15 June 2001

Giant herbicide container receives positive feedback

By Mike Williams

ONLY big acreage arable farms use enough herbicide to justify having it supplied in an International Bulk Container (IBC), the bulk pack now being evaluated by Syngenta.

But for those who have a 640-litre requirement the new container could reduce downtime during a days spraying and offer safety benefits as well.

IBCs are an internationally recognised standard package, used for transporting liquids for the chemical, food and other industries and designed as returnable or multi-trip containers. They consist of a plastic container with a tamper-evident filler cap, plus an outer support frame made of metal.

Zeneca first obtained approval to use IBCs for delivering crop protection chemicals to farms, and the evaluation programme it started was already operating when Novartis and Zeneca joined forces at the end of last year to form Syngenta. Test deliveries of herbicide packed in IBCs are being continued by the new company.

Alistair Reid, Syngentas brand manager for non-selective herbicides, says: "IBCs contain much less plastic than conventional 5 or 10-litre packs for the same volume of liquid."

The obvious benefit for customers who have spray chemicals delivered in a 640-litre bulk pack is a faster chemical handling and tank filling routine. It takes almost six hours to handle the same amount of chemical in ordinary 10-litre packs, when the time taken for transferring the chemical into the spray tank and performing the correct procedures for container rinsing and disposal, is taken in to account.

"An IBC has to be handled mechanically, and that is usually much more efficient than manual handling. Using an IBC can save time and it also virtually eliminates the risk of operator contamination while tank filling because you must use a closed transfer system," insists Mr Reid.

One of the problems with the existing 5 and 10-litre returnable LinkPaks for crop protection chemicals is finding an economical way of getting them back from the farm, unlike IBCs which enjoy an established collection service.

All the customer has to do when the IBC is empty is call a free phone number and the collection company will remove the container from the farm.

On the downside, Mr Reid concedes the IBCs size is probably too large for most farms and, for that matter, for use with most types of spray chemical.

"A smaller container would suit more farms and a wider range of chemicals, but we prefer to use the existing standard container if possible, and that means 640 litres," he says. "Only certain types of spray chemical are used in sufficient quantity to justify an IBC. The obvious one is non-selective herbicide, and the only product available at this stage in an IBC is Touchdown glyphosate, but cereal fungicides would be another possibility."

Mr Reid, who is responsible for the bulk container evaluation programme, says the reaction from customers will be a big factor in any decisions concerning the future use of IBCs. About 80 farms use the system, and he reports that the feedback so far is generally positive. &#42

Syngentas Alistair Reid with a 640 litre-capacity, International Bulk Container (IBC).