Friday, October 8, 2021

Fertilizer industry opposes cuts

Fertilizer Canada is trying to convince farmers and the public that the federal government is wrong in calling for a 20 per cent cut in applications of commercial fertilizers by 2030.

It cites an MNP report it commissioned that says that cut would cost farmers $48 billion in lost revenue.

But critics say that’s based on assumptions that farmers won’t pursue alternatives to bolster yields.

Cutting fertilizer-related emissions means using what nitrogen is applied more effectively, said Darrin Qualman of the National Farmers Union.

“It’s completely unsophisticated and disingenuous to say, ‘huh, farmers have to use 20 per cent less fertilizer and that means 20 per cent less crop,” he said in an interview with Manitoba Co-operator.

“In a real-world scenario do farmers just take an unsophisticated view, dial their air drill back 20 per cent and sit there and wait to get their crop smaller? They do a whole bunch of very sophisticated things (to offset it).”

Examples include applying nitrogen in spring instead of fall, knifing it in instead of broadcasting, using slow-release nitrogen and variable-rate applications.

“If farmers had really good, state-of-the-art soil testing and really good agronomic support that worked to help them optimize fertilizer use rather than in some cases maximize it, they could almost certainly shave quite a bit off their fertilizer inputs without affecting their yields,” Qualman said.

Cover crops, zero till and growing nitrogen-fixing crops such as alfalfa and pulse crops, are other options to preserve existing nitrogen or add more to the soil.