Graham Shepherd is a soil scientist, agricultural consultant and director of BioAgriNomics. BioAgriNomics is an independent agricultural and fertiliser advisory company focussing on linking soil conditioning, soil function, plant nutrition, animal health, farm productivity and a farms environmental footprint with smart fertilisers and smart farm management practices. Graham has worked as a soil scientist for 27 years in a government research institute in New Zealand and as an independent consultant since 2004. He also has considerable experience working with agricultural organisations, research institutes and universities overseas including Australia, North America, Chile, UK, Italy, France, Denmark, Germany, Holland, South Africa and Fiji.
Graham is one of the foremost authorities in NZ on the dynamics of soil organic carbon under pastoral and cropping systems, and the interrelationships between the physical, chemical and biological quality of soils and farm performance and profitability. His research has significantly improved our understanding of the impact of farming and sustainable land management practices on soil quality, and has been incorporated into national, regional, and district schemes and policy statements by regulatory authorities,
MAF Policy Technical Papers, and in the Ministry for the Environment’s State of the Environment Report. The work has also contributed to establishing land monitoring guidelines and indicators of soil quality for environmental monitoring, and is often referred to in regional and national forums throughout New Zealand.
Graham has received a number of honours and distinctions including the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Communicator Award, conferred by the New Zealand Association of Scientists for excellence in the conception, development and advocacy of the Visual Soil Assessment (VSA) method, and for an outstanding contribution to advancing science in New Zealand concerning scientific principles, achievements and education.
The VSA was identified in a Landcare Research Report as one of the 10 most outstanding pieces of work produced by Landcare Research, and is described as one of the most successful tech-transfer tools to have emerged from the soils group.
Previous Professional Positions Held:
2007 + : Managing Director of BioAgriNomics Ltd
2004–2007: A director and soil and agricultural consultant with Nutri-Link Ltd.
1992– 2004: Senior Scientist, soil research, Landcare Research, Palmerston North, NZ.
1988–1992: Soil Scientist, soil research, Division of Land and Soil Sciences, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Palmerston North, New Zealand.
1977–1988, Soil Scientist, soil research, Soil Bureau, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Palmerston North, New Zealand
Overseas work experience:
Taveuni and Vanua Levu, Fiji – New Zealand Foreign Aid projects
Chile – New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Overseas Development aid (NZODA) programme and Latin American Technical Cooperative Fund (LATCF).
Germany – Royal Society of New Zealand International Science and Technology (ISAT) Linkage Award
Specialist short-term soil quality projects in England, Scotland, Netherlands, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, USA, Australia and Chile.
B.Sc., M.Sc., Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand (Earth Sciences), 1984.
Years as a practising researcher: 27
Years as a practicing agricultural consultant: 15
Authored or co-authored 75 refereed papers in scientific journals and conference proceedings, 44 technical papers and 15 soil survey reports. Author or senior author of a two books, 12 booklets, and a contributing author to the Soil Groups of New Zealand.
Recognised in New Zealand as one of the foremost authorities on the dynamics of soil organic carbon and the physical quality of soils under pastoral and cropping systems. The research has significantly improved our understanding of the impact of farming and sustainable land management practices on soil quality, and has been incorporated into national, regional, and district schemes and policy statements by regulatory authorities, MAF Policy Technical Papers, and in the Ministry for the Environment’s State of the Environment Report. The work has also contributed to establishing land monitoring guidelines and indicators of soil quality for environmental monitoring, and is often referred to in regional and national forums throughout the country.
Published a major piece of work on Visual Soil Assessment (VSA), a quick and simple method that allows farmers and regulatory authorities to accurately assess and monitor soil quality and associated plant performance on cropping and pastoral land. The publication includes the associated Soil Management Guidelines for cropping and pastoral grazing on flat to rolling and hill country. VSA booklets have also been written specifically for vineyards, olive orchards, pip and stone fruit orchards and wheat. The VSA method has been adopted as the national standard throughout New Zealand for assessing and monitoring soil quality, semi-quantitatively. It was identified in the Landcare Research 2001 Research Report as one of the 10 most outstanding pieces of work produced by Landcare Research in 2000-2001, and is described as one of the most successful tech-transfer tools to have emerged from the soils group. The VSA method was delivered as an oral paper at the International Soil Tillage Research Organisation (ISTRO) Conference in Brisbane in 2003 and was identified by a panel of keynote speakers as one of two standout papers presented at the conference.
