When TIMAC Agro International’s Top Phos product was listed as a finalist in Ag in Motion’s Innovation Program, in the plant and soil science category, many western Canadian farmers were not familiar with the company.
TIMAC Agro may be new to Canada, but it’s not a new company. “We are in 131 countries,” said TIMAC Agro’s Canadian general manager Simon Jolette-Riopel, but the TIMAC’s only involvement in Canada is an ag retailer in Quebec called William Houde. Now, TIMAC Agro, a business with 2,400 technical advisors around the world, it turning its attention to Western Canada.
Jolette-Riopel stopped at Ag in Motion in July as part of a tour of Western Canada to talk about TIMAC’s new phosphate product: Top Phos.
Top Phos is a new phosphorus formulation that Jolette-Riopel says has shown good results, particularly in alkaline soils.
Typically, phosphorus fertilizer is made by reacting phosphate rock with sulphuric acid — this product is known as “single superphosphate”, or SSP. Different manufacturing processes result in different formulations of SSP. When phosphorus is reacted with phosphoric acid, the resulting fertilizer is known as TSP, “triple superphosphate.”
Dr. José-Maria Garcia Mina, one of the researchers behind the creation of Top Phos, says Top Phos is made by adding humic acid to the mix during the SSP manufacturing process. This product is a “complex superphosphate,” or CSP.
Phosphate, P, is immobile in the soil. As Grainews contributor Les Henry noted in his book, Henry’s Handbook of Soil and Water, “If we place a granule of P fertilizer in the soil, a plant root must forage and find it.” So the product needs to be placed near the plant root if it’s going to be available to the plant. As well, P fertilizer can get become “fixed,” bound to other minerals in the soil so that the plants cannot absorb the P.
In the creation of Top Phos, Jolette-Riopel explains, “we create a chemical reaction that fundamentally changes the nature of phosphorus. We use a bridge of calcium to make sure that it does not lock up in the soil.” Jolette-Riopel says this new product will allow farmers to use less phosphate, while ensuring the plants can access the P that is in the soil.
In the field
Top-Phos has been marketed for several years in Brazil and Europe. This summer, field trials took place in Quebec and Eastern Ontario. Joliette-Riopel points out that all products are not suitable for all growing conditions. “We know it works in a lot of countries, but that doesn’t mean it will work in Saskatchewan,” he says. TIMAC intends to find out.
Joliette-Riopel arranged an unofficial trial with a Saskatchewan farmer this summer. However, due to some logistical difficulties in shipping the product from overseas, the Top Phos arrived late. The grower had to broadcast the product rather than applying it with the seed — the preferred method. Despite the difficulties, Joliette-Riopel says, “I am sure it will be interesting to see the results.”
TIMAC Agro hopes to develop partnerships with Prairie universities and run field trials in Western Canada to develop factual data about the benefits of using Top Phos.
Compared to other fertilizer manufacturers operating in Western Canada, “We are a small player,” says Joliette Riopel. “Our goal is not to sell tons, but to advocate solutions. Farmers are looking for innovation.”