Wetenschap - 29 maart 2001

English Summary

The real costs of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the Netherlands are much higher than the half billion guilders estimated in the model developed by the Wageningen University Farm Management Group.

The costs incurred through social disruption are not included in the model that Dr Paul Berentsen built ten years ago. The situation this time also differs from the model scenario as certain EU countries that import Dutch meat have decided to close its borders to Dutch products now the Netherlands has started an emergency vaccination programme. According to the calculations in the model, not vaccinating would cost 35-60 million guilders a year less than vaccinating. The EU vaccination ban is based on this calculation. However, enormous commotion has arisen as a result of the mass slaughter of animals and the transport ban. The image of the meat industry is in ruins and the emotional damage to farmers and their families is only now becoming apparent. (See page 1)

Current greenhouse construction using glass leaves little room for further energy savings.

With the aim of reducing energy use in greenhouses by a factor of 20 by the year 2040, researchers at Imag (Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering) are looking at revolutionary constructions and materials. Dries Waaijenberg and Dr Silke Hoffmann have come up with two possibilities so far, which need further refining. Tent-like structures, whereby plastic membranes are stretched using cables and inflatable structures in the shape of a half-balloon. These constructions will be lightweight and strong and let large amounts of light through. However, there is not yet a suitable membrane which also insulates well, to keep warmth in during the winter and heat out in the summer, at the same time allowing sufficient light through for the plants. (See page 7.)

Divergence between government policy and farmers' practices does not work in favour of the farmers in the Red River Delta area of Vietnam according to PhD graduate Nguyen Van Linh, supervised by Professor Niels R?ling of Agricultural Knowledge Systems in Developing Countries.

The government has taken various measures which force farmers to produce rice in order to ensure food security for the country, but the price of rice has fallen as the cost of inputs has risen. In order to increase their incomes farmers have taken to planting fruit trees, diversifying crops and farming fish. But these activities are being held back by the rice production requirements, and they do not receive enough help with technological developments. Van Linh now works at the Vietnamese institute for agricultural research and has now managed to put these issues on the agenda for discussion with the ministry of agriculture there.