J.D. (Jim) Beaton was born in Vancouver, BC on August 28, 1930, and attended John Oliver and Magee High Schools. He earned his BSA in 1951 and MSc in 1953, specializing in soil science. In 1961, he received a Ph.D. in soil science at Utah State University.
Although encouraged to study structural engineering, Jim chose soil science because of the wide diversity in requisite disciplines including bacteriology, biology, botany, chemistry geology, mathematics, and plant physiology. Optional electives in agricultural engineering, agronomy, and dairy science were also of interest. His BSA thesis, “A Study of Soil Nutrient Level on a Dairy Farm in the Fraser Valley”, was supervised by Drs D G Laird and C A Rowles of UBC’s Department of Agronomy, as was his MSc thesis on the “Influence of Burning on the Soil in the Timber Range Area of Lac le Jeune, BC”. While a student at UBC, he played Canadian football and in 1950 was a member of the Minto Cup junior box lacrosse finalist team.
Jim Beaton recalls that in the Irrigation and Drainage course in Ag Engineering, it rained steadily every afternoon that he and lab partner J D Lindsay were out surveying to design a drainage plan for one of the Agronomy farm fields. One of the most humorous incidents that he fondly remembers is the lab instructor in dairy science mentioning the complaints she had received from friends about grit in the butter prepared by students in her lab. The reason for these complaints was that Jim Beaton, without a lab partner, was unable to prevent the butter from falling on the floor during the butter making process and thus the inclusion of objectionable foreign matter.
Jim Beaton’s challenging career included two years of teaching and research in the Department of Soil Science at UBC. During this short time he revised the courses in soil fertility and soil bacteriology and introduced a new course in soil plant relationships. He also supervised two MSc students and at least two BSc students. Following about six years as a Research Scientist with the Research Branch of Agriculture Canada at Kamloops, B.C. and Swift Current, SK where he conducted research on water management and fertilization of forages , soil -fertilizer reaction products, soil potassium mineralogy, etc., Jim Beaton was employed for 11.5 years with CM and S Co. Ltd. (later to be renamed Cominco Ltd., Cominco Fertilizers, and now Agrium Inc.) at Trail, BC and Calgary, AB where he held positions of Soil Scientist ; Head, Soil Science Research ; Senior Agronomist ; and finally Chief Agronomist. Some of his research included the behaviour and fate of fertilizers in soil ; development and agronomic evaluation of new and/or improved fertilizer materials ; and forest fertilization. His research was instrumental in the acceptance of urea in western Canada and now urea is the most commonly used solid N fertilizer worldwide. Also, Jim Beaton was instrumental in the introduction of Forestry Grade urea, a product specially designed for aerial application to forests and the practice of impregnating urea with herbicides.
For a period of five and one-half years 1968 to 1973, Jim Beaton served as Director of Agricultural Research, The Sulphur Institute in Washington, D.C. In this capacity he was responsible for sulphur fertilizer market development in North America and developed a number of well accepted technical bulletins and other educational materials. In 1978 he began a 17 year tenure, with the Potash & Phosphate Institute (PPI) and Potash & Phosphate Institute of Canada (PPIC) as Western Canada and Northwest Director located in Calgary, AB. In 1986 he was appointed Vice President of PPIC in Saskatoon and in 1998 was named Vice President of PPI and President of PPIC. He was promoted to Senior Vice President of PPI in 1989. In these various capacities, he was involved in domestic and global fertilizer market development in combination with sound agronomic practices. At one point the PPIC Office in Saskatoon administered a program of up to 150 research and education projects in 22 countries. The focus of these research and education projects was to increase crop production through balanced fertilization in combination with best management practices which protect the environment.
As President of PPIC, Jim Beaton had a prominent role in procuring and administering substantial funding from the Provinces of Saskatchewan and New Brunswick and several Canadian government agencies including the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the International Research and Development Agency (IRDC), the Western Diversification Program, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (AOCA), and the Program for Export Market Development. He was also responsible for supplementary financial support from the Saskatchewan potash producers through Canpotex , their export agency.
Jim Beaton co-authored the 4th (1985), 5th (1993), and 6th (1999) editions of the widely used university textbook “Soil Fertility and Fertilizers.” He served as Adjunct Professor at the University of BC from 1985 to 1994 and at the University of Saskatchewan from 1987 to 1994, giving guest lectures, and acting as external examiner for five Ph.D. theses at these institutions.
He was active in fertilizer industry organizations, serving as Director and a member of various technical committees of the Canadian Fertilizer Institute and the Western Canada Fertilizer Association. In 1977 to 1979, Jim Beaton was President of the Western Canada Association. The International Fertilizer Association named him a Correspondent Member in 1995/96 and he has been a member of the panel for selecting the recipient of that Association’s International Fertilizer Award in 1996, 97, 98, 99, and 2000. Jim Beaton was a member of numerous professional societies and served on many of their committees. He was one of the Associate Editors of the Soil Science Society of America Journal. He has authored approximately 190 scientific papers, technical bulletins, chapters in symposium proceedings, technical, and semi-technical articles plus 7 chapters in books and edited 5 books and symposium proceedings. He has delivered technical papers and seminars throughout Canada, and in Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Japan, Nicaragua, Philippines, United States, and Venezuela.
For his many achievements, Jim Beaton was elected a Fellow in 4 professional societies (AIC, CSSS. ASA, and SSSA), received 2 agronomic service awards (ASA and Western Co-Operative Fertilizers Limited), and named Honourary Member in 4 fertilizer organizations (CAAR, CFI, NFSA, and WCFA). In 1994, he was named an Honourary Professor in the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Since retirement from PPI/PPIC in early 1994, Jim Beaton has served as a consultant to 10 companies or organizations, including an Agriteam Canada/World Bank mission, with associated travel, frequently to China, several times to India, and many other countries.
In private life, Jim Beaton has been a member of Rotary International and is currently a member of the Probus and Canadian Clubs in Kelowna, BC. In 1952 he married Doris Ford who was an outstanding student and athlete from John Oliver High School in Vancouver. They currently reside in Kelowna, B.C. and spend much of their time visiting their three daughters and husbands, and four grandchildren, as well as assisting at their oldest daughter and son-in-law’s horse breeding farm near Langley, B.C.