Hey Canada, this isn’t the time to be modest

You know me…always willing to call a spade a spade. I think we’ve missed the boat on what is perhaps the best and biggest agricultural news story for Saskatchewan, in fact Canada, so far this year.

I’ve always said that Saskatchewan produces some of the most sustainable and climate-positive crops in the world and now we have the research that proves it. Good research. 

The report from the Global Institute for Food Security is so good that I don’t understand why the media, multinationals and everyone who works in agriculture isn’t shouting this one from the rooftops.

Oh, right…we’re Canadian. 

I’ll leave the science to the scientists, but suffice it to say that the research is thorough. GIFS at the University of Saskatchewan partnered with the Food Systems PRISM Lab at the University of British Columbia (experts in sustainability measurement and management) and followed established protocols and standardized practices for measuring greenhouse gas emissions.

They compiled, validated and scored data sets on CO2 equivalent emissions for the various activities that go into crop production, including all inputs (fertilizer, seed, crop protection, manure, etc.), all in-field and post-harvest on-farm activities, transportation and distribution, energy emissions and more. They also wanted to understand how different agronomic practices, tools and technologies impact soil GHG emissions.

They compared all of this data against other countries including Australia, France, Germany, United States, Russia, Ukraine, and Italy, depending on the crop.

The results are in.

The data shows the sustainable practices we use in Western Canada give the country an incredible competitive advantage in global agricultural production.

When it comes to CO2 equivalent emissions per tonne of production, Canadian crops rank lower than the Global Weighted Average. How much lower?

  • Non-durum wheat – 62% lower 
  • Canola – 67% lower 
  • Field Peas – 96% lower
  • Lentils – 130% lower 

Canada has the lowest carbon footprint in all of these crop categories. 

Again, why are we not telling this story to the world? Why haven’t we heard our federal Agriculture and Environment ministers sharing this news?

To many of us, sustainable practices may no longer seem “innovative” because we’ve been doing them for so long, but when you compare what’s being done in other countries, they’re worth celebrating. 

  • high penetration of zero/minimum tillage (e.g., over 90% in Saskatchewan)
  •  the use of herbicide-tolerant canola 
  • A robust crop rotation system of cereals and oilseeds
  • Production of nitrogen-fixing pulse crops (lentils, peas and chickpeas)
  • Variable rate application of fertilizer 

Even within Canada, it is important to recognize the need for the regional optimization of agronomic practices, because one size does not fit all. There’s much less no-till in Ontario, for example, due to the large amount of corn and soybeans that are grown there.  We must remember to have a national theory and regional strategies.

Does this mean we’re going to be complacent? Absolutely not. In fact, I think the study does the opposite. It lets us (and the public) know we can be proud of how we’re growing Canadian crops. We are having a positive impact on economic, environmental and social sustainability. With some of the best research happening right here at home, we have a huge opportunity to do even more, at scale, and continue to advance this Canadian success story.

So, do me a favor? When you’re out talking to people about what you do as a farmer or if you do business with a farmer, don’t be modest. This is the time to be loud and proud about Saskatchewan-grown crops.

Is anyone in Ottawa listening?

Read more about the full study here:  gifs.ca/sustainableag.