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The Golden State sets the pace

Summary

t is frequently said that what happens first in California is quickly followed elsewhere in the United States and then the rest of the world. Likewise, agriculture in California is in many ways a ­microcosm of US agriculture overall. Californian agriculture has evolved into a highly specialised and competitive operation, but it faces fundamental challenges to its future. Fertilizer suppliers should take note.

Abstract

California’s uniquely diversified climate and geography have put it at the forefront of US agriculture. Compared with elsewhere in the United States, farms in California are relatively small, with an average size of 346 acres, compared with a national average of 441 acres. The median size of farms in Cali­fornia is just 35 acres: the national average is a median farm size of 120 acres. However, in terms of value of farm output, California ranks in the top echelons, and the average net cash income per farm in 2002 was $ 74,500. This compares with a national average of $19,000. (2002 Census of Agriculture, USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service)

California produces 250 different crops and livestock commodities, ten of which are grown commercially nowhere else in the United States. Those ten are almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, kiwi, olive, pistachio, pomegranate, prunes, raisins and walnuts – all very high value products. For the past half-century, California has been the top ranking US agricultural state, leading in 75 different commodities. (The Challenges of Agriculture in California, Marsha Prillwitz and Tomaz C. Ripoli [2000].) Table 1 shows how California ranks within the United States for the main agricultural products.

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Celebrating two happy marriages – and many babies

Summary

A beautiful summer's day in London seemed the perfect occasion to celebrate the memory of a great man and a life lived to the fullest extent. The occasion was the presentation of the inaugural Pierre Becker Memorial Award to a most worthy winner – Dr. Norman S. H. Chien of IFDC.

Abstract

"In recognition of your outstanding ­contribution to the understanding, exploitation and application of phosphate resources, the Publisher, Staff and Editorial Board of Fertilizer International magazine honour Dr. Nor­man S. H. Chien. The quality of your re­search, originality and practical application have justly earned the lasting admiration of your many friends in the fertilizer world.”

That is the citation on the inaugural Pierre Becker Memorial Award that was made to Dr. Norman S. H. Chien in London on 4 August, by John French, Publisher of Fertilizer International.

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An economical process for à la carte formulations

Summary

Precision is a supremely important criterion in fertilisation today, not only regarding the application of tailor-made products to meet specific soil, crop and climate needs, but also on their production. Many of the multinutrient fertilizers required by farmers today are produced by granulation: several methods are available, each with certain advantages and disadvantages. The French company, Sahut-Conreur SA, has developed a new technology, involving granulation by compaction, which ­eliminates many of the shortfalls of the granulation process, and it offers improved economics and greater energy efficiency, as well as enhanced product quality.

Abstract

From every point of view, precision is of paramount importance in fertilisation, and it is therefore important to produce fertilizers in such a form that can be applied to the soil in as exact amounts as possible. Although liquid solutions or suspensions are the easiest forms of fertilizer for accurate application, the majority of fertilizers are used in solid form.

Since powdered or crystalline fertilizer materials give rise to a lot of dust, with all the attendant loss and nuisance (dust emission during handling at ports and in warehouses and workplaces, poor product flowability, caking tendency during storage and transportation, segregation of components, scattering by wind during the spreading on the fields), most fertilizers are consolidated into larger particles with more suitable properties by means of different processes, commonly known as granulation.

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Critical issues in ­material selection for phosphoric acid plants

Summary

Corrosion in phosphoric acid plants is a growing hazard as rock grades decline and impurity levels rise. Dr. M. P. Sukumaran Nair reviews available metallic materials of construction for present-day phosphoric acid plant service.

Abstract

In comparison with stronger mineral acids such as sulphuric and hydrochloric acids, pure phosphoric acid is not very corrosive. But these days industry produces very little of the very pure “thermal” phosphoric acid, which was obtained by producing elemental phosphorus from phosphate ore, then burning it and combining the oxidation products with water, because of the high capital and running costs of the operation. Almost all industrially produced phosphoric acid is now generated directly from the ore (phosphate rock) by the “wet process” (acidulation with sulphuric acid), in the course of which much of the impurity content of the ore goes into solution in the product acid. This impure phosphoric acid product is much more corrosive than the pure substance, though to what extent depends on the composition and impurity content of the phosphate rock, which varies according to its provenance. The problem can only get worse as the better-quality phosphate deposits be­come progressively worked out and the industry is obliged to turn to ever lower-grade deposits.

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End of an era

Summary

Following the end of potash mining in Alsace in 2002, MDPA is undertaking its final task: a comprehensive restoration and rehabilitation programme that is due for completion in 2010, just 100 years after mining began. Michael Freeman reports.

Abstract

Over a long weekend in the middle of June 2004, a festival was held in and around the town of Wittelsheim to celebrate 100 years of potash activity in the Alsace region of eastern France. Mines de Potasses d’Alsace (MDPA), the state-owned potash company, arranged a series of events for its employees and other local people for whom the potash industry and its iconic stork trade mark have left powerful memories. However, the physical evidence of an important mining industry is disappearing fast: most of the structures above ground have already been cleared away to be replaced by buildings for new industries, an industrial park, a retail centre and housing, leaving one refinery to process impor­ted potash and another as a museum. MDPA has been actively working on this programme of demolition and restoration for many years, and at the same time has been attending to the legacy of pollution from the salt waste associated with the early years of potash refining.

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ServiAuctions crests the wave of the future

Summary

The buying and selling of fertilizers on-line is becoming well established. ServiAuctions offers a service with a difference.

