Dr Duncan Greenwood CBE, FRS

Dr Duncan Greenwood CBE, FRS, 1932-2010

Dr Duncan Greenwood enjoyed a long and distinguished research career. He established his lasting interest in soil science at Aberdeen University where he was awarded a PhD in 1957. He joined the National Vegetable Research Station, Wellesbourne, in 1959 and was appointed Head of the Soil Science Section in 1966. He completed more than 50 years service at Wellesbourne and retired in October 1992, becoming an Emeritus Fellow with HRI and Associate Fellow with the University of Warwick from 2004. 

Dr Duncan Greenwood was a research scientist of great distinction and determination. He had extensive and uniquely-relevant experience in the area of plant nutrition and soil science. Amongst his many innovative contributions was the development of computer simulation models for interpreting the field response of plants to nutrients and water. He had the insight to see how such models could influence the practical use of fertilisers in agriculture and horticulture. In undertaking this research he sought to ensure that the models of fertiliser usage were implemented in commercial practice and his research contributed to reducing nutrient pollution in rivers and seas. The path of Dr Greenwood’s research is a shining example of the evolution of a scientific concept from a narrow base to one of ever widening implications for fertiliser practices, not just to vegetable crops but also to agricultural crops worldwide. New experimental techniques, methods of chemical analysis of crops and soils, and the handling an interpretation of data have accrued under his guidance. They would, however, have prospered little had it not been for his persistence in seeking goals which he, but few others, could visualise three decades ago. His work underpinned the national fertiliser recommendations for field vegetable crops and led to the development of mathematical models which have evolved as computer decision support systems such as WELL_N which have allowed growers to use nitrogen more efficiently with minimal loss from the land. 

Dr Greenwood played a leading role in the life of several UK learned societies and authored more than 180 scientific papers which have made major contributions to the dissemination of the results of his research at all levels. Indeed, simple methods for communicating the complicated results of his work to growers have figured prominently in the practical application of his researches to improve the efficiency of crop production while at the same time minimising pollution of the environment. Dr Greenwood was a great ambassador for soil science and its importance as a discipline in practical soil and crop management. He was always in great demand as an outstanding lecturer, and delivered many distinguished lectures. In spite of this Dr Greenwood was always happy to share his extensive experience with younger researchers and encourage them in their careers. His personal achievements are great and thanks to his generosity of spirit and dedication he has helped further the advancements of the industry in which he worked for so many years.

Achievements and Awards:

1962 Sir Gilbert Morgan Medal, Society of Chemical Industry

1979 Research Medal, Royal Agricultural Society of England

Since 1985 Visiting Professor of Plant Sciences, Leeds University

1985 FRS (Fellowship of the Royal Society)

Since 1986 Honorary Professor of Agricultural Chemistry, Birmingham University

1990-1992 President of the British Society of Soil Science

1993 CBE

2000 Grower of the Year Awards - Lifetime Achievement Award

2004 Institute of Horticulture – Presidents Medal Winner

Written by Ian Burns and Clive Rahn, Warwick HRI and published in the June 2010 edition of The Auger - Membership magazine of The British Society of Soil Science