The Right Approach: 4R Nutrient Stewardship for Ontario

11th Mar 2016 4R Consistent,4R Partners,4R Practices,Implement the 4Rs,

The North American agriculture industry has been leading the charge in sustainable agriculture for our growing world population. Growers are adopting 4R Nutrient Stewardship (Right Source @ Right Rate, Right Time, Right Place®) as the leading international standard for on-farm nutrient application. By implementing the 4R Nutrient Stewardship program, growers can increase their production and profitability while ensuring the sustainable future of the agricultural industry.

Adoption of 4R Nutrient Stewardship has become even more essential as the agriculture industry is faced with increasing environmental concerns around climate change, air quality, soil health and water quality. On the other side of the border, Canada’s province of Ontario shares the Great Lakes and the concern about its quality. The Ontario agriculture industry recognizes the nutrient issues facing Great Lakes water quality, advocating for voluntary actions in agriculture to be seen as part of the solution.

Ontario has a strong history of collaboration with Fertilizer Canada and 4R Nutrient Stewardship

Ontario represents a portion of the Canada’s most viable and productive farmland. The success of the agriculture sector in the province depends on meeting environmental concerns in a sustainable and practical manner. The province has embraced 4R Nutrient Stewardship as a valuable tool for meeting the province’s agricultural and environmental goals.

Ontario has been a leader in nutrient management planning for crop production, formally recognizing 4R Nutrient Stewardship as a part of the Ontario Government’s strategy to reduce nutrient runoff, particularly in the Great Lakes region, including:

  • Providing consultation for Great Lakes Protection Act, an Act to protect and restore the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin  
  • Providing consultation for the Proposed Binational Phosphorus Load Reduction Targets for Lake Erie
  • Recognition by the International Joint Commission: A Balanced Diet for Lake Erie: Reducing Phosphorus Loading and Harmful Algal Blooms
  • Collaboration with the Grand River Watershed, a rich agricultural region of Ontario that flows south into Lake Erie

Continued research and trials are important for continued improvement of 4R Nutrient Stewardship practices. An agreement with Grain Farmers of Ontario has established 15 4R Demonstration Farms across the province and demonstrates the efficacy of science-based best management practices (BMPs), providing valuable data for evaluating the outcome of 4R Nutrient Stewardship BMPs for soybean growers in Ontario.  Various projects under the North American 4R Research Fund, including three projects in Ontario, demonstrate 4R Nutrient Stewardship as a science-based program, providing solutions reduce agriculture runoff and emissions.

Ongoing commitment to 4R Nutrient Stewardship in Ontario

In 2015, a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) was signed between Fertilizer Canada, the Government of Ontario’s Ministry of Food Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and the Ontario Agri Business Association. This formalized a commitment to sustainable agriculture and environmental action in the province. The Ontario MOC mandates to implement, maintain and evaluate 4R Nutrient Stewardship programming to meet the needs of the government, farm groups, industry, and conservation groups.

Through this agreement, Certified Crop Advisors (CCAs) will help Ontario growers implement 4R Nutrient Stewardship on their farms. To maximize results, Fertilizer Canada will launch the 4R Specialty eLearning training course, which is tailored for Ontario, this spring. Obtaining the 4R Specialty will provide CCAs with formal training enabling on-farm decisions pertaining to 4R Nutrient Stewardship. The CCA 4R Specialty operates on an individual and on-farm level, complementing the overarching commitment to sustainable agriculture that has been made in Ontario. This work underway in Ontario represents a balanced and collaborative approach to achieve sustainable agriculture but there is always more that can be done.     

Learn more about Fertilizer Canada’s 4R Nutrient Stewardship programs at For access to Fertilizer Canada’s eLearning platform, visit