Christians honored as Inventor of the Year

Melissa Berg

Iowa State professor of horticulture Nick Christians will be honored as 1998’s Iowa Inventor of the Year by the Iowa Intellectual Property Law Association (IIPLA) at its annual banquet Oct. 30.

The recognition is in honor of Christians’ patents on the use of a natural product as a substitute for synthetic herbicides. He discovered the protein in cornmeal could be used as a herbicide.

“It was discovered through a secondary observation during a study I was working on in the mid-’80s,” Christians said. “Cornmeal was being used as a media to grow micro-organisms.”

Christians said he noticed a root formation on the plants and discovered it was the protein fraction of the corn causing the formation.

“Criteria for the award includes having at least one patent, doing the majority of the work for the invention in Iowa, being a resident of Iowa or having significant ties to Iowa and contributing in a significant manner to improving life for humankind,” said Patricia Sweeney, president of IIPLA, in a press release.

The first patent on the corn gluten as a natural herbicide was issued on July 9, 1991, according to a press release.

In 1993, a second patent on a water-soluble spray was issued. Graduate student Dianna Liu and the Grain Processing Company also were named on the patent, Christians said.

In 1994, the corn gluten meal herbicide was marketed. Currently, it exists in more than half of the states in the United States.

Safe ‘n’ Simple, Earth Friendly, WeedzSTOP, DynaWeed, Supressa and ProPac are some of the licensed corn gluten companies.

In Iowa, the product can be found in Fairfield, Muscatine, Manning and West Des Moines.

Soil Technologies Corporation in Fairfield carries DynaWeed, which is available in 28 states. Manning Agricultural Center, Inc. sells ProPac, which is available in eight states.

“ProPac is 100 percent natural and used for control of annual weeds in lawns and other turf areas, gardens and strawberries,” said Orland Fara, president of Manning Agricultural Center, Inc.

“More people are discovering the new product,” he said. “The customers who buy it like it because it is non-toxic, so it is safe for their pets and children.”

Fara said ProPac is more expensive than regular herbicides, so the cost factor is a problem for some people.