Product Impacts

Nutrients are essential to life in proper quantities, but excess and improper use of nutrients  can contribute to a variety of environmental issues. Agrium is committed to best practices that reduce negative impacts of our products on the environment.

Some of the environmental issues caused by excess of nutrients are the over-enrichment of water bodies (eutrophication), a lack of available oxygen in water bodies (hypoxia) and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Excess nutrients come from a wide range of sources including runoff from urban development, atmospheric deposition, sewage, industrial discharge and agriculture (soil erosion, manure and fertilizers).

Most of the environmental impacts related to our products occur at the farm level where the services, seeds, nutrients and crop protection products we produce and sell are applied. Agrium’s business is increasingly focused on providing growers with locally applicable services and products that help minimize chemical application rates and prevent environmental losses, while optimizing crop yields. We also work with industry and other stakeholders to actively promote sound agricultural principles that are proven to dramatically reduce nutrient runoff and air emissions from farms.

Agrium is committed to reducing the impact of our products on the environment after they leave our hands. We are a key supporter in the development of the Global 4R Nutrient Stewardship Framework. This science-based system identifies best practices for producers who apply nutrients. We believe that following the 4Rs — applying the right source of nutrients at the right rate, right place and right time — can result in significantly reduced environmental impacts from fertilizer use. 4R practices minimize nutrient losses to air and water, replenish and protect soil quality, and can help minimize impacts on wildlife habitat. Protecting the environment doesn’t have to come at the expense of economic and social goals. The 4R system helps to produce more food for growing populations, and provides growers with the economic returns required to support their families and to build communities. We have been active in making sure this approach grows globally.  Read more.

Read how Agrium is helping California growers use less water by implementing 4R principles and best practices.

Nutrients added to the field can be lost if managed improperly. Excess nutrients can build up in water bodies through runoff from farm fields. These excess nutrients can affect water quality by accelerating vegetative growth and the accumulation of organic matter, which lowers oxygen levels. This process is called eutrophication.

The 4R nutrient stewardship system helps to reduce nutrient losses while improving yields. Through use of the system, growers set site-specific economic, social and environmental goals that are then met by applying region-specific best management practices in the four nutrient performance areas of rate, time, place and source. Practices account for local soil, weather, crop and operational situations and can include:

  • soil testing and precision placement to optimize nutrient application rates;

  • controlled-release fertilizers or split applications to match nutrient availability with crop need; and

  • vegetated buffer strips to keep nutrients where plants can use them, away from waterways.

Agrium agronomists work with growers to use the system, offering our Echelon services and other best management agricultural practices. The 4R system is used globally in programs in developing nations to address poverty, food security and soil health issues. In North America it is used in watershed protection programs, and in value chain programs of major food producers and retailers. The best management practices within the 4R system help increase grower income and food production, and can help reduce greenhouse gases as well.

Crop advisors in North America are increasingly demonstrating their environmental commitment to growers by becoming officially designated in 4R practices. In Canada, the certification program was launched in 2015 and is administered through Fertilizer Canada. Several U.S. states have also adopted 4R certification of crop advisors. Agrium currently employs more than 500 certified crop advisors in our retail business unit and actively promotes grower certification in the 4R system through education and outreach activities.

Agrium’s retailers promote environmental improvement at the farm level through the knowledge of hundreds of certified crop advisors and other experts who are trained to help farmers make decisions that result in higher yields with less environmental impact. Implementing comprehensive agricultural knowledge can help growers achieve greater value from crop inputs, while reducing their air emissions, nutrients lost to the environment, soil degradation, and energy and water use.

Agrium has been a leader in precision agriculture for more than a decade and we offer best-in-class solutions for crop management through our Echelon technology platform. Echelon enables our crop advisors to access years of data, including soil and plant sample analyses, variable nutrient application and seeding rates, weather modeling, precision yield scouting and GPS satellite imagery. Our advisors then provide farmers with field-specific solutions based on their data analyses and the latest research.

This information provides each farmer with a customized prescription that places our products precisely where they are needed, when they are needed and in the right amounts. We know that all soils are not created equally. This targeted approach increases crop input efficiency with less waste and potential runoff, while improving crop yields and quality.

​Agrium’s retail business is growing the use of our Echelon-guided precision agriculture services platform. Currently, we provide this multi-crop service offering to an estimated 68,000 growers on more than 24 million acres of farmland across North and South America.

On the product side, our expanding production and sales of ESN (controlled-release nitrogen) helps to deliver nitrogen when the crop needs it, with significant reductions of nitrogen loss to the air and surrounding watershed. The improved nutrient efficiency allows farmers to reduce the volume of fertilizer required. Also as a significant retailer of seed, we market improved varieties with new traits that reduce the requirement for chemical inputs such as herbicides.

The application of nitrogen fertilizer must be properly managed to maximize its uptake by plants and prevent the production of GHGs. For example, in waterlogged soil, nitrate can be converted to nitrous oxide (N2O), which has a global warming potential that is about 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2). By using the 4Rs, we reduce the amount of nitrate present in waterlogged conditions, thus reducing N2O emissions.

Agrium was a leader in the development of a Nitrous Oxide Emissions Reduction Protocol (NERP), which defines best practices growers can employ. Avoiding nitrogen fertilizer application in waterlogged conditions is a climate smart practice that leading food companies are increasingly incorporating into their value chain. Government agencies are also supportive of NERP. Growers who use these practices can often apply for carbon offsets. A tonne of GHG emissions reduced on the farm can offset a tonne produced elsewhere.