News & Updates

Industry and Researchers Collaborate on Soil Health Project to Enhance Fertilizer Stewardship On-Farm

December 2, 2021
Photo supplied by RDAR Member: Alberta Forage Industry Network

A multi-year soil health research project will study the longer-term effects of Sulfur and Nitrogen fertilizer management, nutrient cycling and its impact on soil health, forage and grain productivity and quality.

Edmonton, AB – Soil nutrient industry leader Fertilizer Canada and Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) have come together with matching investments of $257,272 towards a soil health project that will provide Alberta grain, forage, and crop producers with tangible results realized at the farm gate.

RDAR’s funding of $257,272, of which $120,751 comes from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, will strengthen results-driven agriculture research outcomes in Alberta and across Canada.

Canada’s fertilizer industry has a significant role in mitigating climate change – that is why the industry has been proactively working to reduce on-farm emissions for over a decade and is known as a world leader in efficient crop production to feed and grow the global population while reducing on-farm emissions.

A multi-year soil health research project led by Dr. Miles Dyck at the University of Alberta can contribute to Alberta’s efforts to fight climate change and promote responsible nutrient management. This project will study the longer-term effects of Sulfur and Nitrogen fertilizer management, nutrient cycling and its impact on soil health, forage and grain productivity and quality.

This project supports 4R Nutrient Stewardship, a science-based approach to nutrient management that applies the Right Source @ Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place®. By using 4R best management practices, Alberta and Canadian producers can optimize plant nutrient uptake and increase yields while achieving quantifiable reductions in emissions. 

“Fertilizer Canada recognizes the importance of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship system for helping guide growers in applying their fertilizer in a method which benefits both the environment and the economics of their operations.”

McKenzie Smith, Director, Stewardship & Regulatory Affairs, Fertilizer Canada

Outcomes from this study will support producers’ combined Sulfur and Nitrogen fertilizer management decisions for increased crop productivity, grain and forage quality, and improved soil health. Investment into fertilizer management research can increase farm profitability for Alberta producers through increased returns on fertilizer investments and future increased marketability of sustainably produced crops.

This research project is unique in that much of the past soil and fertilizer research has investigated one nutrient at a time. The proposed research is a rare example of where long-term management effects on soil nutrient stores and soil health can be analyzed to better quantify the effects of short-term fertilizer applications on crop yields and soil health over different periods. Quantifying the link between soil health and crop productivity is essential for Alberta producers because soil health is increasingly essential in farm management and shaping consumers’ purchasing decisions.

“Fertilizer Canada believes that continued investment in 4R Research is key to helping support growers increase their crop productivity and farm profitability while reducing nutrient losses to the environment. Research initiatives in partnership with both the public and private sectors present an opportunity to achieve valuable input from multiple stakeholders, specifically growers, to ensure that the research findings meet the needs of the entire sector and is of practical application for the grower.”

McKenzie Smith, Director, Stewardship & Regulatory Affairs, Fertilizer Canada

4R Nutrient Stewardship is one part of a producer’s overall farm management plan that can complement other agronomic and conservation practices, such as no-till farming and the use of cover crops. Understanding and utilizing these sustainable tools will play a valuable role in supporting on-farm emissions reductions.

Working in partnership with the University of Alberta and industry leader Fertilizer Canada, we will show how producers can utilize results-driven research alongside existing 4R Nutrient Stewardship practices to optimize fertilizer efficiency, to reduce the environmental impact of fertilizers without compromising the economic competitiveness of their farm operations.”

Clinton Dobson, RDAR Director of Research


Quick Facts:

  • Alberta is a major contributor to Canada’s agriculture industry. Regarding the major crops, in 2021, Alberta could produce 26.4% of Canada’s wheat, 30.4% of canola, 45.3% of barley, 15.3% of oats., and 33.9% of pulses (data Statistics Canada).
  • Over the last 20-30 years, increasingly diverse crop rotations and cropping frequency, including higher-yielding cultivars, has increased nutrient requirements within cropping systems, and crop residues returned to the soil, affecting soil nutrient cycling and nutrient balances.
  • Sulfur and Nitrogen fertilizer are used by Alberta producers to restore nutrient balance to their soils and enable continued high production yields, which are needed to feed a growing global population.

About the Canadian Agricultural Partnership
The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a five-year, $3 billion investment by Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial governments to strengthen and grow Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sectors. This commitment includes $2 billion for programs cost-shared by the federal and provincial/territorial governments, with the programs designed and delivered by provinces and territories.

About Fertilizer Canada
Fertilizer Canada represents manufacturers, wholesale and retail distributors of nitrogen, phosphate, potash and sulfur fertilizers. The fertilizer industry plays an essential role in Canada’s economy, contributing $23 billion annually and over 76,000 jobs. As the unified voice of the Canadian fertilizer industry, Fertilizer Canada works to promote the safe, responsible, and sustainable distribution and use of fertilizer. Please visit www.fertilizercanada.ca 

About RDAR
RDAR is a not-for-profit organization that will continually consult with Alberta’s crop and livestock producers to set research priorities and distribute funds. Its mandate is: to support results driven agriculture research priorities and programs that will increase the competitiveness and profitability of Alberta’s agriculture industry. Arm’s length from the provincial government, RDAR is funded by two sources: The Government of Alberta, the Government of Canada, and Alberta’s Government through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership program. rdar.ca

RDAR Media Inquiries:
Janada Hawthorne
Communications Lead
Results Driven Agriculture Research

780-903-2734
janada.hawthorne@rdar.ca