"The concept is changing long-held perceptions of what constitutes a 'good' drainage ditch," one of Ward's nominators wrote.

The idea "was developed by observing the natural processes of stable streams and rivers that could relieve erosion, scouring and flooding," OARDC said in a statement.

Since Ward and his team created the new design — he notes the contributions of colleagues Dan Mecklenburg, Jon Witter, Jessica D'Ambrosio and others — it's been used to build 20 drainage ditches around the Midwest. Thirty more have been built by Ward's former students and graduates of his design workshops. So far, none of the 50 has needed any maintenance.

The National Engineering Handbook of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service recognizes the design as an agricultural best management practice.

The design is currently eligible for federal cost-share through USDA's Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

Joint research involving Ward and scientists at the University of Notre Dame has shown that the design reduces the export of nitrate-nitrogen from fertilizers into rivers, lakes and streams — an added benefit that can save farmers money and improve water quality.

The Army Corps of Engineers also has proposed building several miles of two-stage ditching to try to stop recurring flooding problems in Findlay in northwest Ohio.

The new design, the same nominator wrote, is "an alternative solution that provides substantial benefits to individuals and society."

Ward is a professor in CFAES's Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, where he holds appointments with both OARDC and Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the college's statewide outreach arm.

To view a video of the innovative ditch, see https://ag.purdue.edu/aganswers/Pages/archive.aspx?story=183 - .UYeg3mDBDBQ.

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Conservation Stewardship Program applications due by May 31