Van Schilfgaarde, Jan

From History of Hydrology Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search


Jan van Schilfgaarde


Jan van Schilfgaarde 1929 (Den Haag, Netherlands) - 2008 (Fort Collins, Colorado, USA)


Jan van Schilfgaarde was born in the Hague as the oldest of six children. He went to the USA in 1946 to study on a scholarship at Hope College in Holland, Michigan and later obtained B.Sc. (1949) and M.Sc. (1950) degrees in agricultural engineering, and a Ph.D. (1954) degree in soil physics and agricultural engineering, all from Iowa State College (now University). In the period 1954–1964, Jan taught agricultural engineering at North Carolina State University at Raleigh, North Carolina reaching the rank of Full Professor, while also being employed as a drainage engineer by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS).

In July 1964, at the invitation of Cecil Wadleigh, Jan gave up a successful academic position for a challenging, but also uncertain, managerial job with the staff of the Soil and Water Conservation Research Division (SWCRD) of USDA-ARS at Beltsville, Maryland. He was the Director of this Division in 1971–1972. From 1972 to 1984, he was Director of the U.S. Salinity Laboratory (USSL) at Riverside, California. From Riverside he moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, where he served as the Area Director of the Mountain States Area from 1984 to 1987 and as Associate Area Director of the Northern Plains Area from 1987 to 1991. In 1991 he returned to Beltsville Maryland as Associate Deputy Administrator for Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Systems until 1996. He then moved to the West again and completed his career at Albany, California as Area Director of the Pacific West Area in November 1997.

At Iowa State College (now University), Don Kirkham and Richard Frevert were Jan's major professors. In Research Bulletin 436 of the Agricultural Experiment Station of Iowa State College, Jan gave with Kirkham and Frevert a masterly synthesis of the state of drainage theory in the mid-1950s. The results of Research Bulletin 436 were integrated in the 1957 ASA Drainage monograph. At North Carolina, the focus of Jan's research program was on drainage design criteria. He extended the nonlinear, unsteady Dupuit-Forchheimer approach of Glover and Dumm, by making allowance for flow in the region between the level of the drains and an impermeable base and for convergence to the drains, basing the latter on the correction first proposed by Hooghoudt for the corresponding steady flow problem. With his students, he developed an integral model for the saturated and unsaturated zones, taking into account temporal patterns of rainfall and evapotranspiration, and attention to aeration requirements. He also initiated a research program on relationships between drainage and plant growth, using growth chambers and field lysimeters, and pioneered a thermocouple psychrometer method for determining the water potential of intact plants.

Also after moving on to managerial positions, Jan kept up to date on the latest developments in drainage theory and practice, resulting in his 1970 chapter in Advances in Hydroscience and his editorship and co-editorship of, respectively, the 1974 and 1999 ASA Drainage Monographs. Later at the USSL, forging cooperation between soil physics, soil chemistry, plant physiology, plant breeding, and irrigation and drainage engineering broadened the interdisciplinary approach to water management that he pioneered at North Carolina. After moving to the West, Jan refocused his views of land drainage. He clearly identified the conflicting requirements in irrigation agriculture: on the one hand the need to remove salts from the root zone of crops and on the other hand the obligation to limit burdening ground and surface water with salt laden drainage water. At the USSL, Jan also became involved in methodological problems, such as irrigation control using tensiometers and salinity sensors in combination as a dual feedback system, and the development of the electrical conductivity probe for measuring soil salinity within discrete soil depth intervals to supplement the commonly used surface-positioned four-electrode Wenner array.

In 1964 at the SWCRD of the USDA-ARS, Jan became Chief Water Management Engineer, ‘charged with the responsibility of developing high-level, basic fundamental pioneering concepts for research projects in the field of water management’. Jan initiated, facilitated, supervised and evaluated the research work of a large number of ARS scientists and engineers, located throughout the country. With the backing from SWCRD Director Cecil Wadleigh, he promoted fundamental research directed at solving practical problems of importance to society. He showed a very keen interest in the direction and details of the research of individual scientists, during visits, in meetings, and via correspondence on specific scientific problems. His approach was that science managers should serve scientists, not the other way around.

