With seed treatments the fastest growing sector in the crop protection market it is critical that farmers have access to these products and technologies, so as they can boost yields, conserve water and protect biodiversity. Seed treatments represent a way to safeguard our environment whilst increasing yields through enhanced plant emergence,growth and nutrition efficiency.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Eisenach and Petkus

It is now the weekend and after getting up to date on some washing in Köln it was off to Eisenach.
Eisenach is a small city just over the old East German boarder, founded over 1000 years ago, it is home to Wartburg castle, this castle was built in the 11th century with many additions and reconstructions over the years since, it is famous for being the place where Martin Luther was hide out from prosecution for his alternate religious beliefs. Martin Luther was the man that founded the Protestant church, I visited the room where he wrote the new testament and also wrote the first translation of the bible in German, an amazing history and is also the only castle in Germany to be world heritage listed.
The tower and dungeon was quite sobering, the dungeon was a hole in the ground not more than 2m square about 15m deep, no light, no flow of air, just a pit and one guy spent 8years down there until he died. All he did wrong was not want to get his child baptised, just goes to show that religious extremism is nothing new?
Interestingly formal bathing was a Eastern European custom and was not introduced to Western Europe until the later part of the 16th century and really only for royalty then, the castle did not get a water supply until the 18th century.
You will see below a picture of some timber roof beams, these beams were milled in 1142 AD!!
Stayed at the Stienberger Hotel in Eisenach, good little hotel highly recommend, situated in the centre of town opposite St Nicholas's gates, pictured below.

Monday was a visit to Petkus who is a top of the line manufacturer of seed processing , milling and bulk handling equipment. I must thank Mark Scholze, managing director for his time and openness during my visit.
What is very impressive about Petkus is there commitment to innovation and research , with construction going on at the moment to house a dedicated R&D department, project management and centre of excellence for the training and development of processes and machinery, this investment is second to none that I know of in the industry.
We had some very open and frank discussions about existing technology, current level of development and also an ideas for the future and which direction development should be heading. What's refreshing is how open Petkus are to thinking outside the box, and the level of personnel they have from all different industry backgrounds, I think this approach will bode well for them in the future.
Germany had there first frost of the year this morning definitely a good chill in the air but a nice blue sky day to follow.

Back on the train Tuesday morning back to Frankfurt, heading for Norway.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Köln Germany.

Arrived into Köln about 3pm after another good train ride, I have said before but I am incredibly impressed with the rail networks around the world, in Australia we are a third world country when it comes to our rail network.
Here I was off to see Bayer at their Monhiem facility, I must thank Ken Blowers from Australia for organising this for me, here I met up with Hienz-Friedrich Schnier who is head of the seed care centre.
Had a great meeting with Hienz, his background was in soil biology with experience around the world, particularly in low ph, high iron, high aluminium type soils, interestingly similar to some of the issues we can have in the North East.
So to discuss the treatment options and plant availability of nutrients under these situations was fantastic, also his knowledge of products on the market will be extremely useful. As I suspected there are distributors in Australia for companies with products that could help us immensely but the people in these companies in Australia don't realise that we need these products, so at the moment the products don't come to Australia!
We had a long discussion on microbial activity and soil nutrient balance thus resulting in plant uptake of nutrients, VERY interesting, can't wait to get home and try a few things that's for sure, I guess when we still have around 30% crop potential to achieve in most years, it is definitely worth some consideration.

On a lighter note you will never guess what was also on in Köln while I was there, but "INTERMOT" Germany's biggest international motor cycle fair, you wouldn't believe my excitement, the exhibition centre was enormous with 6 pavilions of motorbikes, each pavilion was about 3/4 of the size of the whole Melbourne exhibition centre, just amazing. The incredible thing was that we only see about half the motorbike brands in the world come to Australia, and the aftermarket gear was amazing. The custom bike section of the show was a highlight with some incredible workmanship on display, the attention to detail on these bikes is amazing.

I was like a Kelpie in a tyre shop, I didn't know where to go next!!

One thing that surprised me was how strong the Chinese sector was in the after market space, with some really quality stuff.

You will note I have no photos of any of the big companies this is due to a no camera policies everywhere you go, so sorry for the lack of visual with relation to seed.

The cathedral in the pictures below is truly amazing, the attention to detail is incredible , interestingly it was nearly the only building in Köln to survive the bombings of the 2nd world war, Köln was practically wiped of the planet during WW2, there are a couple of stories as to why the cathedral was spared the first is that the Germans and allied forces agreed to spare historical buildings so as to preserve history, but there were a huge amount of other historical buildings destroyed so I'm not sure I believe this version. The other reason was that the cathedral was the largest most prominent land mark in the city, so the allied planes used it as a landmark to pinpoint everything else to bomb, this seems far more plausible, as I said the pictures you see of the city after the war ended were unbelievable just complete destruction of the entire city.

Next off to Eisenach to meet with Petkus.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Basel, Switzerland, Syngenta.

Here we are in Basel, Switzerland a beautiful city in the north west corner of Switzerland, situated on the banks of the Rhine river with the German mountains to the north and the French mountains to the west boarding the city. Basel is a city of approx 300,000 people with quite a regional feel about it. Again a city that has a steep history dating back to the 11th century, with the original city walls still very evident.
You can see in the last couple of photos one of the houses that was built in the 14th century, this type of construction was quite common with buildings being wider at the top than the bottom, this was due to property tax being charged based on the size of the footprint of the ground floor, so to gain extra space you simply built the house in a stepped fashion getting wider as you went up. Also the beam type construction was used as land ownership was quite volatile at that time with wars etc residents were never sure whether they would get to keep the land or not, so the construction was such that it could be dismantled and moved at any time. Not sure how far into the future they were looking as most of the houses have been there for around 500 years, quite incredible.
While in Basel I was able to catch up with Jason Gill and Linda, I have not seen Jason for some 20 years since child hood, so was great to catch up on old friends, he now works for Novartis a pharmaceutical company in Basel working on Breast cancer research.