Abstract

ServiAuctions Ltd. is based in Tampa, Florida, and is headed by James T. Ortiz, who has gathered a dedicated team of all the talents. Together, they have combined expertise in IT, production, the service sector and trading to create an on-line platform for the Sale (Auction) and Purchase (Reverse Auction) of raw materials, finished products and services.

ServiAuctions offers a secure and proven system that improves the economics of buying and selling. “Our system creates more competition, thereby providing our users with the best possible market price available,” James Ortiz told FI. “Each operation is researched and customised to ensure the best result possible. We provide the most efficient and economic process in a completely impartial and transparent manner. ServiAuctions is the trading platform of the future.”

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CALAMCO has deep roots

Summary

California Ammonia Co. (CALAMCO) is a co-operative that has brought together local farmers and a major partner, J. R. Simplot Company. It also puts much back into the community, notably via its acclaimed School Garden Grant Program.

Abstract

California Ammonia Co. (Calam­co) was formed in 1957 as a joint venture involving Best Fertilizers Co. and a consortium of California farmers. The driving force in the venture was Lowell W. Berry, founder of Best Fertilizers a quarter of a century earlier, in 1932. Calamco was set up to manufacture and sell anhydrous ammonia to its own stockholder-patrons in accordance with their preferred patronage rights. The Calamco ammonia plant at Lathrop came on stream in 1958. The Best Fertilizers Co. eventually sold their interest in California to Occidental Chemi­cal Co., who then became Calamco’s new industry partner. This type of partnership arrangement proved to be successful for Calamco for more than 25 years.

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Coast-to-coast ­service for 150 years

Summary

H. J. Baker & Bro. Inc. has a long pedigree, and for more than 150 years, the company has been providing quality ingredients to the fertilizer, feed, sulphur and food industries. This outstanding longevity can be attributed to the company's quest for excellent and dependable service, which has been upheld by four generations of the Smith family, and backed up by highly qualified specialist staff.

Abstract

The year 1849 is widely regarded as California’s Year Zero: it is the date when gold was first discovered in the state, which triggered off the legendary Gold Rush. H. J. Baker & Bro. Inc. began trading just one year later, in 1850 in New York City, after previously trading in the port of Balti­more. The product that first put H. J. Baker on the map was castor oil, and Baker Castor Oil soon came to be found in household medicine chests throughout America. A castor oil by-product, pomace, was the first fertilizer product to be marketed by Baker. These early beginnings paved the way for H. J. Baker to evolve into today’s multi-service organisation, blending and marketing feed ingredients, oils, fertilizers, speciality industrial chemicals and sulphur.

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A fine pedigree

Summary

The J. R. Simplot Company is a long-established and diversified agribusiness group, whose slogan Bringing Earth's Resources to Life is particularly pertinent to its operations in California.

Abstract

The J. R. Simplot Company is a privately-owned food and agribusiness based in Boise, Idaho. As one of the largest privately-held companies in the United States, Simplot employs more than 12,000 people worldwide and enjoys sales of more than $3 billion/year. A large share of these revenues is generated in Cali­fornia, where the company has made considerable investments in fertilizer manufacturing facilities.

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Stockton passes a milestone

Summary

Located in the fertile San Joaquin Valley, the Port of Stockton offers comprehensive warehouse storage and handling facilities for dry and liquid bulk materials. Situated in the hub of four major freeways, two transcontinental railways and an international waterway, the Port of Stockton is well located to provide optimum service for the shipment and storage of cargo, as several leading fertilizer and raw materials suppliers can confirm.

Abstract

Last year, the Port of Stockton celebrated its 70th year as a deepwater port. Located 75 miles due east of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, the Port of Stockton is the major transportation hub for the Bay Area. Its genesis stemmed from the determination of the civic leaders of Stockton and San Jaoquin counties to build a deepwater seaport that would connect California Central Valley’s rich agricultural region with the rest of the world. In 1929, US Congress approved Federal funding for deepening the San Jaoquin River to create the Stockton Deepwater Ship Channel. On 2 February 1933, the Port of Stockton opened for business when the S.S. Daisy Grey was the first ship to call at the new port.

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New horizons as TFI forms new partnerships

Summary

Exciting new partnerships with a leading industry player and a renowned organisation of industry experts herald The Fertilizer Institute's (TFI) forthcoming programme of conferences. The World Fertilizer Conference in San Francisco will showcase TFI's new venture with PotashCorp to extend the public outreach work that each organisation has embraced with some success. In a further development,TFI has combined with the Fertilizer Industry Round Table to convene the Fertilizer Outlook and Technology Conference – a programme which will attract the best minds in the business.

Abstract

There is a definite buzz of expectation around this year’s TFI World Fertilizer Conference in San Francisco, between 12-14 September 2004. The venue will be a familiar one to participants – the Westin St. Francis will again serve as the conference headquarters hotel. The World Fertilizer Conference will begin with all guns blazing on Monday, 13 September, with a session devoted to the Fertile Minds Ideas Expo. This session will discuss the increasingly high-profile programme that has been designed to dispel myths surrounding fertilizers and agriculture. On Tuesday, 14 September, TFI will also unveil another important new programme, which will be marked with a breakfast and a keynote address by Fareed Zakaria, Editor of Newsweek International.

The Fertile Minds programme was launched by PotashCorp in 2001, since when it has won many plaudits in its attempts to address the misconceptions about conventional fertilizers and modern farming practices held by the general public. The goal was to make the industry aware of the negative misperceptions held by others and to prove that fertilizers are natural, necessary and safe with solid, scientific evidence. Since then, PotashCorp has advanced the programme, taking it to the agricultural dealers and other front-line industry professionals.

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