Coordinated sulfer and nitrogen management for improved soil health, forage, and grain productivity and quality

Project Details

Status: Completed
Investment: $257,272
Commodity: Forage/Grassland
Organization: University of Alberta
Investigator: Miles Dyck

Quantifying the link between soil health and crop productivity is important because soil health is an increasingly important consideration in farmers' management decisions and consumers' purchasing decisions.

Why is this research important for Alberta ag?

Over the last 20-30 years, increasingly diverse crop rotations and cropping frequency, including higher yielding cultivars, has increased nutrient removal from cropping systems, and crop residues returned to the soil, affecting soil nutrient cycling, and nutrient balances. In addition, many soils on the Canadian prairies are potentially sulfur (S) -deficient or are already deficient for optimum crop yields. Nitrogen (N) fertilizers account for 30% of annual costs for farmers, yet there is very limiting economic and environmental information/research on its effects in the long run.

This 3 year research project will help researchers quantify the link between soil health and crop productivity. Understanding soil health is crucially important because soil health is an increasingly important consideration in producers’ crop management decisions and consumers’
purchasing decisions.

This proposed research will increase and improve information available to Alberta and Western Canadian grain and forage crop producers to support their combined (S) and (N) fertilizer management decisions for increased crop productivity, grain and forage quality, and improved soil health.

What benefits can producers expect from this research?

This research has the potential to increase farm profitability for Alberta producers through increased marginal returns on fertilizer investments, and increased marketability of sustainably produced crops.

In partnership with Fertilizer Canada, this research supports RDAR’s commitment to public-private partnership and collaboration to support the success of Albert’s agriculture industry. Canada’s fertilizer industry has a significant role to play in helping Canada to be known as a world leader in reducing on-farm emissions.

This research project supports 4R Nutrient Stewardship, which is a science-based approach to nutrient management that involves applying the Right Source (of fertilizer) at the Right Rate, Right Time and Right Place. By utilizing 4R best management practices, Alberta and Canadian producers can optimize plant nutrient uptake, and increase yields, while achieving verifiable reductions in emissions. 

This project is unique in that research focusing on optimizing multi-nutrient management and the link between soil health and nutrient management is rare. Much of the past soil fertility and fertilizer research has investigated one nutrient at a time. The proposed research is a rare example where the effects of long-term management on soil nutrient stores and soil health can be accounted for to better quantify the effects of short-term fertilizer applications on crop yields and soil health parameters that change over different time scales.

How will these research findings reach producers on-farm?

The results of this research will be the focus of extension publications. At least one fact sheet and article will be published in an extension publication such as Top Crop Manager. In addition, the results of this research will be the focus of at least one 4R Nutrient Stewardship Webinar. From this research it is anticipated that at least 2 peer-reviewed scientific publications will be produced.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.