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Will the federal climate plan lower fertilizer use?

By: RealAgriculture News Team

January 12, 2021

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There are some aggressive targets for a reduction of fertilizer in the new climate plan proposal recently released by the federal government.

At first glance, the support of the proposal by Fertilizer Canada doesn’t make a lot of sense. To explain, Clyde Graham, executive vice president of Fertilizer Canada, recently chatted with Shaun Haney on RealAg Radio, to explain the organization’s reasoning in backing the proposal.

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“It’s our understanding that the intent of the federal government is not to reduce fertilizer use, but I think they have the same theme as we do: to help farmers to use their fertilizer more efficiently and reduce their emissions for every tonne of grain or oilseed they produce,” says Graham.

In a nutshell, the focus is not necessarily on reducing the amount of fertilizer used, it’s using that fertilizer more efficiently.

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“We are still engaging with the federal government to find out more about what their intent is,” says Graham. Improving the performance of fertilizer use, and reducing emissions per tonne of commodity produced is the perceived goal at this point.

A fertilizer program that utilizes 4R nutrient stewardship — right source, right rate, right time, right place — will become ever more important. Graham can’t speak specifically to government intent, but says that agronomic practices that utilize 4R and possibly products that contribute to emission reductions like slow-release or coated fertilizer products will also help reach the target.

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The 30 per cent reduction emission may not all have to be covered by farmers solely reducing their fertilizer inputs. If the target is to be met, fertilizer production and transportation would have to contribute as well.

“If you looked at the whole life-cycle, not all of the responsibility for that 30 per cent would fall on farmers, it would also fall on our industry, to improve our processes,” says Graham.

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Fertilizer is a globally traded commodity, says Graham, and just like farmers can’t pass on their cost of production, neither can the fertilizer industry; but it’s going to be a long-term process as Fertilizer Canada continues to find ways to help the people they represent find solutions, he adds.

Fertilizer Canada is a trade association that represents all the fertilizer companies in Canada, from manufacturing to exports, distributors, and ag retailers.