The goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizer use by 30 per cent kicked up more dust than a tractor on a grid road when it was first announced by the federal Liberal government last summer.
Now that among the dust has settled, agriculture and industry groups say that goal can probably be met without reducing yields – although possibly not as quick as Ottawa would love.
“Can we get that additional 30 per cent? I feel so,” said Keith Currie, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and a corn producer from Collingwood, Ont.
“But there must be a combined, collaborative approach by all involved.”
Government figures suggest fertilizer accounts for a growing share of the ten per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions that come from agriculture. Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has said reducing those emissions by nearly a 3rd by 2030 is ambitious but have to be achieved.
“We’ve to have a destination,” she said in an interview last month. “So we got out a goal that we aim to.”
Each the federal government and farmers are placing their trust in an approach referred to as 4R: right source, right rate, right time and right place.
Which means measures similar to slow-release fertilizers that give soil time to soak up nutrients. It means understanding the land well enough to know which parcels need more and which need less. It means not applying fertilizer when it’s dry, or using two smaller applications at different times as an alternative of 1 large one.
It could work, said Karen Proud, president of Fertilizer Canada, but possibly not throughout the seven growing seasons Ottawa has given farmers.
“It is feasible if 100 per cent of the acres in Ontario and Quebec and 60 to 70 per cent of all farm acres in Western Canada adopt probably the most advanced of our nutrient stewardship practices,” Proud said.
“But we all know given where we’re today, we’re never going to realize 100 per cent of acres in Ontario and Quebec. And within the short time we have now between now and 2030, we’re definitely not going to realize 60 to 70 per cent of all acres in Western Canada.”
Proud’s group recently released a report suggesting a 14 per cent reduction by 2030 is more realistic.
There’s more to fertilizer use than simply using fertilizer, said Currie. If farmers are to make use of latest technologies to get more out of the chemicals, they’ll need the type of web service that isn’t available in lots of rural communities.
“It’s that precision technology that’s going to assist us be even higher with respect to our cropinputs, which is able to help with the reduction in emissions,” Currie said. “(We’d like) to get the federal government to be really serious about getting 5G and broadband coverage.”
Carbon markets or credits to encourage farmers to adopt lower-emission practices would also help, he said.
“Not that any farmer goes to lift a mortgage off of selling credits, but it surely’s one other tool we are able to use,” Currie said.
Proud said the federal government goes to need to spend money to assist farmers adapt.
“What we’re asking of presidency is to take a seat down with ourselves, with the farm groups, with farmers to discuss what are those barriers to adoption after which how will we work towards reducing that,” she said. “A few of that could be investing in additional education on the farm level, so that they understand more in regards to the advantages of 4Rs and the way that really helps increase productivity.”
Bibeau said the federal government has committed to getting 5G web to 98 per cent of Canadians by 2026, if the provinces co-operate. She also said she’s listening _ consultations with farm groups began in March and recently concluded.
“I feel we have now demonstrated through the years how open we’re and what number of consultations we are able to do,” she said.
Bibeau said Ottawa has increased the $3-billion Canadian Agricultural Partnership Agreement by $500 million.
There are other ways to diminish fertilizer emissions aside from just using them more efficiently, said Ralph Martin, a retired agriculture professor from the University of Guelph. Most emissions come as fertilizer is constituted of fossil fuels, he said, so why not search for nutrients from one other source?
“What we should always really be taking a look at is human sewage.”
Eliminating waste in crop production would also reduce pressure for fertilizer-driven high yields, Martin said.
He said fertilizer use and farm prosperity aren’t necessarily the identical thing.
Fertilizers can create higher yields, but in addition they increase expenses. Many farmers is perhaps completely satisfied to make use of less fertilizer, but they need incentives to make the change.
“Farmers have rather a lot invested, lots of dollars on the road,” Martin said. “If we had incentives, I feel farmers would respond.”
Bibeau said she’s optimistic the goal might be met. Fertilizer Canada’s estimate of a 14 per cent reduction is nice news, she said.
“That is already great. There might be recent practices, recent inputs, recent technologies that may develop in the approaching months and years.”
Farmers are on board, said Currie. They only need realistic plans.
“We never haven’t been willing to do our part. But the federal government’s got to do a greater job communicating where they wish to go and the way.”