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Your source for expert commentary on IP management issues.
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Editor-in-Chief,   Anatole Krattiger

Editorial Board

Concept Foundation


Fiocruz, Brazil

bioDevelopments-   Institute

Autm. 2007. Weed-Control Additive (or Adjuvant): North Dakota State University. In Executive Guide to Intellectual Property Management in Health and Agricultural Innovation: A Handbook of Best Practices (eds. A Krattiger, RT Mahoney, L Nelsen, et al.). MIHR: Oxford, U.K., and PIPRA: Davis, U.S.A. Available online at

Editors’ Note: We are most grateful to the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) for having allowed us to adapt this case study for inclusion in this Executive Guide. The original was published by AUTM. 2006. Technology Transfer Works: 100 Cases from Research to Realization (Reports from the Field). Association of University Technology Managers, Northbrook, IL.

© 2007. Autm.Sharing the Art of IP Management: Photocopying and distribution through the Internet for noncommercial purposes is permitted and encouraged.

Weed-Control Additive (or Adjuvant): North Dakota State University

Farmers can have all the weed control for half the price, thanks to Quad 7™, an additive that increases the pH of spray solutions in order to increase solubility and efficacy of certain herbicides, especially those used on corn, soybean, and sugarbeet crops. That means farmers can use less herbicide still achieve the same weed-free crop results—a feat that cuts weed-control expenditures in half and releases far fewer chemicals into the environment.

Quad 7™ is the culmination of 36 years of agronomy research, led by John Nalewaja, Ph.D., at North Dakota State University. Nalewaja’s specialty was weed control, and he became interested in the use of additives, or adjuvants, designed to increase the effectiveness of existing herbicides. Because herbicides must stick to weeds in order to kill them, previous methods of enhancing sticking included mixing petroleum-based oils with herbicides. One of Nalewaja’s first discoveries was that oils from the seeds of plants, such as flax and sunflower, were superior to petroleum oils when mixed with certain herbicides. He then discovered that methylated seed oils performed even better.

The patented invention on which the product Quad 7™ is based, however, does not require the use of any oils. A nonionic surfactant, such as an alcohol, keeps the herbicide on weeds; and adjusting the pH of the herbicide spray to be more basic, or alkaline, increases its solubility so that it is chemically more effective. An additional benefit of the alkaline pH is that the herbicide does not precipitate out of solution, a particular problem when using a nozzle to produce a fine spray. The patent, issued in 1997, was exclusively licensed to AGSCO, which introduced Quad 7™ into the marketplace in the spring of 1998.