According to Chris Feiden, head of operations, St. Joseph, MO, and Caldwell, ID, for Becker Underwood, these are exciting times for the fields of inoculants and seed treatments. “Right now, we are entering a new era of biologicals use in agriculture,” says Feiden. “You already have products out there for legumes, and there are many more just around the corner for both legumes and other crops.”
It’s for this reason that Becker Underwood’s St. Joseph facility has undergone a major expansion in recent years. Originally constructed in 1997, the St. Joseph plant has added two 20,000-liter fermentation tanks to the mix, joining two 2,000-liter and two 6,000-liter fermentation tanks already at the site. This has effectively quadrupled the plant’s output capacity, says Feiden.
“We needed to do this to just keep pace with market trends,” he says. “It used to be that growers did a lot of their own seed treating with inoculants, but that’s all changed. Today, most inoculant seed treatment is being done by seed retailers and professional seed dealers.” In terms of size, adds Feiden, this has boosted soybean inoculant seed treatments from approximately 15% in 1997 to nearly 30% today.
“But that still leaves almost 70% of the soybean seed market not using an inoculant product,” he says. “That’s our biggest challenge right now as an industry, the non-user who doesn’t yet understand or believe in the value of the new generation of inoculant products. But as our technology continues to improve and prove itself, I think we will have plenty of opportunities to reach these potential customers.”