Top Crop Manager

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Changes to surfactant packaging are making a difference

Program resolves left-over product dilemma.


November 19, 2007
By Top Crop Manager

Topics

A change to how growers purchase surfactants may ultimately make a big difference
to the environment. "This is just one more example of the commitment our
member companies have to steward their products," says Peter MacLeod, executive
director of crop protection chemistry with CropLife Canada, about the BASF initiative
to package and sell surfactants separately from herbicides.

"Really this started to become a topic of discussion in the late 1990s
when a lot of the newer pesticide technologies were pre-packaged together with
the necessary surfactant or adjuvant that helped the product work better, sometimes
even at lower rates," MacLeod says. "A lot of companies decided to
put them together to make sure the grower got all the necessary tools at the
same time."

What seemed like a good idea at the time actually resulted in a headache for
some growers, not to mention an evolving disposal concern. Simply stated, growers
use different amounts of adjuvant depending on the hardness of their water,
temperature and, most importantly, spray volume. While one grower may use the
entire container of surfactant provided, another would use only part depending
on the local conditions and application equipment. What to do with that left
over partial container of surfactant is the issue.

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Growers either have to store it on-farm or find an acceptable means of disposal.
Some partial containers began appearing at provincial collection sites for empty
jugs. This raised concerns with provincial governments and in turn the Pest
Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) in Ottawa.

In 2000, CropLife Canada and the major manufacturers involved agreed to address
the issue. "Each individual company developed a plan in consultation with
the PMRA that would work for their product line," MacLeod explains. The
plans are now being implemented.

Jeff Denys, director of new business development, is in charge of the project
for BASF. "One of the core values we have as a company is sustainability,"
he says. "Producing excess surfactant is not good for the customer or for
the environment."

In examining the issue, BASF quickly reached the conclusion that for BASF,
the problem needed to be addressed right at the source. "In this case,
what was going to be the most sustainable was a clear decoupling of the product
and the surfactant," Denys explains.

By taking Merge surfactant out of the BASF co-packs for Absolute, FlaxMax,
Odyssey, Poast Ultra and Pursuit Ultra, growers can purchase and use the amount
of surfactant they need relative to actual water volume.

"We know the trend is towards lower water volume," Denys says. The
grower now has more flexibility. For example, depending on the water volume
used, one container of Merge will do 40 to 80 acres with Poast Ultra. Purchasing
the Merge separately eliminates waste as well as the burden on the environment.
It also saves money for growers using lower water volumes.

The packaging change sounds simple, but actually required a major financial
investment and months of work on the part of BASF.

The company first did market research to determine the needs of growers and
retailers as well as their reaction to the proposal. Response was positive and
the company learned that the marketplace was satisfied with the existing Merge
jug, so multiple container sizes would not be necessary. Retailers also told
them that the change made 'good business sense'.

Packaging for all herbicides affected had to be redesigned. Existing inventory
also had to be recalled from retailers and repackaged – no small undertaking
in a country the size of Canada.

The results will soon be seen on the shelves of retailers. "I'm looking
forward to it," says Dave Wendland, owner of Wendland Ag Services in Waldheim,
Saskatchewan, 75 kilometres miles north of Saskatoon. "I had customers
wanting to return extra surfactant, but how do you credit for something that
is only part of the box? I think it will clean up a lot of extra surfactant
problems."

Denys is confident the change will benefit all concerned. "There are a
number of things that are critical in evaluating whether a business decision
moves forward," he says. "Sustainability and responsible care are
two key factors we use to acid test business plans."

MacLeod is also happy with the BASF initiative. "The commitment they have
made shows the kind of dedication to stewardship they have," he says. "BASF
has been very proactive in telling us what they are doing regarding the surfactant
initiative. They have always been a strong supporter of CropLife Canada and
all of our 'stewardship first' programs." -30-

 


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