With Cecil Wadleigh, Jan was among the first within USDA-ARS to respond to Rachel Carson's call in the early 1960s for a new approach to health and the natural environment. Later, as USSL Director, Jan was in a good position to explore the environmental and institutional aspects of irrigation agriculture. Operating at the interface between science and government policy, he did not hesitate to express a clear opinion about specific issues and promote novel approaches in irrigation agriculture. He became strongly involved in discussions within the U.S. government about various options for achieving the reduction of the salt load on the Lower Colorado River required by Mexico. Although Jan and his colleagues in the USDA-ARS demonstrated the potential of doing this by increasing irrigation efficiencies in the Grand Valley in Colorado and the Wellton Mohawk Irrigation and Drainage District in Arizona, to their dismay the government opted for building a desalination plant at the Mexican border. Evidently the time was not considered quite ripe for improvement of irrigation and drainage practices at the farm level. Nevertheless, the debate about water resources, including Jan's role in this, was clearly gaining momentum, as is evident from Marc Reisner's widely acclaimed book Cadillac Desert, first published in 1986. In the 1980s Jan became involved in the debate concerning the salinity and selenium problems in the San Joaquin Valley of California. He served as Chairman of a committee established by the National Research Council to assist the U.S. Department of Interior and the State of California in developing a comprehensive research program on irrigation-induced water quality problems.

Jan's views on irrigation agriculture evolved over the years, on the one hand becoming more specific and on the other hand eventually reaching a worldwide dimension. Right from the beginning of his career, Jan played a key role in the transatlantic exchange of ideas in drainage theory and practice. With his friend Dirk Kraaijenhoff van de Leur at Wageningen University he shared a strong interest in transient drainage problems. His involvement in the three successive drainage monographs also led to wide overseas contacts. The switch to the managerial position in USDA-ARS-SWCRD led to numerous assignments in the international arena. He visited Yugoslavia and Poland to inspect Public Law 480 (later known as Food for Peace) projects. During the Johnson Administration (1963–1968), the President's Science Advisory Committee prepared a report on the world food problem, with Jan serving as a member of the Subpanel on Water and Land, helping write the report and making a trip to Austria, Kenya and other places for the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to get feedback from various officials on a draft of the report. In the 1970s, Jan was member of a Panel on Promising Technologies in Arid-Land Water Development that prepared a very informative and well designed report for the National Research Council and served as Chairman of the Panel on Natural Resources for the NAS World Food and Nutrition Study. In 1972, in accordance with the new détente with the USSR, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger felt the time was ripe for the development of cooperation among the two science communities. Jan became responsible for the development and execution of the exchange program concerning irrigation agriculture and salinity. Closely related to this, he was active in various missions for the FAO and the IAEA. From the late 1970s onward, Jan was strongly involved in the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD), an endowment fund providing grants for joint US–Israeli agricultural research. He took part in organizing BARD and in generating proposals and selecting projects deserving funding. As a diplomatic counterpoint to BARD, later a similar program, Agricultural Technology Utilization and Transfer (ATUT), was developed in Egypt. In this politically sensitive program, Jan was again involved in all phases. Finally, from 1989 to 1992 Jan was the Editor in Chief of the international journal Agricultural Water Management.

Jan has received wide recognition for his scientific and managerial contributions. He was made a Fellow of three professional societies: ASA (1969), SSSA (1969), and ASAE (now ASABE) (1972). In 1977 the ASAE presented to him one of its highest awards, the John Deere Gold Medal in recognition of ‘Distinguished achievement in the application of science and art to the soil’. In 1980 he was inducted in the Virgil Overholt Drainage Hall of Fame of the Agricultural Engineering Department of Ohio State University. ASCE awarded him the Walter L. Huber Civil Engineering Prize in 1970, the Royce J. Tipton Award in 1986, and made him Honorary Member in 1992. In 1989 he was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Engineering. He was recipient of a Meritorious Senior Executive Service Presidential Rank Award for 1990. After Jan's retirement in November 1997, in March 1998 he and his wife Roberta moved to Fort Collins, Colorado. That same month they were special guests at the 7th International Drainage Symposium at Orlando, Florida, in recognition of Jan's key role in all six of the previous Drainage Symposia. In recent years Jan was active in organizations promoting sustainable agriculture, in particular organic farming.

Hydrological Achievements[edit]

Primarily known for his work in agricultural drainage, including analytical solutions for the flow between tile drains.

Reference Material[edit]

Source: Raats, P. and J. D. Oster, 2008, Jan van Schilfgaarde 1929-2008, Agricultural Water Management, 95(7):751–753 [1]

Major Publications[edit]

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1957. Approximate solutions to drainage flow problems. In: Luthin, J.J. (Ed.), Drainage of Agricultural Lands. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, Wisconsin, pp. 79–112.

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1963. Design of tile drainage for falling water tables. J. Irrig. Drain. Div. Proc. ASAE 89, 1–11.

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1964. Design of tile drainage for falling water tables: Closure of discussion. J. Irrig. Drain. Div. Proc. ASAE 90, 69–73.

van Schilfgaarde, J. (Conference Chairman), 1965a. Proceedings of the Drainage for Efficient Crop Production Conference held December 6 and 7, 1965 at the Sherman House Hotel at Chicago, Illinois. ASAE, St. Joseph, Michigan.

