Pulse School: Caring for inoculants from production, through to the field

Mark Timbres, plant manager, BASF Agriculture Specialities

There is a nondescript building in the north end of Saskatoon that produces live organisms that are shipped around the world to help plants feed themselves and produce grain. It takes some management to make sure the live organisms make it to their destination – farmer’s fields – healthy and vibrant, so they can get to work helping farmers feed the world.

RealAgriculture’s Dale Leftwich stopped in at the BASF Agriculture Specialties plant, donned a pair of spiffy glasses, and chatted with Mark Timbres, plant manager, about what the facility makes, and how its special product is transported around the world.

The plant produces nitrogen-fixing inoculants for various types of pulses and soybeans. According to Timbres there are two types of inoculants produced at the plant. “We make something called self-adhering peat, which a grower applies to their seed before they plant, and then we make another product we call solid core granule which the grower applies in furrow with the seed.”

For all concerned – the farmer, the retailer, and the manufacturer – it is important to have plenty of lead time. “For the self-adhering peat the process is typically about a six month process to go from raw material to an actual finished good that the grower uses, so planning and forecasting is really important for us,” he says.

Because these are living organisms, special care has to be taken with the product when shipping it around the world to make sure that it arrives fit for use. The manufacturer and the transportation companies have to be careful and so does the farmer. Timbres says that temperature is important. “In the manufacturing facility we typically keep things at 15 degrees C so it definitely has to be kept at that in a grower’s location as well.”

Other things that might not be top of mind matter too, like stacking, “We have to make sure the pallets aren’t stacked because if you stack the material you can get compaction on the bottom and that’ll give you lumps when the grower is adding it to their air seeder,” Timbres says.

It is quite remarkable that this live organism can be made in the centre of the North American continent and then shipped around the world to farmers, and arrive live thousands of miles away. Remarkable indeed, but not by accident, as these bacteria require some special care and attention.

(See the entire interview below):

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