The North American fertilizer industry has pledged $6 million to continue research on ways that farmers can strengthen fertilizer best management practices (BMPs) to reduce nutrient loss to the environment.

Donors intend that this funding be leveraged with public sector dollars to maximize its reach. As such, Fertilizer Canada has urged Canada’s provincial and federal governments to make funding for 4R Nutrient Stewardship research and conservation incentives a high priority through the Growing Forward 3 framework.

Since 2013, the industry has contributed $5.8 million toward 4R nutrient stewardship research that currently supports 25 projects in the United States and Canada. The fund has generated an additional $7 million in research funds by leveraging public and private dollars. The 4R Research Fund was established by The Fertilizer Institute (TFI), Fertilizer Canada, and the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI). The 4R Nutrient Stewardship concept promotes using the right fertilizer source, at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place (4R). These organizations support the idea that for fertilizer use to be sustainable, it must support cropping systems that provide economic, social, and environmental benefits.

“There is a delicate balance between reducing nutrient losses through nutrient management while maintaining or improving soil carbon and thus soil health,” said IPNI president Terry Roberts. “Across the U.S. and Canada, the fertilizer industry is partnering with universities, watershed stakeholders, and government agencies to expand the data linking agronomic and environmental performance of 4R practices.”

Fertilizer Canada will work to leverage the renewed funding with partners, as well as federal and provincial governments, towards research focused on the collection of nutrient management data. The focus will also support return on investment development, water quality in the Great Lakes and Lake Winnipeg regions with respect to Phosphorus run-off, and partnership development for communication strategies.

“The driving force for the 4R Research Fund has always been to measure and monitor on-farm stewardship practices,” said Fertilizer Canada president Garth Whyte. “Our industry has an opportunity, and we are investing to advance our knowledge of science-based solutions that meet both crop production and environmental quality challenges.”

Priorities of the newly committed 4R Research Fund resources include:

  • assessment of source, rate, time, and placement effects of enhanced efficiency and technologies for nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers on water and air quality, crop yield, crop nutrient content, and soil health from the same site during the same project; and
  • evaluation of 4R practices in more geographic locations, over longer time periods, and more cropping systems relative to their effect on productivity and the environment using coordinated controls across multiple site years.


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