Agriculture groups say Canada can cut fertiliser emissions 14% by 2030

The reduction falls short of Canada's target of 30%
calendar icon 8 September 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

Canadian farmers can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from applying nitrogen fertiliser by 14% by 2030 through adoption of more sustainable farm practices and new technology, without any overall reduction in fertiliser use, Reuters reported, citing agriculture industry groups on Wednesday.

Such reductions of nitrous oxide from 2020 levels would fall well short of the Canadian government's voluntary target of a 30% cut, however.

Some farmers say using less fertiliser would jeopardize crop production in Canada, the world's third-biggest wheat exporter. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government maintains that deep emission reductions are possible without mandatory fertiliser cuts.

A similar debate between farmers and government has led to large protests in the Netherlands, where that country is taking much stricter measures than Canada.

"We support the federal government's strong push to reduce Canada's emissions, but we cannot sacrifice food productivity," said Karen Proud, CEO of Fertilizer Canada, whose members include manufacturers Nutrien Ltd and CF Industries.

The 14% emissions cut would result from a "moderate" increase in nitrogen use and farmers' adoption of better management practices, called 4R, which emphasize applying fertilizer of the right source, at the right rate and time and in the right place, the report from Fertilizer Canada and Canola Council of Canada said. Some farmers have already used the 4R approach for more than a decade.

Under that scenario, crop yields would increase even as emissions fall.

Farmers will adopt more sustainable practices if their costs are offset elsewhere, such as by higher crop revenue or government incentives, the report said.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said she welcomed the finding that better nutrient management can cut emissions by nearly half of the government's goal. Fertiliser companies should also keep developing new products that produce lower emissions, Bibeau said.

Agriculture emissions account for 10% of Canada's overall emissions, and Trudeau's government is aiming to cut national emissions by 40-45% from 2005 levels by 2030.

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