Winter is the perfect time to make tweaks to a fertilizer plan that will fit your farm for the next growing season. But what about planning that begins with longer-term goals in mind?
At Cargill, we are working with a growing number of end use customers who are focused on soil health in their supply chains. We believe one of the best ways to accomplish environmental sustainability and to grow grain that sets you up as an attractive supplier is by following the principles of 4R fertility. 4R is both a philosophy based on scientific principles and a program managed by Fertilizer Canada that recommends best management practices for applying fertilizer at the farm level with the goal of reducing environmental impact. The four R’s are: Right source; Right rate; Right place;and Right time.
It’s not nearly as challenging as you might think to incorporate these practices, and going through the process can help you:
- Meet the crop nutrition needs of your farm;
- Optimize your fertilizer spend; and
- Meet the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, movement of nitrogen to groundwater, and movement of nitrogen and phosphorus to surface water. (Source: Fertilizer Canada)
How difficult is it to be a 4R farm?
It’s not hard at all. Many farms in western Canada are already applying fertilizer using 4R principles or would need to make only minor changes to be 4R certified. You can get a 4R certified plan that helps you meet your goals at any Cargill location.
Once you’re in, 4R becomes about continuous improvement, which is not only good for the environment, but in many cases means better fertilizer use efficiency on your farm. What’s critical is that you start the journey and look for ways to fine tune your processes over time.
Three different levels of plan allow you to be involved in the 4R certification program: basic, intermediate, and advanced.
A sound 4R fertility plan begins with soil testing to understand what you’re working with. Our technical agronomy lead Simon North wrote about the importance of soil tests earlier this year: https://cargillag.ca/expert-network/expert-blog/old-soil-new-soil-rich-soil-depleted-soil
While most fertilizer products sold in western Canada can be used under a 4R plan, especially when applied using best practices, Cargill carries a number of products that can help your farm do an even better job under the 4R program.
Saskatchewan agronomy lead Janina Currah took a deep dive into the world of nitrogen stabilizers – products that limit nutrient losses – in the fall of 2018: https://cargillag.ca/expert-network/expert-blog/to-use-or-not-to-use-a-nitrogen-stabilizer-and-which-one
If you’re looking for more information on 4R fertility planning or want an extra set of eyes to interpret your 2019 soil test, call your Cargill location.