Biosystems engineer, Professor Shane Ward, has been appointed as the first Director of the Soil and Water Management Centre at Harper Adams University. Professor Ward, who specialises in integrating engineering with life sciences, will also take up the newly-created role of Professor of Soil and Water at the university in Shropshire.

Having developed collaborative research programmes with industry and led several national and EU-funded projects, Professor Ward is well established within research and innovation.

He has been responsible for developing a number of centres of excellence at University College Dublin, including the Peat Technology Centre, the Bioresources Research Centre and BioE - which brings innovative new concepts from university research to the market.

Commenting on his new appointment, Professor Ward, previously Head of the School of Agriculture Food Science and Veterinary Medicine at University College Dublin, said: “Soil is the base resource for the agri-food and bioresource sector, and is fundamental to the sustainability of agri-food and bioresource production systems.

“Harper Adams University is ideally positioned to play a leading role in the national effort to address the requirements of modern agricultural production systems in respect to soil and water; and how to manage our soils within the context of on-going extreme weather events.

“The range of expertise within the university spans the complete spectrum, from soils to farm-gate and beyond; key areas include agricultural engineering, soil and vehicle interaction, soil management, precision agriculture, crop science, bio-energy, animal husbandry, agricultural economics and “smart system” applied to agri-food and bioresource production systems.

“The University has a 550 ha production and research farm, which enables it to evaluate and apply research at farm level. The Soil and Water Management Centre will facilitate staff at Harper Adams to undertake world-class research while also interacting with industry and the wider community.

“This is a flagship university-industry collaboration effort providing a national hub for the sector and facilitates the delivery of innovation on a scale necessary to address the national challenges in this domain.

“The UK can become a world leader in soil-water management systems, which is hugely important in the context of the increasing demands for high quality food, recent bad weather events and the need to reduce flooding risk and waterways pollution.”

The Soil and Water Management Centre aims to act as a national source of information and expertise, a forum for establishing improvement priorities and a focus for training and applied research.

Announcing the appointment, Professor Peter Mills, Harper Adams Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said: “Better appreciation of and care for our soil and water resources is crucial if we are to secure the sustainable improvements in farming and ecosystem efficiency we so clearly need. 

“We are delighted Professor Ward will be leading the national effort to achieve these through our Soil and Water Management Centre.  Widely respected, knowledgeable and experienced as he is, he’s the ideal person to take on this exciting role.”

The Centre was established by Harper Adams University in conjunction with industry partners - Agrii, BASIS, Challenger, The Coop Farms, GrowHow, Interagro,  Michelin, NRM, and Vaderstad, with support from The Rothschild Foundation.

Welcoming Professor Ward on behalf of the industry partners, Andrew Richards of Agrii, and Chairman of the Soil and Water Management Centre, said: “Since we first came together two years ago, the need for a dedicated  centre of applied soil and water management information, expertise and training has become more and more apparent to everyone, including Government. 

Professor Ward’s agricultural, biological systems and engineering expertise, his organisational experience and his enthusiasm and drive are just what we need at the sharp end of our work to help farmers across the UK address their current and future soil and water management challenges.”