The main reason for the trip to Basel was to meet with Syngenta and visit there global seed care institute, wow what a place.
Benoit Hussherr was my host for the day, with meetings to start with with Franz Brandl , Global Head of seed care with some frank discussions on the future directions of product development and alternative treatment options, very valuable in understanding where someone in his position looks to for development, it has certainly been refreshing to hear what these guys have to say and also how much technical knowledge and evidence back up they have. Gives you confidence in what the big companies take to market, as they certainly have a large amount of scrutiny put on everything they do.
After some more discussions it was off to Stien where the research centre is, this is about 30km from Basel to the East.
This facility was extraordinary with the complete development of products and research happening here, interestingly I did not resize that once a new compound or active is identified it could be either a herbicide, insecticide, fungicide or nemacide and this is only established once intense testing and evaluation is completed.
With over 5000 compounds returning a positive result for a mode of action, it is no wonder it costs 1 billion dollars to research and develop products each year.
This was a fantastic opportunity for me to fire all the hard questions at the guys who were at the coal face guiding the research, interestingly what is at the forefront of gaining a yield advantage is achieving stress tolerance in plants, ie. making them stronger in handling, heat, cold and moisture stress, having said that there are so many variables involved with this that, consistent data and results does not exist and as such research goes on.
One thing that I am very excited about is the near prospect of crop modelling software being available, what a tool that will be, in evaluating a mode of action and guiding your decision making process for whole crop mangement.
Next we are off to Köln or Colonge as it is known.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

France, BAYER Cerez.

On the train from Paris to Basel in Switzerland at the moment, what a way to see the glorious French country side, scorching along at around 290km/h, very comfortable way to get around, will take approx 3:10mins not bad!
Farming wise in France at the moment, corn harvest is still underway with preparation for cereal sowing well underway, a good mix of tillage and direct sowing taking place, a lot of different machines in use that we are not used to seeing so quite interesting. Also in the middle of sugar beet harvest, which again we don't see in Australia with cane being our main source of sugar.
Yesterday was a visit to the BAYER facility Cerez, with hosts, Gregory Ginisty, Isabelle Demoulin and Stephane Trouillet. Also a big thanks to the rest of the team, who showed me around a very impressive facility. Was very interesting to see the film coating division and the product range featuring a number of products that we have not seen in Australia, this was as I expected when I started my Nuffield I have always suspected that there would be products out there which would make our job so much easier but for whatever reason don't seem to make it to the Australian market, maybe we can rectify this over time.
At Cerez, main activities are Pelleting of sugar beet seed with some use of primed seeds for the Western European markets, formulation of the film coatings peridium range, vast testing of every component and also 27ha of trials. On the trials site they use a very unique fully automated spray applicator, which is enclosed to allow of spraying in all weather conditions, very impressive.

After the visit we headed back to Fontainebleau where I was staying about a 40min trip, Fontainbleau is the place where Napolean lived and the castle there is quite amazing, very grand and as with everything in Europe steeped in history.
With the first section of the castle built in the 14th century there are a number of stages of building with at a guess the last major addition in the late 18th century, there were a number of small lakes which had some big carp in them, interestingly carp were food for the kings in the early ages. Bit different in Australia!!

I've just looked up on the screen and we have just hit 317km/h, I like trains when they go this fast!! Looking out the window reminds me of the country side from Castlemaine to Ballarat in Victoria, only covered in corn crops??

I am slowly learning how to travel cheaply in Europe, accommodation is still quite expensive, but if you can avoid taxis and hotel food the rest is no more expensive than Australia, whilst in Fontainebleau Greg took me out for two fantastic meals with a sample of the local delicacies, including snails and goose liver, not bad once you get over what your actually eating, at this point I'm not sure who eats more parts of an animal, the French or Chinese?? So far on the trip I have not so much as sniffle, which is great, weather wise most of the trip has been about 18-25 degrees C so just right really.

Until next time, stay tuned.

Friday, 28 September 2012


Hosted in Austria by Martina Kröfel, who I must thank for organising such a wonderful visit to Austria, there I visited a farmer on the who produces pumpkin seed and also has a wheat processing business, interestingly gaucho has been banned as a seed treatment due to issues with bees, stemming back to the issues they had when I last visited Germany back in 2006.
Interestingly nearly all of the pumpkin seed produced in Hungary, Russia, Slovenia, and Ukraine comes back to Austria for processing by just a couple of companies.
They view China as there greatest threat to their market but only from a price point perspective, china is really struggling to get the quality and processing right, they don't have the practical expertise on the ground to get it right. It's is something that you see a lot of in China where they don't have the skill level or expertise in the middle management or supervisors to get the processes right, something in time I think they will sort out but it will take some time.
Austria is the home of schnitzel so here, I am in my element, you can have schnitzel three meals a day if you want! Love a good schnitzel.
Interestingly Austrian farmers seem to have similar weed pressures as we do, which has seen them incorporate a tillage technique mounted on the front of there bed preparation implements to remove the weeds mechanically, they say this has far more impact than any chemical could ever have. Certainly something to think about.
I've really got to brush up on my German, I just walked into the ladies room, I guess I had a 50/50 chance of getting it right, bugger!
Vienna is another European city steeped in history, today had a visit to the royal palace which was home to Sisi who was queen Elizabeth the 2nd I think? Very impressive, almost more so than Buckingham Palace.
There is a lot said for not fighting wars too hard, as it preserves your heritage far more than being bombed to oblivion like some other European cities have been.
Tomorrow off to Paris, stay tuned.