According to the industry report, the government’s emission targets for the use of fertilizers are unrealistic

According to the industry report, the government’s emission targets for the use of fertilizers are unrealistic

A new industry-led report suggests that by 2030, Canada’s farmers are likely to achieve only half of the federal government’s target of a 30 percent reduction in fertilizer emissions.

The report, commissioned by Fertilizer Canada and the Canola Council of Canada, examines the impact of a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the use of nitrogen-based fertilizers on Canadian farms on crop yields and the farm’s financial viability.

The report concludes that it may be possible to reduce emissions from fertilizers by 14 percent by 2030, but that reaching 30 percent “is not realistically achievable without imposing significant costs on Canadian crop producers and potentially damaging financial health.” affecting the Canadian crop production area.”

“I think what (this report) is saying is that the 30 percent reduction target isn’t achievable without jeopardizing production and exports, and that’s what we’ve been saying all along,” said Alberta Wheat general manager Tom Steve and barley commissions.

“It was an arbitrary target set somewhere in government with no way of achieving it.”

Emission target too ambitious: farmers

Ottawa first set its 30 percent target for reducing fertilizer emissions in late 2020 as part of the federal government’s overall climate plan and recently completed a months-long consultation process on it.

According to the government, fertilizer use on Canadian farms increased by 71 percent between 2005 and 2019. In the same period, fertilizer-related emissions of nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas that is 365 times more potent than carbon dioxide from a global warming perspective) increased by 54 percent in Canada. In 2019 alone, the application of nitrogen fertilizers resulted in 12.75 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the government – ​​the equivalent of 3.9 million passenger cars.

The government has said its 30 percent target is a target, not a mandatory target. It has also said it believes the target is achievable as many of the technologies and practices needed to reduce emissions from fertilizer use already exist.

Still, farmers have warned the target is overly ambitious, especially at a time when Canada’s agribusiness is being urged to produce more to address global food security fears.

“It’s really taken our minds off what’s needed in our industry, which is to become more efficient, more productive and more competitive,” said Steve.

“Most farmers are already doing everything they can to reduce their use of fertilizers – this is their most expensive input.”

Recommended course of action

Karen Proud, President and CEO of Fertilizer Canada, said there are already a number of industry-accepted best practices when it comes to fertilizer management.

This includes using the right fertilizer for the soil, and applying it at the right time of year and in the right amount.

By helping more farmers become aware of these practices and encouraging them to adopt them, Proud says the industry could potentially achieve a 14 percent reduction in emissions by 2030.

While this is an aggressive goal, she said, it strikes a balance between the needs of the environment and the need for continued increases in food production in the future.

Proud said a 14 percent reduction by 2030 is not economically viable because many of the changes required – like working with a certified crop consultant or conducting soil tests – are costly for the farmer.

“We need to enable farmers to increase their productivity to offset the cost of implementing these best practices,” she said.

“The only way to do that is if you allow them to increase yields or the math won’t work. You cannot ask farmers to invest in practices at a loss.”

Canada announces funding

In February of this year, the federal government announced funding of up to $182.7 million for 12 recipient organizations to provide the On-Farm Climate Action Fund across Canada.

Through the fund, Canadian farmers are eligible for direct support for environmental best practices, including nitrogen fertilizer management, soil sampling and analysis, and equipment modifications for in-field fertilizer application.

Canada has set a goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

According to the federal government, the agricultural sector has been responsible for about 10 percent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions annually since 1990.