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Nutrient Stewardship


canadaOntario represents a portion of the Canada’s most viable and productive farmland. Ontario has been a leader in nutrient management planning for crop production. The province has embraced 4R Nutrient Stewardship (Right Source @ the Right Rate, Right Time, and Right Place®) as a valuable tool for meeting the province’s agricultural and environmental goals. 4R Nutrient Stewardship is a recognized part of the Ontario Government’s strategy to reduce nutrient runoff.  




4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification


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. With a common commitment to improve the long-term quality of Lake Erie and the Great Lakes basin, the 4R Ontario Steering Committee is developing and implementing a 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification program for Ontario agri-retailers. 

4R Certification

This new, voluntary 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program encourages agricultural retailers, service providers and other certified professionals to adopt proven best practices through the 4Rs, which refers to using the Right Source of nutrients at the Right Rate and Right Time in the Right Place.

In 2016, the 4R Ontario Certification Pilot Project was launched to evaluate the validity, suitability and accountability of the Ohio 4R Certification model for implementation in the Ontario marketplace. Pilot audits were conducted by the lead auditor from the 4R Ohio program. With feedback from the 4R Ontario Certification Pilot Project, the 4R Ontario Steering Committee developed and approved a list of requirements that form the proposed Ontario 4R Certification Standards.

Visit our 4R Certification toolkit to find out more about becoming 4R Certified.

Proposed Ontario 4R Certification Standards

The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program outlines 37 criteria to be audited. Each criterion will be re-evaluated on a two-year cycle by a third party auditor, via an in-person or desk audit, to maintain certification.

The proposed Ontario 4R Certification Standards aim to provide uniform nutrient management practices for commercial fertilizer used in Ontario based on best management practices.

The proposed Ontario 4R Certification Standards sets requirements relating to:

  • Training
  • Recommendations
  • Application
  • Documentation

As a stakeholder that has interest in the success of the Ontario 4R Certification program and the long-term quality of Lake Erie, your feedback is important to us. The proposed Ontario 4R Certification Standards may require alterations to current practices and we want to be sure these changes are feasible while continuing to optimize nutrient availability and reduce nutrient loss.

Please provide any comments by February 28, 2018.  All comments must be provided in writing and should be submitted to:

McKenzie Smith
Audit Coordinator
Fertilizer Canada
350 Sparks St. Suite 907, Ottawa, Ontario, K1R 7S8
T: 613-786-3044 | M: 613-793-8387

All comments received will be reviewed and incorporated as appropriate. We will make the greatest effort to reach out to all respondents to address all comments and questions.

In addition, three audience-specific webinars will be provided to further explain the Ontario 4R Certification Program and Standards. These webinars will take place during the consultation period and will be available for; 1) Farmers on Monday February 5, 2018, 2) Agri-retailers/CCAs on Tuesday February 6, 2018 and 3) the Public/ Conservation Partners on Tuesday February 6, 2018. If you are interested in participating, please save the date and contact McKenzie Smith ( by January 31, 2018.


The Ontario 4R Certification program will be published by April 1, 2018 and implemented Fall 2018.


4R Nutrient Stewardship: Implementation in Ontario

4R Nutrient Stewardship offers agri-retailers in Ontario credibility and provides a strategic opportunity for farmers to help meet provincial objectives to improve the water quality of the Great Lakes and contributing watersheds while increasing agricultural productivity. Findings suggest significant benefits when compared to traditional practices. This will continue to ensure the effective protection and conservation Ontario’s agricultural soils, water quality, and ecosystem health as they relate to nutrients. Because every farm is different, the implementation of 4R Nutrient Stewardship practices are being adapted to Ontario’s agricultural production and unique conditions in order to maximize these results.

To date, more than 113,000 acres of farmland in Ontario can be attributed to 4R Nutrient Stewardship, with roughly 67 per cent of farms implementing some form of this nutrient planning and management method.  In 2016, there are four 4R Demonstration farms active in the province. To date, more than 20 4R Demonstration farms have been present in Ontario, validating the good nutrient stewardship and benefits to farmers and society. The 4R Demonstration Farm trials were originally developed in partnership with the Grain Farmers of Ontario to build a demonstration farm network in Ontario.