Arkansas group names UArk NERREC director Engineer of the Year

tim burcham pipes

The drainage and irrigation systems at the NERREC are nearing completion — photo by Vicky Boyd

The new Engineer of the Year for the Arkansas Section of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers says he’d glad to have traded his suits and dress shoes for muddy boots and dungarees.

Tim Burcham, director of the Northeast Rice Research and Extension Center, or NERREC, for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture was honored in an online ceremony Oct. 9.

“We’re very proud to see Tim recognized by his peers in engineering,” Mark Cochran, vice president-agriculture and head of the Division of Agriculture, said. “When he was named to head up our efforts at the new rice station, he immediately put his engineering expertise ​to work to progress the vision of the new Rice Research and Extension Center into the reality that we are all truly excited about.”

“Tim has worked tirelessly on the development of the research infrastructure at our newest research and extension center and it is great to see him being recognized by his peers in Arkansas,” said Jean-Francois Meullenet, director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station for the Division of Agriculture. “I know Dr. Burcham is just getting started and I think we will all be very proud of what will be accomplished at NERREC once the vision for the new center is fully implemented.”

Before his appointment in 2019 as NRREC director, Burcham served as dean of the College of Agriculture at Arkansas State University. The Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the research arm of the Division of Agriculture, operates the station.

Since his appointment to the rice station, Burcham has:

• Led the design of a new irrigation system that will provide surface and groundwater to all production fields on the farm.

• Provided oversight during land leveling operations on 450 acres.

• Designed and implemented a drainage network for the farm.

• Developed a geo-referenced database for the farm.

• Aided in the design and siting for the NERREC farm shop.

His plans for the 2021 planting season include applied irrigation research, Arkansas variety trials, evaluation of soil health on “cut” soils with cover crops and evaluating the impact of land-leveling on crop productivity.

“I traded my tailored suits and shiny dress shoes for dungarees and muddy boots when I became director of the Northeast Rice Research and Extension Center,” Burcham said. “Looking back over this past year, I wouldn’t change a thing!

“I awaken every day with a new challenge that summons every ounce of my engineering education and real-world engineering experience. I am so humbled and thankful to be recognized by the Arkansas Section of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers for this prestigious award.”

Burcham earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in agricultural engineering from Mississippi State University and his doctorate in agricultural engineering from Clemson University. Prior to his 2013 appointment as dean at Arkansas State University, he held teaching, research or Extension positions at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Mississippi State University and the University of Tennessee at Martin.

Burcham is a registered professional engineer in Arkansas and Mississippi and has been involved in consulting activities associated with irrigation design, livestock waste management, onsite wastewater remediation, water quality, biofuels and computer software design. He is active in the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and has held numerous leadership positions including serving on the Board of Agricultural Assembly’s Policy Board of Directors.

The University of Arkansas contributed this article.