The 4R’s and NERP can be BS without Balance

Posted in: Environment     

In 2007, the newly legislated “Specified Gas Emitters Regulation” required Alberta facilities that emit more than 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year to reduce emissions intensity by 12 per cent. Facilities that could not meet the emission targets were allowed an alternate solution, to buy offsets from another potential emitter. Farmers practicing 0-till with specific low disturbance practices qualified as a means of sequestering carbon which would otherwise become atmospheric, and thus qualified as a source of carbon offsets. AGRI-TREND Aggregation immediately began collecting the required information from participating 0-till farmers, pooling their offsets (carbon credits) into large volumes, and selling them to the large emitters.

To date, AGRI-TREND Aggregation has sold approximately 2.3 million tonnes of carbon offsets under the tillage protocol, and paid Alberta farmers more than $23 million. This opportunity continues on an annual basis for anyone in Alberta not yet participating or on a renewal basis for those that have been involved. Saskatchewan will also be allowing farmers to sell offsets under a tillage protocol, and AGRI-TREND Aggregation is ready to facilitate those sales as soon the protocols are approved.

In addition to the 0-till protocol, there is now another way to participate in this carbon based revenue stream. It is the "Nitrous Oxide Emission Reduction Protocol" (NERP) and is meant to reward efficient nitrogen management, and reduced emissions. Thus, if a farming enterprise elevates its Nitrogen Use Efficiency (lowering Nitrous Oxide emissions), it can be rewarded with Carbon Offsets. Globally, the nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) of agricultural fertilizers is < 30%. With over simplification, this means that of every 100 units of N applied, 70 are lost to the environment where the effects are mostly negative while 30 units gets into the food, fuel, fiber (F3) produced in the world. Fortunately, the NUE is significantly better (50%) in North America; and for many growers working with an Agri- Coach, paying close attention to detail has improved their NUE to 70 or 80%.

Besides the opportunity for an additional new income stream through NERP, striving for more efficient nitrogen use is a very obvious goal every farmer should have anyway, as they manage the actual costs of growing a crop. There is no advantage to inefficiency.

The science behind improved NUE, and the NERP program is based on

The 4R’s: Right Rate, Right Time, Right Placement and Right Form

Right Rate(s) - what crop are you growing, what is your yield goal, what’s in the soil and what will be released = how much you need to add. 

Right Times(s) – how close to seeding or yield/quality formation will the right rate(s) be applied. Are there any synergies that could be found/ created?

Right Placement(s) – as there are many options broadcast, banded (seed placed, mid-row, side band, dribble), foliar and various application combinations. What synergies are there? What are the potential negatives? What are the SBU implications?

Right Form(s) – ammonium, urea, nitrate, organic, anhydrous, liquid, dry and various combinations are all form choices. How about ESN, Agrotain, N-Serve and combinations of all the above?

"Getting AGRI-TREND to do my carbon credits was the right move. They are very helpful, knowledgeable, and informative, which got me the best price and speedy payment. I continue to use them as my carbon credit sales people." - Richard Veraart- Falher, Alberta

It is really all about balance.

An analogy. Think for a minute about a car that you are fixing up to go fast, real fast! If you invest all your focus on getting the engine to kick out more than 400 horsepower, and don’t consider the frame strength and suspension, everything will just twist up. If you get the engine right, and the frame and suspension, but don’t have the right tires, you’ll just spin out. With the right tires, you’ll be able to go fast, but what about steering and safety? You need to have them all, or not bother with the engine.

With a crop, it’s no different. It’s very easy to crank up the N rate and try for a higher yield, but very likely something else will become deficient, and the crop will lodge, or become diseased. Or maybe the surplus N will just never be utilized, and just ruin your profit margin and your environment. It’s all about fine tuning the balance, and before you consider increasing the N rate, you need to understand and measure what it’s being balanced against.

In a nutshell, NERP is about how much N is in the soil prior to cropping, how much will be released, how much N is in the soil after the crop is grown, how much crop was produced, how was the N applied, when was the N applied, in what form and at what rate was the N applied?

This could seem complicated at first glance, but just as AGRI-TREND Aggregation learned how to generate income from the tillage protocol with very little hassle for the seller, and no surprises, it has also learned how to make the NERP happen smoothly. Individuals have been trained and accredited to manage the experience from start to finish, use The Agri-Data Solution, and make recommendations on how to fine tune the fertilizer program to maximize the opportunity, both for NERP, and crop revenues. The goals are parallel.

For farms with accurate record keeping, and good organization, this is obvious. Otherwise, it’s a great reason to begin accurate record keeping. The new revenue opportunities are more than the cost of the required data management system and time invested, and the benefits are many.

NERP can be stacked on top of the tillage protocol, offering two additional income streams from management practices that tend to be exactly in line with managing for higher crop revenues.


The Government of Saskatchewan has formally announced that they will soon be proceeding forward with a NERP and tillage offset protocol. AGRI-TREND Aggregation is ready to manage the transactions on behalf of farmers as soon as it officially begins. As the number of offsets required in Saskatchewan will be much lower than in Alberta, it is recommended to prepare in advance by getting field locations and crop histories entered now, to take full advantage of the opportunities that are available. There is no cost to get started now.

For further information on how to develop new income streams from your farmland in Alberta or Saskatchewan, please call.

Bill Dorgan, President
AGRI-TREND Aggregation Inc.
p. 403.255.5548
c. 403.608.0992


Agri-Trend Aggregation has paid Alberta farmers more than $23 million.03-0412 - The 4R’S And NERP 02

About the Author
Bill Dorgan

Dorgan is President of Agri-Trend Aggregation Inc. He has held a number of key positions in the agricultural industry, most recently as Vice President of PricewaterhouseCoopers Inc. Advisory Services, with extensive senior management experience in sales, marketing, business development and finance in the agricultural sector.

He has also been Vice President of Canada’s largest agricultural co-operative, overseeing the largest agricultural retail supply networks in Canada, with P & L responsibility for sales in excess of $400 Million. 

Dorgan can be reached at 


comments powered by Disqus