The Story Behind-the-Story of Daconil
Some people that know Lee Kozsey, Syngenta sales representative, might think his brush with fame is that his second cousin is Don Shula, the famous Miami Dolphins coach and member of the NFL Hall of Fame. In the green industry, Lee is better known for Daconil fungicide. Back in 1963, he was working in the laboratory that produced the very first pound of DAC-2787, the numbered compound that we know today as Daconil. I recently sat down with Lee to have a conversation about Daconil and his career in the turf industry.
[ctt template=”5″ link=”dr21d” via=”no” ]From 1963-1968, every pound of Daconil fungicide was manufactured by Lee @dactrax and other members of that laboratory team. @SyngentaTurf[/ctt]
Meet Lee Kozsey, chemist-in-training
Lee grew-up on the shores of Lake Erie, near Cleveland, Ohio. At age 10, with his strong work ethic attributed to his Hungarian and Finnish roots, he made 5¢ for each tree he planted at a local nursery. As a young man, he joined the Merchant Marines and “sailed” on a 600 feet long iron-ore ship in the Great Lakes, hauling ore on The Lehigh from Duluth, Minnesota to Buffalo, New York. The ore was used by the famous Bethlehem Steel Company. In a tale of irony, Lee now lives in Bethlehem, PA, with his wife, Lucille, in an area known as the Lehigh Valley. Lee didn’t have the opportunity to attend college, but he committed himself to learning and becoming educated all throughout his career. In 1962, he was hired by the Diamond Alkali Company at their chemical plant at Fairport Harbor, OH, to work in Process Development, which was basically figuring-out how to make newly discovered chemical compounds in the laboratory using various pieces of equipment that you’re able to see and also purchase from a provider like SciQuip or others. Lee worked on many different types of compounds and polymers that found their way into many consumer and industrial products, and he even received clearance from the Atomic Energy Commission when he worked on projects for the military. In 1961, head chemist Dr. Bob Battershell discovered DAC-2787 (“DAC” meaning Diamond Alkali Company, and “2787” meaning the two-thousand, seven hundred and eighty-seventh compound synthesized). DAC-2787, which became Daconil fungicide, was made by “tweeking” DCPA (the active ingredient in Dacthal herbicide), in an attempt to improve that already commercially available compound. So, in a sense, Daconil fungicide was actually made from an herbicide! In subsequent field testing at Cornell University in the early 1960’s, DAC-2787 failed as an herbicide, but curiously excelled in foliar plant disease control.
The making of DAC-2787
The company decided to make DAC-2787 in 1963, and Lee was assigned to work in the laboratory to help develop a method to produce the compound. Lee describes his work in that laboratory with scientific details and terminology of a chemical engineer. He remembers sleeping in the laboratory in those early days, since the chemical reaction took 48 hours to complete. He helped assemble a “reactor” in Laboratory #13, and soon he held in his hands a flask with the very first pound of DAC-2787 ever commercially synthesized. In fact, from 1963 to 1968, every pound of Daconil fungicide was manufactured by Lee and other members of that laboratory team. Lee was assigned to oversee the construction of the reactor equipment and process for making DAC-2787 during those early years. Lee was so respected as a chemist and researcher, that he was elected to the board of the American Chemical Society – Technical Engineers Section.
Daconil 2787 is registered, and Lee leaves research for sales
The very first time field trials were conducted on a golf course was in 1963 at Erie Shore GC, in Madison, OH, and soon the DAC-2787 was identified as a very effective and reliable fungicide for foliar diseases of turf. In those early years of Daconil, Lee recalls working with university researchers like Dr. Phil Larson (Ohio State), Dr. Noel Jackson (Rhode Island), Dr. Houston Couch (Virginia Tech), and others. Daconil 2787, formulated as a 75% wettable powder, was first registered as a fungicide in 1967 on turf, as well as on food crops in foreign countries. Soon after, it was labeled for agricultural and horticultural crops in the USA. The product name, Daconil, was conjured-up by someone in marketing, in honor of the company name, Diamond Alkali Company, and the active ingredient molecule identified as chlorothalonil. Of note, the flowable formulation was introduced in 1979, and the water dispersible granule formulation was introduced in 1992. Also of interest, in 1973, a Daconil manufacturing plant was built in Texas, with a second plant constructed in 1974 to keep up with worldwide demand. In 1977, an additional plant was built in Texas to supply all the ingredients to make Daconil. Incidently, prior to 1977, Sherwin Williams (the paint company), supplied an important component to making Daconil.
Back in 1968, Lee was asked to direct the company’s field research efforts at their experimental farm in Ohio, which was a post he held until 1984. Lee was spraying apple trees with Daconil, when he received a visit from the Vice President of the company, who asked him relocate to Naples, FL, and supervise the experimental farm at that location. In 1988, the Naples farm was shut-down, and Lee was almost re-assigned to Wisconsin to sell Daconil to potato farmers. As fate would have it, he was asked – three times – to become the technical/sales representative for the east coast, and that brought him to Bethlehem, PA, where he resides today.
What happened to the Diamond Alkali Company?
The company was incorporated in 1910, but in 1967 merged with Shamrock Oil and Gas to form the Diamond Shamrock Corporation. Of note, Diamond Alkali produced the herbicide Agent Orange at their Newark, New Jersey facility, but that’s another story for another time. In the early 1970’s, the product labels were segmented, with the trade name “Daconil 2787” in the turf market, and the trade name “Bravo” in the agriculture/horticulture markets. In 1982, Diamond Shamrock’s headquarters relocated to Dallas, TX, and the company wanted to focus on the oil business. So, their ag-chem division was merged with a Japanese company to form SDS Biotech. In 1985, SDS Biotech was sold and became Fermenta, an animal health company from Sweden that was backed by Volvo (yes, the car manufacturer). In 1990, Fermenta sold their ag-chem group to a Japanese company, and ISK Biotech was formed. In 1998, ISK Biotech was bought by the British company, ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries), and Zeneca was formed. In 2000, Zeneca and a Swiss company, Novartis, merged to become Syngenta. Therefore, the Daconil fungicide product line has been at home with Syngenta since 2000, where it is positioned as a foundation for turf disease management spray programs as well as resistance management programs on golf courses. Lee says the phrase “…paint it white, sleep at night” probably came from a superintendent, but can’t recall who said it first.
Lee and his Daconil license plate
If you see a pickup truck in the parking lot with a Daconil license plate, it belongs to Lee! Although Lee and his wife have three grown children, 5 grandchildren, and 1 great-grandchild, he is still active as a representative for Syngenta and does not slow down. He is always a presence at turf conferences, superintendent association meetings, field days, scholarship fund-raising golf tournaments, and all places in between. He is even on the Twitter: @dactrex. He values the friendship of so many superintendents and green industry professionals, and particularly Mark Kukns, Bob Vanin, Mike Sopko, and many others. Lee always says to the younger, early-career members of the industry, “…to be recognizable by what you do and don’t look to be recognized because it will be seen if you go that extra effort and give 110%.” In 2010, the New Jersey Turfgrass Association honored Lee with their Recognition Award. In 2012, Lee was recognized by Syngenta with a 50-year service pin. Lee would tell you that he’s been active in the industry for over 50 years because he enjoys what he does, and that he’s paid to be creative, and to do things better every day. He said over the years, he has seen golfer expectations for turf quality dramatically increase, and Daconil is there to help!