1975 George Levitt
DuPont has nearly a century of experience in researching and producing agricultural chemicals like herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. In the early 1900s, company researchers investigated plant chemistry such as nitrogen-fixation, and in the 1920s DuPont produced seed disinfectants on a small scale. The company’s purchase of the Grasselli Chemical Company and the R&H Chemical Company in 1928 and 1930, respectively, broadened its expertise in inorganic insecticides and fungicides.
Farmer in wheat field
World War II spurred developments in crop and insect research, leading to a “chemical revolution” in agriculture in the late 1940s and 1950s. DuPont patented a synthetic plant growth hormone in 1943, but overlooked the substance’s additional effectiveness as a weed-killer. As a result, the company instituted a new screening process that soon led to new synthetic, organic herbicides such as Telvar and Karmex in the 1950s.
DuPont’s insecticide products, such as Lannate, Lorox and Hyvar also proved successful, as did its fungicide Benlate, introduced in 1972.
In 1975 DuPont researcher George Levitt discovered sulfonylureas, potent chemicals that interfered with plant growth enzymes but were non-toxic to mammals. DuPont patented Levitt’s remarkable discovery in 1978 and four years later introduced its Glean herbicide to wheat farmers. DuPont soon developed sulfonylurea herbicides for every major food crop in the world. In 2001 DuPont Crop Protection, part of the company’s Agriculture and Nutrition Business, manufactured 40 products and maintained operations in 40 countries around the world.