balancing act a little easier.
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework is based on farm-specific best management practices for nutrient management. The 4R framework encourages producers to consider the Right source, Right rate, Right time, Right place. The framework helps producers maximize yields while minimizing negative environmental effects by managing their fertilizer program. One management practice would be adjusting how and when fertilizer is applied. Banding nitrogen in the spring with seed is best for nitrogen efficiency. When possible, switching from fall broadcasting to banding will reduce nitrogen loss, which can have a large economic and environmental benefit. By looking at nutrient availability in the soil and estimating yield, producers can determine what fertilizer rate is needed instead of having a blanket blend for one crop. To further assess nutrient needs, variable rate fertilizer application is becoming more of a common practice across Saskatchewan. This technology allows producers to apply exactly what is needed for that location.
To many Saskatchewan producers, 4R Nutrient Stewardship is not new, as sustainable nutrient stewardship has been integral to their operation for years. According to Fertilizer Canada, 70 per cent of Canadian crop acres are already operating under the basic principles of 4R Nutrient Stewardship. However, as consumers and industry increasingly demand proof of sustainable practices, it becomes more important for these producers to be able to demonstrate they truly are practising in a social, economic, and environmentally-sustainable manner.
Producers can access more information on the 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework and on the Fertilizer Canada website. Producers can certify 4R acres by working with a 4R-designated retailer to demonstrate their contribution to sustainable agriculture. Once producers have completed the 4R certification, they gain access to the Variable Rate Mapping BMP funding under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s Farm Stewardship Program. This program provides funding for producers to obtain zone maps for variable rate fertilizer and variable rate irrigation application.
During the final week of January 2021, Ministry of Agriculture crops extension specialists will be hosting a 4R webinar series. This series will allow producers to gain a more thorough understanding of each of the 4Rs and bring their questions to regional specialists.
For more information on this program, the upcoming webinar series, or to be connected with your local specialists, please call the Agriculture Knowledge Centre (1-866-457-2377).