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  • 100 Years of Innovation in Seed Treatment

Seed treatment equipment

Innovation in practice since 1926

There is only one crop protection company in the world that makes both seed treatment products and equipment – Bayer. The expertise and experience behind today’s wide-ranging portfolio of application equipment go back to 1926, and a groundbreaking invention by Ben Gustafson in South Dakota.
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The theory of seed treating began centuries ago, when growers soaked their grain in salt water, to achieve improved plant growth.
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The theory of seed treating began centuries ago, when growers soaked their grain in salt water, to achieve improved plant growth.

The theory of seed treating began centuries ago, when growers soaked their grain in salt water, to achieve improved plant growth.

The first equipment used for treating seed was highly primitive. Centuries ago, growers soaked their grain in salt water, for example, in the hope of improving plant growth.

A basket or bucket was all the equipment they needed. Later on, seed was treated by soaking grain in a vat containing hot water or by applying copper carbonate as a dust or formaldehyde as a solution. Not a particularly high-tech application method either.

Obviously there was room for improvement, and one man in South Dakota put his inventive mind to the matter.

Ben Gustafson – the born inventor

Ben Gustafson was a born inventor who loved to tinker around in search of smart solutions to the problems he faced on his family’s cereal farm. One of those problems was seed-borne fungal infections, which result in diseases like smut. So in 1917 he developed what he called the "Ben Smut Treater" to apply copper carbonate dust to small grains. As a seed treatment, copper carbonate was no longer the state of the art. A Bayer seed treatment launched in Germany in 1914, Uspulun, had set a new benchmark for effective control of fungal pathogens in cereals. But then again, the First World War broke out a fortnight after Uspulun’s launch and by 1917 the USA had joined the Allies in fighting against Germany. So Uspulun did not cross the Atlantic until the 1920s. And Ben Gustafson didn’t stop at the “Ben Smut Treater”.

First commercial dust seed treaters

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Ben Gustafson delivered his first commercial dust treaters, which were used in country elevators throughout the northern plains states.
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Ben Gustafson delivered his first commercial dust treaters, which were used in country elevators throughout the northern plains states.

Ben Gustafson delivered his first commercial dust treaters, which were used in country elevators throughout the northern plains states.

In 1926 Ben set up his own company and around 1930 launched his first commercial dust seed treaters, which were used in country elevators throughout the northern plains states of the USA.

And Ben Gustafson just carried on inventing. In 1931 he came out with his Model B seed treater, which was powered by an electric motor or belt pulley with a gas engine and could treat from 50 to 300 bushels of seed per hour.

The demand for Gustafson seed treaters was soon outstripping the facilities on the farm so the family moved to Fargo in North Dakota and changed their name to Ben Gustafson Seed Grain Machinery Company. By now, the focus of the family firm’s operations was quite clear.

One invention after another

The Model H seed treater for applying dry powder copper carbonate introduced by Gustafson in 1933 was a noticeably more modern-looking piece of equipment:
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Gustafson produced the Model H seed treater for applying dry powder copper carbonate. Later on, Bayer of Germany and the DuPont Company developed an ethyl mercury based fungicide called Ceresan, to be sold with the Model H seed treater.
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Gustafson produced the Model H seed treater for applying dry powder copper carbonate. Later on, Bayer of Germany and the DuPont Company developed an ethyl mercury based fungicide called Ceresan, to be sold with the Model H seed treater.
Click to enlarge
Gustafson produced the Model H seed treater for applying dry powder copper carbonate. Later on, Bayer of Germany and the DuPont Company developed an ethyl mercury based fungicide called Ceresan, to be sold with the Model H seed treater.
Click to enlarge
Gustafson produced the Model H seed treater for applying dry powder copper carbonate. Later on, Bayer of Germany and the DuPont Company developed an ethyl mercury based fungicide called Ceresan, to be sold with the Model H seed treater.
Click to enlarge
Gustafson produced the Model H seed treater for applying dry powder copper carbonate. Later on, Bayer of Germany and the DuPont Company developed an ethyl mercury based fungicide called Ceresan, to be sold with the Model H seed treater.

Gustafson produced the Model H seed treater for applying dry powder copper carbonate. Later on, Bayer of Germany and the DuPont Company developed an ethyl mercury based fungicide called Ceresan, to be sold with the Model H seed treater.

Incidentally, the Gustafson Model H was sold with Ceresan, an ethyl mercury-based seed treatment fungicide from Bayer. Ben Gustafson followed his Model H with many more innovative inventions: the first cottonseed treater in 1935; the Model K primarily for the application of dry seed treatments to peas and beans in 1937; and the Model G slurry treater to treat hybrid seed corn in 1945.

No. 1 in the US

By 1946 Gustafson was one of just two US companies manufacturing commercial seed treaters, and the only one making slurry treaters. Since most Americans were working with slurry treatment products (a watery mixture of insoluble matter), Gustafson had emerged as the country’s then leading treater manufacturer. Demand for Gustafson slurry treaters was so great that the company had to switch to a ‘Detroit-style” assembly line around 1948.

The Model R roll feed multi-slurry treater launched in 1949 had a capacity of 500-600 bushels an hour, depending on the seed type being treated – a quantum leap in application speed in less than 20 years.

On Demand

Following Gustafson's acquisition by Bayer in 2004, all the company's expertise and experience in application equipment is now an integral part of the comprehensive and fully integrated system for on-seed applications that is marketed under the Bayer SeedGrowth competence brand. The latest in a long line of inventive advances in application equipment was the On Demand System for customized seed treatment launched in 2012.
From those humble beginnings on a farm in South Dakot a in 1917, the state-of-the-art seed treatment equipment Bayer now offers is now available in many parts of the world.

Uspulun

The first effective seed treatment for controlling fungal pathogens in cereals.

Golden fields of wheat wafting in the breeze, large ears ripe for harvesting: the dream of every cereal farmer in mid to late summer. But for many centuries the reality was very different: whole fields would turn black, as if burnt by fire.more

Ceresan

Midwife to a brand-new industry

Rarely does a single product give birth to an entire industry. But that is what Ceresan can claim to have done.more

Imidacloprid

A genuine game-changer

When scientists working at Bayer’s Japanese crop protection research center discovered a new active ingredient in 1985, they could hardly have guessed that it would revolutionize insecticidal seed treatment.more