Plant health and fungal control starts with 67 km of pipes
Imagine an apple – fresh, crisp, fruity and delicious. What does it take to grow such an apple? Actually a lot, as apple farmers have to manage many plant diseases throughout the growing season.
To do so they use fungicides. Every fungicide is based on active ingredients that have a specific, scientifically-tested and legally-approved structure – so that they can be used in the most targeted and effective way. The story doesn’t end there, but it was difficult to imagine how such fungicides are produced until I visited the BASF production site near the town Schwarzheide in Germany. Its production buildings look quite similar: gray and tall with only a few windows, flat roof and some pipes weaving around the outside.
Some colleagues and I meet Dr. Jörg Wuckelt in front of one of the buildings. Jörg is an open and very professional chemist and the assistant plant manager of the building; he welcomes us friendly before we step inside with our yellow helmets and safety equipment. Jörg tells us that he and his team produce a molecule in this facility called pyraclostrobin, or as we call it, F500.
F500 is one of BASF’s active ingredients used in fungicides. It is a good mixing partner for formulating a variety of products. These products are used to control the main fungal diseases that affect a whole range of crops, including apples. F500 can also improve the yield potential.
We start our tour where the production starts – in a hall with many quarter like containers. Jörg explains that the containers contain the basic production material. “This raw material arrives in the containers. It is crystalline and we insert it from here in the production process.” Next we take a big elevator to the upper floor of the building. Stepping out of the elevator, there are all kind off pipes and tanks. Everything seems to be connected in a complicated system.
While we are walking from one floor to the other, passing by more and more pipes of all sizes, machines and tanks - Jörg tells us: “The production of the F500 molecule is realized in a multiple-stage synthesis. It takes one week from the raw material to the final product and 67 km of pipes.”
That means every F500 has traveled the same distance that I would need more than 10 hours to walk. I realize how much engineering and chemistry science is required to control fungi and ensure good quality apples in the very end.