Developed two interactive internet-based programmes in conjunction with colleagues showing:
1) Soil structure vulnerability
Interactive maps showing vulnerability to structural degradation, i.e. risk of damage due to pressure from heavy machinery, tillage, or treading by animals for any given month.
2) Optimum timing of tillage operations. “Till-Then” is a website designed to assist farmers identify the optimal time to cultivate a field when preparing a seedbed.
The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Communicator Award 2001 conferred by the New Zealand Association of Scientists for excellence in the conception, development and advocacy of the VSA method, and “for an outstanding contribution to advancing science in New Zealand concerning scientific principles, achievements and education”.
Received a Royal Society of New Zealand International Science and Technology (ISAT) Award to work with soil scientists in Germany in 2003
Invited by the Winard Staring Centre for Integrated Land, Soil and Water Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands to present a paper at the International Conference on Water Repellency, 1998.
Invited by the Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias National (INIA) to introduce the Visual Soil Assessment method to Chile under a New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Grant, the New Zealand Overseas Development aid (NZODA) programme, and a Latin American Technical Cooperative Fund (LATCF).
Invited as one of 14 soil scientists to participate in an International Soil & Tillage Research Organisation (ISTRO) Working Group F Workshop in France on Visual Soil Examination and Evaluation.
Bibliographic profile was selected by Marquis Who’s Who for inclusion in the 7th Edition of Who’s Who in Science and Engineering.
An impact factor analysis of CSIRO journals by the CSIRO Board of Standards indicated the paper "Tillage-induced changes to soil structure and organic fractions in New Zealand soils" by Shepherd et al. 2001 was the highest cited paper in the Australian Journal of Soil Research for a number of years.
Invited by FAO and the University of Teramo as a keynote speaker at the Training Workshop–Study Tour on Drought Resistant Soils in Bologna, Florence and Perugia, Italy.
Invited speaker at the ISTRO Working Group F meeting on ‘Applications of Visual Soil Evaluation’ in Denmark in May 2011.
Membership of societies, institutions, committees:
Member, NZ Society of Soil Science (NZSSS)
Member, International Union of Soil Sciences (IUSS)
Member, Soil Science Society of America (SSSA)
Previous research/professional speciality:
Applied soil physical/land resource specialist in the following areas:
Soil quality under intensive land uses, and particularly pastoral and cropping systems
Physical and biochemical indicators of soil quality
Relationships between measured and visual indicators of soil quality
Interrelationship between soil structure and organic matter
Modelling resistance and resilience of soils to structural degradation
Effects of soil quality on crop yield, grain quality, and production costs
Effects of stock treading on soil physical properties, pasture growth, composition and utilization, and milk solid production
Soil-crop-grazing management systems required for economic and ecological sustainability of arable land and hill country
Land use suitability and capability
Land resource evaluation and soil surveying with a strong background in pedology
Developed a particular interest in technology transfer and extension work with farmers and land planners including the development of practical, quick and simple tools to enable on-farm self-regulation and self-determination.
Relationships with end-users while at Landcare Research
Aspects of the research were presented at numerous field days, grower seminars, forums and discussion groups, and as a regular invited speaker at conventional agriculture and organic forums throughout New Zealand. Two videos were produced for public use, one on the VSA and the other on Sustainable Cropping Systems for TVNZ’s Agriculture 2000 Series. More than 50 popular press articles and tech-transfer “Fact Sheets” have been written and published in NZ agricultural magazines, newspapers, and arable industry bulletins. Many commercial consultancy contracts were undertaken, and fostered regular contact with farmers and industry reps.
Family, sporting and other interests
Married with four children. Sporting and other interests include sailing, golf, skiing, cricket, rugby, jogging, circuit gym training, hiking, travelling, family and church interests.