The big news this week is the advice of the mayor of Rotterdam Peper to the Minister of Agriculture Van Aartsen on Dutch agricultural research. Peper wants to transform the university into a holding structure, which would also include the DLO agricultural research institutes and some of the agricultural research stations, which would have to move to Wageningen. This reorganisation should strengthen the exchange of knowledge and innovative concepts within the Dutch agricultural knowledge system, explains Peper.
The university's research is too specialised and fragmented, states Peper, and overlaps with research done by the DLO research institutes. Because of budget cuts, the several Wageningen research units have difficulty investing in innovative research items. Wageningen could keep or regain its position of a leading international university, says Peper, if it strengthens its cooperation on research subjects like the food chain, bringing together the production, processing and marketing of food which is safe and environmentally friendly. Likewise, Wageningen should concentrate on rural development, linking food production to nature conservation and recreation areas in new designs.
WAU's education is also too specialised and fragmented, bearing in mind that the overall number of students is dropping, states Peper. He wants to decrease the number of undergraduate courses; Wageningen should specialise in graduate courses for foreign students and students from other Dutch universities.
Peper's reorganisation also includes a budget cut. Annual Dutch expenditure on agricultural research, education and extension amounts 1.2 billion guilders. The Minister of Agriculture should be able to cream off fifty to one hundred million guilders, states Peper.
A good example of practical cooperation between WAU and DLO is Professor Martin Kropff, who specialises in weeds. Kropff works partly at WAU and DLO and has developed a programme for suppressing plant diseases jointly with research stations and biological farmers. His more fundamental research work consists of modelling the relations between plants and weeds. Integrated agriculture has multiple goals and has to be studied in big coherent programmes," states Kropff.