March 2012

March 27th, 2012

FIRT, in behalf of the fertilizer community, extends our condolences to the family of Cameron Bowen. Cameron (September 25, 1938 - March 23, 2012) was a long-term FIRT member and the founder of Cameron Chemicals, a blender and distributor of specialty fertilizers and micronutrients.

Obituary Below:

G. Cameron Bowen, 73, went to be with the Lord on March 23, 2012. He was born on September 25, 1938 in Aurora, North Carolina, the son of the late Ralph and Sudie Bowen. Cameron was a self-made man and entrepreneur. He was the founder and CEO of Cameron Chemicals and South Norfolk Trucking Company. Cameron was a member of The Fertilizer Industry Roundtable, the ILA and the Town Center Club and Haygood United Methodist Church. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 49 years, Jean H. Bowen. Cameron was a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather and devoted his life to his family.
Left to cherish his life are his four sons, Jim Bowen and wife Kelly, Bobby Bowen and wife Sarina, Tommy Bowen and wife Pam and John Bowen and his special friend Sherry; 11 grandchildren, Jordan, Cameron, Robbie, Sara, Wade, Samantha, Holly, Bobby, Toler, Jonathan and Skylar and great-grandson, Caleb; brother, Billy Bowen and wife Bertie and his four legged best buddy, Charlie as well as a host of other loving relatives and friends.
The family will receive friends on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 from 7:00 – 8:30 PM in Rosewood-Kellum Funeral Home in Virginia Beach. A graveside service will be held on Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 2:00 PM in Rosewood Memorial Park in Virginia Beach. In lieu of flowers memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society in Cameron's name.

You can view the official obituary and leave messages for the family here.

March 9th, 2012

We have seen success stories of mobile technology application in African microfinance. Now we are seeing similar successes in agriculture. From Kenya, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Ghana, and Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, and more in the pipeline- farmers have started using mobile services to get the latest market price for their crop, to get application advice, and even to buy and sell on the platform in some markets. This is important as right fertilizer application and access to markets with equitable pricing will greatly improve farm economics.

Mobile usage is high in most developing countries and is the quickest way for anyone to communicate and access information. Many organizations have leveraged the technology to give farmers free market information via SMS. A  BBC report visually shows the impact of a service run by aid agency Rongead. Cashew farmers in the Ivory Coast where Rongead operates now get pricing and price movement information via SMS for free. They can then decide whether to sell or hold for a higher price thereby maximing returns.

M-farm in Kenya, run by a private corporation, not only offers market information but also helps farmers buy and sell their products using SMS. They aggregate farmers needs or orders and connect them with farm input suppliers. They also enable farmers to sell collectively and connect them with a ready market. This aggregation gives farmers more leverage in the marketplace.

Makerere University under the wings of Prof Moses Tenywa, has for the last two years provided timely and relevant information on markets, fertilizer application, right plant spacing, timely planting, diseases like potato blight and other important farm related information, to farmers in Uganda.

Proper farming techniques such knowing the right inputs and applying the right fertilizer significantly improves yields. Getting access to capital and having the market to support farmers is a different story. While not the be all and end all to improve the market structure in Africa, mobile technology provides at the very least some transparency- a key ingredient to an efficient market.

You can find more case studies on the IFA website. If you have more stories, please reach out to the writer Carmen Feliciano at

March 6th, 2012

The Virtual Fertilizer Research Center (VFRC) is a new research initiative to foster the creation of the next generation of fertilizers and production technologies. US$2.5 million is available over the next 24 months to support development proposals, of which US$750,000 will be obligated by April 30, 2012.

The VFRC has established the following four outcomes as the initial priorities for the development of these new fertilizers and fertilizer technologies:

Higher N NUE Fertilizers

 Development of new or modified nitrogen fertilizers which improve nutrient use efficiency (NUE) by 25-50%over that generally achieved in smallholder farms with current fertilizers (estimated at 25-30%)

Improved Micronutrient Delivery

 Development of a new commercially scalable production processes to integrate micronutrients and secondary nutrients with commercially available primary fertilizers either within or as an extension to current fertilizer production processes. 

On-site Fertilizer Purity Detection

Develop convenient, affordable detection kits or methods that can be used by smallholder farmers on-site to verify the nutrient content and chemical quality of purchased fertilizers. 

Increased Self-Reliance in Fertilizer Supply

Develop new commercially viable sourcing or processing methods that enhance nutrient self-reliance and address the inefficiencies and unfavorable economics of prevalent fertilizer manufacturing processes in developing regions, and improve access of nutrients to smallholder farmers.

You can read more about the process here. Official press release here.

March 5th, 2012

From News-Press Now:

"A Kansas City firm preliminarily agreed Friday to pay $10 million to a group of Northwest Missouri farmers who claim fertilizer that allegedly contained hexavalent chromium damaged their property.

Burns & McDonnell Engineering did not admit fault in the order and continues to deny any wrongdoing in the case, but reached an agreement in the class-action suit to avoid further court costs and distraction from the company’s business, according to a statement released by the firm.

The plaintiffs argue that the agencies should have used different screening levels and criteria in their evaluation, and the properties to which the fertilizer was applied have, in fact, been devalued.

Friday’s agreement is separate from ongoing legal proceedings that involve health issues."

Read more here.