Ames, Iowa company to help small farmers in Africa

Daniel Krohn

Guest blog by:
Daniel Krohn
Sustainability Lead,
Becker Underwood

Becker Underwood located in Ames, Iowa, is a leading-edge developer of biological and specialty products, including seed colorants and polymers, inoculants, beneficial nematodes, mulch and turf colorants and a wide range of agricultural and horticultural solutions. The core of our business is based on increasing agricultural yields by utilizing biologically-based products, with high efficacy, but with low environmental and social impact. All while playing a role in feeding a growing global population.

In 2008, we set out on a mission to address sustainability throughout all of our business practices. Earlier this year we implemented our sustainability strategy, “NET positive,” a goal that Becker Underwood – through its processes, products and policies – has an overall positive impact on the environment and society.

One of our major projects has been our partnership with Iowa State University and the Gates Foundation to help small farmers in Africa by providing them with sustainable biological products that will help improve their yields through inoculation.

The soil conditions in these countries are one of the many hurdles these farmers face. Low amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen in the soil, in addition to extremely dry conditions, are challenges that must be overcome in order for optimal crop growth. Our introduction of inoculates to the land, while not a common practice, allows for more available nitrogen in the soil. Seventy-nine percent of the air we breathe is made of nitrogen and inoculated legumes are able to convert and use this nitrogren. The nitrogen provided by inoculated legumes grown in rotation with other crops helps boost yield and lower fertilizer costs of crops such as corn or small grains, all in an environmentally safe manner. It is our goal, with this process, to double bean production in these areas.

To learn more about ISU’s Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods program in Africa, watch this video. To learn more about Becker Underwood’s sustainability initiatives visit our website,