Farmers and environmental groups learned the advantages of more precise fertilizer application Thursday.

The people on the tour spent the day seeing the results of the 4R method of fertilizing.

The method involves using the right source of nutrients, applied at the right rate, in right time and right place.

“The end goal is to try to find a way to do the job better from both an environmental point of view and profitability point of view for the grower,” said Steve Watts of Genesis Crop Systems.

Last year five growers took part in a trial where half a field was fertilized as it had been in the past, while the other half used the 4R method.

“We saw a little better report card on the environmental side, as regards to what was left in the soil after we left, and we actually saw some subtle increases in yield, quality and profitability in the sites that used the 4R programs,” he said.

This year 13 farms are taking part in the trial.

The P.E.I. Potato Board says the 4R method is a win-win for growers. It provides the best yield, with less fertilizer residue left in the field, and creates a product that meets customers' demands. 

“Not over fertilize or under fertilize, and in some cases it might cost more, but at the end of the day it will mean a better marketable crop and a return for the producers,” said Greg Donald, the general manager of the potato board.

Donald says it will ultimately mean less fertilizer going into waterways, or leaching into groundwater.

Economically and environmentally sound

Scott Howatt, the processing coordinator with the potato board, said it’s important for growers to be both economically and environmentally sustainable.

“We're in every community, in every county and on every road, and next to and around every estuary, so every time we look at fertility in our industry, it’s important to consider how its impacting the environment,” he said.

Organizers are hoping that this year's results are as positive as last year's and that more growers will try the 4R method in the future.