Global Potential

The principles underpinning the 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework can be applied in any geographical location and farming system. 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. To fertilize properly and achieve the benefits of an abundant and healthy crop, professionals should follow 4R Nutrient Stewardship of fertilizer use: Right Source @ Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place®. 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. Farmers implementing 4R Nutrient Stewardship set out goals and indicators to measure progress. This allows for ongoing monitoring of the farms’ performance and enables reporting if necessary. The goals and indicators can be changed to respond to specific objectives and concerns and to adapt to local situations.

International Application

Promoting the implementation of NERP gives regulators, governments and industry the chance to work together to minimize farming’s impact on the environment. NERP’s flexible, cost-effective system — designed for any geography and any farming system — means it can easily meet the precise needs imposed by local conditions, reporting requirements and crop systems. Applied locally and usable globally, the NERP model stands to produce large-scale global greenhouse gas reductions.

Solutions for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

To ensure a sustainable future for our planet, the United Nations has developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to meet by 2030. Four of these specifically aim to reverse the effects of climate change:

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Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

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Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and
sanitation for all.

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Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

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Goal 14: Conserve and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

 

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Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Target 2.3:
By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment.

Global farmers, regardless of their size, need acccess to science-based information about 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework (Right Source @ Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place®) for management of nutrients. This framework ensures the protection of the environment, the production of safe food for consumers and the productivity of producers. Global food security will never be realized without the use of commercial fertilizers, and the industry’s 4R Nutrient Stewardship program provides the foundation for responsible use of these essential plant nutrients.

Target 2.4:
By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality.

Improved nutrient management is delivered through the incorporation of a 4R Nutrient Stewardship Plan into the farm. 4R Nutrient Stewardship: Right Source @ Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place® is a universal science-based program developed by the International Plant Nutrition Institute. It promotes the application of the scientific principles of crop nutrition in combination with best available local and regional evidence to improve the site-specific management of nutrients. The 4R program is solidly based in sustainable agriculture and seeks to balance nutrient management decisions within a framework of economic, social, and environmental goals.

  • Right Source: Ensure a balanced supply of essential nutrients
  • Right Rate: Assess and make decisions based on soil nutrient supply and plant demand
  • Right Time: Assess and make decisions based on the dynamics of crop uptake, soil supply, nutrient loss risks, and field operation logistics
  • Right Place: Address root-soil dynamics and nutrient movement, and manage spatial variability within the field to meet site-specific crop needs and limit potential losses from the field.
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Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Target 6.6: By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes.

Canada’s fertilizer industry has undertaken work to reduce phosphorus losses to protect and restore water-related ecosystems and is committed to working with governments, watershed groups, scientists, agri-retailers, farmers and stakeholders. The voluntary adoption of 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles is the best approach towards reducing the negative environmental impacts of unwanted nutrient loading. When the right fertilizers are applied at the right rate, time and place, the impact on water quality is minimal. The primary nutrient found to cause the growth of algae and aquatic weeds in streams and lakes is phosphorus, which has many sources other than fertilizer. Phosphorus from properly applied fertilizers rapidly binds with the soil following application. When applied at the right rate, as determined by a soil test, and at the right time and in the right place, its losses in drainage water are minimal. The research related to 4R Nutrient Stewardship could be easily adapted on the global scale, and is readily available for application in developing areas around the world.

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Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

Target 13.2: Integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning.

Nitrogen fertilizer is an important driver of nitrous oxide emissions, but it is also the main driver of yield in modern high production systems. Through careful selection of nitrogen fertilizer source, rate, timing and placement practices, the nitrous oxide emissions per unit of crop produced can be substantially reduced, in some cases by up to half. The practices that reduce nitrous oxide emissions also tend to increase nitrogen use efficiency and the economic return on fertilizer dollars. The Nitrous Oxide Emission Reduction Protocol (NERP) is a science-based protocol designed to meet international standards for improving nitrogen management in cropping systems and estimating the nitrous oxide reduction associated with better nitrogen management. NERP is simple in concept, driven by data that producers are either already collecting or are interested in collecting to improve their overall farm management system. Improved nitrogen management within NERP is delivered through a 4R Nutrient Stewardship Plan on the farm. 4R Nutrient Stewardship (Right Source @ Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place®) is a science-based program, solidly based in sustainable agriculture that seeks to balance nutrient management decisions within a framework of economic, social, and environmental goals. NERP was developed in Canada but was designed to be flexible enough to be used anywhere in the world to reduce emissions. The UN and stakeholders should support and promote the Nitrous Oxide Emission Reduction Protocol as a replicable solution to help integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning.

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Goal 14: Conserve and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Target 14.1: By 2025, prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution.

Proposed indicator: Fertilizer consumption (kg/ha of arable land) Focusing on fertilizer application rates only is misleading and can lead to false conclusions. Thus, keeping comparatively high nutrient application rates in some situations is needed and sustainable in areas with high yields and high nutrient use efficiency. Similarly, increasing fertilizer application rates is justified in areas with a history of soil fertility mining in order to increase productivity and rebuild soil fertility. The indicator should address all nutrient sources, not only from mineral fertilizers applied to arable land. Also, it should be noted that, by 2050, the nutrient input to marine ecosystems from mineral fertilizers is very likely to grow at much slower pace than the input from livestock manure, aquaculture and wastewater. It is feasible that with improved techniques the nutrient input to marine systems could be reduced in many regions. Therefore, looking at mineral fertilizers only would result in overlooking the fastest growing sources of nutrient input to the oceans. For agricultural systems, the nutrient balance (surplus or deficit) would be the most relevant metric. OECD already monitors nutrient balances in agricultural systems in its member states, taking all nutrient inputs and outputs into account. The Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM), the European Nitrogen Expert Panel and the International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) have also proposed an indicator of N use efficiency, reflecting the N input, the N output, the N output/input ratio and the N surplus/deficit, which could be used for that purpose. It could also be used for Goal 2.

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