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1925 - 1930

Revolution in the Rice Field

While BASF was delivering synthetic dyes to China in the 19th century, another product gained in importance during the course of the 20th century: In 1924, BASF exported the first 50 metric tons of the mineral fertilizer ammonium sulfate to the Middle Kingdom.

A firtilizer test in a rice field. (Photo: BASF Archiv)

The Chinese population had tripled from the beginning of the 18th century to the frst decades of the 19th century. To feed over 380 million people, the landmass designated for agriculture had been expanded throughout the entire country, which required additional fertilization.

In 1904, Professor Fritz Haber established the foundations for the synthesis of ammonia from nitrogen and hydrogen with his work at the Technical University of Karlsruhe. BASF entrusted Carl Bosch with the large-scale implementation of this ammonia synthesis in 1908. Within a remarkably short period, Bosch and his team developed innovative devices and components with which they created the foundations for high-pressure technology. This new technology was to become one of the most important tools for synthesis in the chemical industry. The world’s first ammonia factory began operations in Ludwigshafen as early as 1913. With the synthesis of ammonia and the subsequent synthesis of nitric acid, BASF started fertilizer production on a large scale. The practice of presenting products as memorably and distinctively as possible was continued in the fertilizer business.

Paul Wilhelm Wilm, a pastor’s son born in 1900, was a pioneer in the introduction of mineral fertilizer in China. In Tianjin, not far from Beijing, Wilm took over the agricultural advisory board of northern China in the spring of 1929.

Wilm later referred to the following years until 1937 and the early Japanese occupation of northern China as his golden years.

Last Update November 8, 2018