Canadian’s agriculture industry is a leader in sustainable climate smart on-farm practices from zero-till to 4R Nutrient Stewardship. Many countries look to our research community to learn the science behind these innovative practices and in turn implement them in their country. The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) has established an exchange program that does just that, and recently, through a partnership with Fertilizer Canada two agricultural researchers from Paraguay completed an exchange. This collaboration was part of the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) signed between Fertilizer Canada and IICA to work together to strengthen rural development, increase food security and, improve productivity and competitiveness for small-holder farmers in the Americas.
The MOU also serves as an overarching agreement in principle to frame the collaboration between Fertilizer Canada and IICA on development cooperation programs that will include 4R Nutrient Stewardship programming (developed by Canada’s fertilizer industry in partnership with the International Plant Nutrition Institute, Canada (IPNI Canada) and Fertilizer Canada )and the co-operative agricultural expertise of IICA.
Two of Canada’s top 4R Nutrient Stewardship researchers, and former participants in IICA’s exchange program, Dr. Mario Tenuta, University of Manitoba and Dr. Claudia Wagner-Riddle, University of Guelph, hosted Ms. Griselda Gamarra from National University of Asuncion, Paraguay and Ms. Araceli Salinas from Municipalidad de Minga Guazú, Paraguay respectively. Both travelled to Canada in August 2019 to begin a six-month research exchange program.
The objective of the exchange is to expand the use of 4R Nutrient Stewardship best management practices to additional global geographies. The principles underpinning the 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework can be applied in any geographical location and farming system. The principles of 4R Nutrient Stewardship of fertilizer use: Right Source @ Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place ® allows farmers to achieve benefits of not only an abundant crop, while at the same time minimizing environmental concerns related to agriculture. In the individual settings, the ‘right’ actions may differ, but the flexibility of the 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework allows adaptation to local needs and conditions.
Cost-effective and environmentally responsible soil management and enhancement is crucial to increasing food production and sustainability for small-holder farmers and large-scale farms. Following the completion of their exchange, both researchers submitted papers. Below is a brief summary of the two research projects.
Project Title: Development of a Model of Gross and Net Income and Return on Investment Based on the Application of Enhanced and Conventional Fertilizers
Participant: Griselda Gamarra, MSc
Host Institute: University of Manitoba
Host Supervisor: Dr. Mario Tenuta
Executive Summary: The global slogan that dominates agriculture today is to produce more food with fewer and fewer resources. Many farmers focus only on income. Their concern is to lower costs and, therefore, look for the cheapest source of nutrients, not the most appropriate. To change this, one of the keys is to improve fertilizer efficiency otherwise much of the fertilizer will contaminate the environment. The use of fertilizers emits greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, especially carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O). At the same time, fertilizers improve agricultural productivity and stimulate the absorption of CO2 by the crop; they increase yield and reduce the need to cultivate new land. Therefore, integrated strategies are needed that combine the environment with the agricultural system.
This project focused on the analysis and comparison of the cost of production with efficient fertilizer sources (enhanced efficiency products- SuperU, ESN and conventional- granular Urea, UAN) and their relationship to net income and return of investment in Irrigated Potato and Spring Wheat.
As part of the study, the tasks at hand were to do a literature review on 4Rs practices and gather results from past studies of the Irrigated Potato and Spring Wheat crops, develop a model of gross income, cost of production, and return on investment for different 4R practices based on the application of fertilizers and, determine N2O and CO2 reduction benefit of 4R practices and relation to net income.
Results showed that for the Irrigated Potato in 2011 in a clay loam soil, the fertilizer with the best economically viable result was the ESN 100-BI with 100 kg of N applied per hectare at pre-plant broadcast incorporation. For the Irrigated Potato in 2012 in a loamy fine sandy soil, the fertilizer with the best economically viable result was Fertigation High. For the Spring Wheat in 2011 in Carman and Oak Bluff (Southwest of Winnipeg), no fertilizer is economically viable. The results of Net income and ROI show negative results in all the treatments of the fertilizers used.
More studies of this type should be carried out on these crops and others on models of gross income, net income and return on investment in enhanced and conventional fertilizers, in order to have a model and compare and also, to be able to have a database indicating which fertilizer (including the dosage and the placement) is better in terms of economics and the environment.
Project Title: Nitrogen Recovery by Corn: A Measurement to Evaluate the Performance of 4R Practices.
Participant: Araceli Salinas
Host Institution: University of Guelph
Host Supervisor: Dr. Claudia Wagner-Riddle
Executive Summary: For the calculation of nitrogen recovery in corn, data was collected from a long-term experiment under zero tillage versus conventional tillage with different rotations carried out at the Elora Research Station. In conventional tillage, the nitrogen recovery in grain reached a maximum of 24 per cent and a minimum of 11 per cent. Nutrient use efficiency can be increased significantly when their availability is synchronized with crop demand. Since fertilizers are generally not incorporated with no tillage, the potential exists for significant losses of N as volatilized NH3 from not incorporated urea-containing sources. Therefore, the recommendation is to use injection application. The injection of urea produced significantly higher yield and N uptake than surface application of a liquid formulation. It has also been shown that N efficiency is greater with nitrogen inhibitors than with urea on no-till corn (Fox et. al, 1986).
Striking a balance between the crop needs, environmental conditions and the farmers economic situation is required. Increased NUE is vital to enhance the yield and quality of crops, reduce nutrient input cost and improve soil, water and air quality.
No-till corn production is common in Paraguay and urea is by far the most common N fertilizer used in the region. The technologies in nitrogen fertilizers present in the market help reduce losses and increase the efficiency of nitrogen use. An interesting alternative due to the logistical and agronomic advantages that they present are nitrogen liquid fertilizers – urea-ammonium nitrate mixed with ammonium thiosulfate (UAN + TSA). Nitrogen rates for corn can be determined based on time, source, and place of application; plant’s nutrient demand; using adequate methods to assess soil nutrient supply; assessing all available nutrient sources; predicting fertilizer use efficiency; considering soil resource impacts; and considering rate-specific economics.