Farm Industry News sat down with Jordi Tormo, BASF vice president, at the agricultural division’s headquarters in Limburgerhof, Germany, to learn how the company is positioning itself to meet the needs of U.S. producers.
For BASF, how important is the U.S. market?
The North American market accounts for 25% of our global crop protection product sales. It is a high-value market, and producers want the best products and the best services. While emerging markets offer additional growth opportunities, we will not forget our major mature markets.
What are the challenges that U.S. producers will face in the coming decade, and how will BASF address these challenges?
I think of three different areas. First, we will need to increase productivity on the same amount of land. Increasing yield per acre will need the best products with the latest technology.
Second, anything we do must help producers farm more sustainably. Farmers are also becoming keenly aware of the sustainability challenges they face and are working to run their businesses in a sustainable way, both environmentally and economically. At BASF, we have a very strong sustainability program and have launched AgBalance. This method directly measures agricultural sustainability from start to finish in the production chain. We can compare what is sustainable throughout the entire growing process, not just at one point. This is proving to be a very valuable tool, because it shows producers the economic, social and environmental payback to everything they do.
The third issue is the weed resistance challenge. Current levels of resistance in the field mean that we have to come up with better solutions to ensure producers have the tools available to them. We have in BASF nine different modes of action, which can provide diversity to control resistant weeds and ensure proper weed resistance management.
You mention that you are working to expand the role with your customers to beyond chemical sales. How are you doing that?
One important aspect is that we are going to the customer with more of a crop approach than a product approach. We focus on the farmer needs beyond herbicides, insecticides and fungicides and being not just a crop protection company that supplies only product, but more an agricultural solutions provider. We work with the customers. This helps us understand their needs and ensure we are meeting their needs.
How much of BASF’s focus is on new active ingredients?
Of course, a new active ingredient or new modes of action are always a focus of our research and development.
We have a tremendous portfolio of products, and we continue to produce as much innovation as possible from our current product lineup. For instance, dicamba is an older product, but it is having a second life in the United States. And outside of the U.S., dicamba is not a well-known, or widely used, product. Because of our large product portfolio, we can see how these products can be used in new markets.
Worldwide, where are the largest areas of growth for BASF?
For the crop protection business, one area of huge potential is rice in Asia. It is the second most planted crop in the world. Another area is the corn and soybean market in the U.S. As the value of these crops increase, producers are looking to us to provide products that help them farm more profitably.