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Published: Friday, 10/7/2005

Van Wert firm advances seed disease protection

Custis Custis

VAN WERT, Ohio - Advanced Biological Marketing Inc. has established itself as a nationwide distributor of products to farmers who use them to fight crop diseases.

But that's only the beginning, said president Dan Custis.

The company, along with a Cornell University professor, has developed a technique for applying microbes to seeds to protect the crop from diseases.

The process is more efficient than those used in the past and will lead to new markets, the company said.

"We're going to be able to go direct to the seed companies and they can apply it to the seed as they're bagging it for the farmer," said Mr. Custis.

In the past, the application has been done by the farmer. The new method could open a $250 million market for the firm, he said.

Advanced Biological is to use a recent state loan of $1 million to help build a production facility on the eight-acre site for its office, which now is in a converted house.

Up to eight workers will be hired within three years, adding to four now. Half the jobs are for microbiologists and the others are for researchers, paying $80,000 a year.

"These are definitely high-tech jobs," Mr. Custis said. "It's pretty neat."

The northwest Ohio firm's sales were up 158 percent last quarter from the same period last year, the president said, declining to disclose specific figures.

One of its products is called T-22, a biological fungicide applied to corn or soybean seeds at the time of planting. About four ounces of the microbe is used for a bag of soybeans.

The product is from spores produced by bacteria, and when it comes into contact with moisture in the soil, it starts to grow and protect the young plant from diseases, Mr. Custis said.

A new patented process would allow seed companies to use only about half an ounce of product for a bag of seed, he said. Pre-treated seeds would reduce the need for pesticides to be applied to plants after germination, saving farmers' money.

"This is brand new," Mr. Custis said. "No one has successfully done this in the agricultural industry."

Seed companies have not applied fungicide directly on the seeds because the fungicide lost its effectiveness during long-term storage, said Gary Munkvold, research coordinator in Johnston, Iowa, for Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc.

But T-22 "is no fly-by-night" product, he said. Pioneer will consider using it, he added.

"The industry in general is always looking for new and better technology for protecting seeds and seedlings against disease."

Mr. Custis, who for years was a farm-chemical sales representative for several companies, started Advance Biological with four partners.

The company is in Van Wert for a simple reason: Mr. Custis lives in the small farming community and likes it there.

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at


or 419-724-6199.

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