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Growing more, growing sustainably

By Daniel Jungwirth

September 18, 2019

As the global population continues to grow, there is increasing demand to produce more food. New technology – whether it’s equipment, crop inputs or seeds – and techniques are helping us grow more than ever before. Thankfully, higher yields and sustainability aren’t mutually exclusive.

In January 2019, the Co-op Grow Team launched GROWN WITH PURPOSE™, an agronomic program to evaluate current on-farm practices and provide meaningful strategies to drive yields, enhance soil quality and build a legacy for the next generation.

“It’s a comprehensive suite of best management practices that assists in customizing crop plans and management, with 4R Nutrient Stewardship as a cornerstone,” said Errin Willenborg, FCL’s Knowledge and Innovation Manager.

4R Nutrient Stewardship – using the right source at the right rate at the right time and in the right place – is a set of principles that ensure fertilizer applications are made when and where plants need them the most. In the two years leading up to the program’s launch, we provided extensive internal training on these principles to our team and began speaking to growers about their importance. We showcased 4R as part of our Innovation Field Trial Xtreme site in both Saskatoon and Edmonton, proving to the Grow Team and grower-customers the benefits of 4R Nutrient Stewardship.

“As part of Grown with Purpose, Co-op Grow Team members work one-on-one with their grower-customers to complete a comprehensive review of on-farm activities,” Willenborg said. “This includes a 4R scorecard that is used to help maximize returns from crop inputs while being mindful of the environment.”

Following this assessment, we can have conversations with each grower and suggest best management practices in areas such as soil fertility, crop rotations, crop protection, farm safety and recycling. Grow Team members work closely with grower-customers to set benchmarks and goals for continual improvement, starting small and expanding strategies in subsequent years.

Agriculture has a valuable role to play in limiting the impacts of climate change. Innovative climate-smart practices such as 4R Nutrient Stewardship can improve both the quantity and quality of food without compromising food security, making agriculture more sustainable, more productive and more resilient.

We know Western Canadian growers produce crops that are nutritious, safe and sustainable. We know Western Canadian growers are stewards of the land. Grown with Purpose – along with Co-op’s unique position operating in both agriculture and food sectors – will help us tell that story. We can help producers capture and verify data so they can show their community, as well as consumers, exactly how their farms are economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.