He’s a game-changer.

With the help of the Clemson University Research Foundation, this Tiger filed for and finally obtained a patent for his research that could revolutionize the fertilization process of organic crops.

Meet Brian Ward.

Title: Research scientist

Years at Clemson: 23 years

I began my career in agriculture the hard way. As a temporary laborer, I was hoeing weeds, digging drainage furrows and recording crop data. But I learned the fundamentals of agriculture, environmental sustainability and land stewardship. I fell in love with agriculture and realized that I landed the career of my life.

What I do at Clemson: I conduct organic, transitional and conventional research on vegetables, legumes, rice and other small grains and cover crops. I also conduct historical seed increases that were once an important part of the culinary world and throughout South Carolina’s history. I perform conventional and organic cultivar trials working closely with industry, federal and university breeders to provide data on cultural and best management practices for South Carolina growers. I conduct organic rice cultivar trials, both flood and upland culture. We are now looking at soil’s nitrogen cycle and beneficial rhizosphere microecology under a diverse factorial combination of both warm and cool season cover crops. Ultimately, the research will help conventional, transitional and organic growers maximize their crop rotations.

What I love about Clemson: Everything. The students. The people, staff faculty, administrators. The facilities. The academic atmosphere. Administration’s willingness to go the extra mile to work with scientists to achieve their mission as a land-grant institution. For me, it’s about helping growers become more successful.

Accomplishment I’m most proud of: In 2006, the Agricultural Society of South Carolina offered me a fellowship to me to get my Ph.D. — the first one ever in the name of Thomas Heyward Jr., one of the founders of the society and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Six long years later and a few added grays, I finished. I’m proud of earning that Ph.D., rising through the ranks, and finally achieving my patent on organic fertilizer, which could revolutionize the way organic produce is fertilized.* I’m proud to show my children that, regardless of your path, hard work pays off and whatever you decide to do you in life, you need to be “all in” and own and honor your commitments.

*Read more about Ward’s research, which could level the field between organic and conventional crops.

My defining Clemson moment: As an early Clemson tech, we did a study and saw that growers adopted the cultural practice that we had proven. They had directly benefited from our work and had been more successful because of the work we conducted here at the Coastal Research Education Center. It’s when I truly felt that this was my calling.

Where I see myself in five years: Still here pursuing tenure track professorship, helping growers and increasing the number of sustainable acres of specialty crops in South Carolina.

Last thing I watched on TV: The news, National Geographic and the History Channel. Impractical Jokers.

Guilty pleasure: Surfing, fishing and hunting

One thing most people don’t know about me: I was born in Fayetteville, West Virginia in a coal miner’s clinic on the Gauley River. My mother is a coal miner’s daughter. Many in my West Virginia family served their country, worked in the mines and alloy mills, and we have inventors in the family as well. Kind of cool, my grandfather was born in 1896 — he fought in World War I, and I look just like him — my grandmother was born in 1901. We have a family cemetery on top of Woolwine Hill in Fayetteville, West Virginia with the earliest graves dating to the early 1800s.

Want to nominate a colleague to be featured in Meet a Tiger? Contact Jackie Todd at jtodd3@clemson.edu.