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1965b. Limitations of Dupuit-Forchheimer theory in drainage. Trans. ASAE 6, 515–516 519.

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1965c. Transient design of drainage systems. J. Irrig. Drain. Div. Proc. ASAE 91, 9–22.

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1970. Theory of flow to drains. In: Chow, V.T. (Ed.), Adv. Hydrosci., vol. 6. Academic Press, New York, pp. 43–106.

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1972. Water management: for better or for worse. Paper presented at National Conference on Managing Irrigated Agriculture to Improve Water Quality. Grand Junction, Colorado, May 16–18.

van Schilfgaarde, J. (Ed.), 1974a. Drainage for Agriculture. Agronomy Monograph, vol. 17. Am. Soc. Agronomy, Madison, WI, USA.

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1974b. Nonsteady flow to drains. In: van Schilfgaarde, J. (Ed.), Drainage for Agriculture. Agronomy Monograph, vol. 17Am. Soc. Agronomy, Madison, Wisconsin, USA, pp. 245–270 (references on 303–307).

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1976a. Some observations pertinent to irrigation management. Efficiency of Water and Fertilizer Use in Semi-Arid Regions. IAEA Tech. Doc. 192, 243–248.

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1976b. Water management and salinity. In: FAO Expert Consultation. Prognosis of Salinity and Alkalinity. Soil Resources Development and Conservation Service, Land and Water Development Division, FAO Soils Bulletin 31, pp. 53–67. FAO of the UN, Rome. Also: http:// (last accessed August 14, 2006).

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1977. Minimizing salt in return flow by improving irrigation efficiency. In: Law, J.P., Skogerboe, G.V. (Eds.), Proc. Natl. Conf. on Irrigation and Return Flow Quality Management. pp. 81–98.

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1979. Environmental and institutional aspects of irrigation agriculture. Trans. ASAE 22, 344–350.

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1981. Dryland management for salinity control. Agric. Water Manage. 4, 383–391.

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1984. Drainage for salinity control. In: Shainberg, I., Shalhevet, J. (Eds.), Soil Salinity under Irrigation. Processes and Management. Ecological Studies, Analysis and Synthesis, vol. 4. Springer Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, pp. 190–197.

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1987. Ontwikkelingen in de landbouwwaterhuishouding in de Verenigde Staten (Version in English: Trends in water management for agriculture). Cultuurtechnisch Tijdschrift 26, 323–334.

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1990. Irrigated agriculture: is it sustainable? In: Tanji, K.K. (Ed.), Agricultural Salinity Assessment an Management. American Society of Civil Engineers, New York, NY, pp. 584–594.

van Schilfgaarde, J., 1994. Irrigation-a blessing or a curse. Agric. Water Manage. 25, 203–219.

van Schilfgaarde, J., Hoffman, G.J., 1977. Managing salt by drainage in irrigated agriculture. In: Proc. 3rd Nat. Drainage Symp. ASAE publ. 1-77. pp. 84–86.

van Schilfgaarde, J., Rawlins, S.L., 1983. Water resources management in a growing society. In: Taylor, H.M., Jordan, W.R., Sinclair, T.R. (Eds.), Limatations to Efficient Water Use in Crop Production. ASA-CSSA-SSSA, Madison, WI, USA, pp. 517–530.

van Schilfgaarde, J., Rhoades, J.D., 1979. Benefits from reuse of drainage water for irrigation. ASAE Paper 79-2552, 7pp.

van Schilfgaarde, J., Rhoades, J.D., 1984. Coping with salinity. In: Engelbert, E.A., Scheuring, A.F. (Eds.), Water Scarcity: Impacts on Western Agriculture. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, pp. 157–175.

van Schilfgaarde, J., Bernstein, L., Rhoades, J.D., Rawlins, S.L., 1974. Irrigation management for salt control. J. Irrig. Drain. Div. ASCE 100, 321–338.

van Schilfgaarde, J., Frevert, R.K., Kirkham, D., 1954. A tile drainage field laboratory. Agric. Eng. 35, 474–478.

van Schilfgaarde, J., Kirkham, D., Frevert, R.K., 1956. Physical and mathematical theories of tile and ditch drainage and their usefulness in design. Iowa Agr. Exp. Sta. Res. Bul. 436, 667–706.


Raats, P. A. C. and R.A. Feddes, 2006, Contributions to water management from Jans Wesseling, Jan van Schilfgaarde, and Herman Bouwer, Agricultural Water Management, 86: 9–29