James Willis, who studied BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Crop Management, was awarded the British Society of Soil Science Award for his dissertation study.
Writing An investigation into the effect of nitrogen fertiliser on soil biology, James’ passion lies in a mission to responsibly feed the world and protect the planet. His research was recognised for its thorough investigation and for the use of data that was collected during James’ placement year and contributed to wider industrial research at Yara UK.
The 23 year old from The Wirral has always felt passionate about agriculture, having visited extended family on their nearby farm while growing up. This interest developed at secondary school, particularly as James learnt about plant science in biology. When gifted a book on a book of arable pests and diseases, James soon realised a future in agriculture and, more specifically, crop husbandry was where he envisaged himself.
On choosing his course, James said: “I chose a degree in crop management as I feel agronomists have a fundamental role in tackling one of the most important challenges faced in the 21st century: meeting the vastly increasing food demand under the declining availability of soil and water resources and increasing threats from climate change.
“I feel, however, the challenges faced offer opportunities to develop and promote food and livelihood systems that have greater environmental, economic and social resilience to risk. The success in meeting these challenges will require both the application of current multidisciplinary knowledge and the development of a new type of technical innovation.
“Agronomists will be the key between cutting edge innovation and science to modern growers and the idea of being at the forefront of this truly excites me; I want to use my natural curiosity and enthusiasm for science to help solve the problems of crippling pest resistance, global food inequality, and revolutionise modern food production to create a system at harmony with the environment – overcoming cultural, environmental, and economic barriers to create solutions that lead to a world free from hunger.”
James saw how Harper Adams could offer him an avenue to achieving his goal. He commented: “I was attracted to Harper Adams simply for three reasons.
“I liked the approach they take towards my course; we have the opportunity to get involved with leading research at an early stage and we spend a lot of time outside the classroom gaining hands-on experience in the field.
“This leads to my next point - I feel the facilities at Harper Adams are second to none, the university farm is a great asset to our learning, the laboratories offer the chance to learn new skills using the latest technology, and many of the lecturers have extensive commercial experience in addition to leading academic reputations.
“Lastly, the university has a great reputation for agriculture and is held highly amongst industry, which I believed would pay dividends upon my graduation. Not to mention the student experience Harper Adams is renowned for in student circles!”
With a positive end to his university experience, James shared why agriculture and particularly crop management matters, saying: “The agricultural sector is responsible for feeding the planet – there isn’t much else more important than that.”