The university test farm in the Flevoland polder, the Minderhoudhoeve, is undergoing restructuring. The high-yield agricultural and dairy farms there are being converted into an ecological and a mixed farm, in order to examine the farm styles for the next century. The test farm was nearly closed in recent years, as it was no longer deemed to serve any purpose for WAU researchers. In the new set-up, the farm will be used for research on sustainable agriculture. If Holland was one big mixed farm," states agronomist Egbert Lantinga, the nitrogen surplus could be decreased by six times the amount of emissions in the mid 1980s."
The Department of Nematology of the WAU has one of the largest collections of nematodes in the world. Piet Loof has built up the collection of 3200 species over the past forty years and knows all the nematodes off the cuff, but the 71-year old expert now wants to retire. His successor, Tom Bongers, can only look after the collection part-time and probably doesn't have enough time to maintain it. The collection is unique in Holland but the physical condition of the specimens is not good, according to the Dutch Ministry of Education. Extra funding from the ministry may be forthcoming.
The International Agricultural Centre (IAC) in Wageningen should tailor its short courses and advisory services to suit the demands of its customers. Moreover, IAC has to cooperate with the WAU and the DLO agricultural institutes in order to establish one international educational programme in Wageningen. These are the main subjects of a strategic plan for IAC. According to WAU's professor in Development Economics, Dr Arie Kuyvenhoven, the Ministry of Agriculture should no longer guarantee the job of the sixty-six IAC-members, as this is detrimental to the competitiveness and adaptability of the centre. However, the WAU and DLO are not very eager to strengthen their cooperation with IAC, given the cultural differences between the organisations.
Six WAU students have examined the resistance to drought of the African plant species Craterostigma plantagineum. This plant doesn't shut down its evaporation system during a drought, but can survive with only two percent of the normal amount of liquid available in the plant. Using modern research equipment the students discovered that the secret of success of Craterostigma is vitrification. Vitrification is known as a survival strategy in seeds, but not in plants. The students even want to challenge a theory about the existence of the photosynthesis in dehydrated plants, but first they have to be able convince the Department of Molecular Physics.