A survey that tracks the fertilizer practices of farmers is being expanded to more crops — part of an effort to show that producers are employing management practices that are environmentally sound.
“The survey shows us how agri-retailers and farmers across Canada are implementing 4R Nutrient Stewardship, which is an approach that has been demonstrated to increase crop production while protecting our environment,” Fertilizer Canada president and CEO Karen Proud said in a release.
The 4Rs refer to using the right type of fertilizer at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place. Those four principles cover a host of practices including things such as soil testing to determine application rates, subsurface placement, and preventing run-off into waterways.
The Fertilizer Use Survey was begun in 2014, initially asking 500 canola growers in Western Canada and corn growers in Ontario to fill out a detailed online questionnaire (which takes about 25 minutes to complete). Part of the survey was used to measure adoption of 4R practices.
It is now being expanded to include wheat, flax, sunflowers, and corn in Western Canada.
“The data from the Fertilizer Use Survey provides us with critical information on the current state of fertilizer management in Canadian crop production and assessing grower awareness and adoption of 4R Nutrient Stewardship,” said Proud.
Alberta Wheat, along with its counterparts in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, are now part of the survey partnership with Fertilizer Canada, which also includes the Canadian Canola Growers Association, Grain Farmers of Ontario and others. The survey, conducted by marketing firm Stratus Ag Research, utilizes databases from the farm groups.
Survey results show that adoption of 4R management practices is increasing, the marketing firm’s president said in the release.
“For example, 4R practices such as banding phosphorus fertilizers are being implemented by over 90 per cent of canola growers in Western Canada,” said Mike Weddel. “In Ontario, we are also seeing an increasing trend for corn growers applying their nitrogen fertilizer in crop moving from 50 per cent in 2015 to 60 per cent in 2020.”
The addition of wheat will add millions of acres to the area covered by the survey.
The 4R practices are not only touted as good stewardship practices but also a way for farmers to get more bang for their fertilizer buck — a factor touted by Alberta Wheat chair Todd Hames.
“The data from the survey will allow us to gain a further understanding of how wheat farmers in Alberta are managing fertilizer decisions, plus help direct future extension and research initiatives,” said Hames, who farms near Marwayne. “We view this as an opportunity to grow and further increase fertilizer efficiencies in wheat production, as well as limit our environmental footprint.”
That view was echoed by Mike Ammeter, another Alberta producer.
“The resulting knowledge can enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of canola farming in the future,” said the Sylvan Lake producer who is chair of the Canadian Canola Growers Association.
For more on 4R Nutrient Stewardship, go to www.nutrientstewardship.org. Fertilizer Canada also offers a free online course on 4R practices at www.elearning.fertilizercanada.ca.