By 2050, the United Nations projects that the global population will be nearing ten billion. To feed all those mouths, we will need to double our food supply over the next three decades, with little to no new agricultural land available.

Under the leadership of Fertilizer Canada, a framework has been developed to provide the extra crop efficiency we need while fighting global climate change at the same time. "We have this great program supported by 10 years of scientific research looking at different soils, crops, fertilizers, and climates," says Fertilizer Canada President and CEO Garth Whyte. "This climate-smart agriculture approach is based on 4R Nutrient Stewardship: right source of fertilizer, at the right rate, right time, and right place."

"Growers could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by up to 35%."
– Karen Haugen–Kozyra, President of Viresco Solutions

The 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework is an essential component of a Climate Smart Strategy for Canada, which holds the promise of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector. Reducing emissions and improving productivity go hand-in-hand. "Growers have an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving efficiencies in the system," says Karen Haugen–Kozyra, President of Viresco Solutions, Canada's leading consultants in low-carbon and sustainable agriculture. "From a quantitative point of view, the most recent science shows that growers could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by up to 35% if they fully implement 4R practices. In Western Canada alone, that would be the equivalent of eliminating two to three megatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions."

Federal leadership is needed

Fertilizer Canada has existing agreements within six provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island) to encourage farmers in the use of sustainable 4R practices. Three of those six provinces have also included 4R Nutrient Stewardship in their official climate plans, and the message is spreading worldwide. The 4R framework has been endorsed by the UN and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, providing Canada with the opportunity to position itself as a world leader in agricultural climate science.

This could be a truly powerful moment for climate-smart agriculture if all of Canada embraced the 4R framework as a pan-Canadian strategy to fight climate change and accelerate the prosperity of farmers around the country. Rarely does such an opportunity arise to benefit so many with a single initiative.

"The beauty of 4R Nutrient Stewardship is that it is a holistic approach," says Whyte. "It reduces greenhouse gas emissions, improves crop yields, protects our precious water resources, and puts nutrients back into the soil, replenishing it for future generations. It's good for the environment, it's good for the grower, and it helps feed the world."