A total of 700 school students and others interested in studying in Wageningen came to the open day last Saturday.
This is 60 less than the previous occasion in October, but the organisers are satisfied with the way the day went. Numbers were down because of the foot-and-mouth outbreak: people from infected areas were unable to come and the Animal Sciences buildings were not open. The set up was also made more compact this time, by concentrating all activities in the Dreijen complex and Alterra, thus making an overview easier for visitors, and giving a busier impression. Dr Olaf van Kooten of the Horticultural Production Chains Group won a prize for his role in organising the recent climate conference for school pupils. He intends to use his 1000 guilders prize money to build a website on horticulture for schoolchildren.
Student members of the education committees for Rural Development Studies and Tropical Land Use believe that teaching staff have become somewhat laxer about the exams they set for subjects that will disappear under the new education programmes.
While it is difficult to provide concrete evidence, they feel that the exams are easier than they used to be, and that the same questions are used for resits as the first attempt. While students can see the advantages to easy exams they also want to be sure that they are getting a good education. It is not only tropical subjects which are slipping; Laura Graus of the Biology education committee confessed that while she really had understood very little in the physiology course she was given a 6 for the exam. The students are afraid that due to bureaucratic processes the problem will just be pushed aside and not dealt with before the courses disappear.
According to Plant Research International researcher Dr Jurgen K?hl, work on finding fungus types which can fight other dangerous fungi is going well.
After previous success with biological control of botrytis, a mould found on strawberries, grapes and tomatoes, he and his team are now looking for a fungus to fight fusarium ear blight in wheat. Fusarium produces mycotoxins that are poisonous to humans. Chemical control methods do not work very well, as the mycotoxins remain after the fusarium is destroyed. Fusarium spends the winter on wheat stalk remains. The spores are released the following spring and then travel to the ear where they flourish. There are two possibilities for intervention: during the winter on the stalks or on the new ear. The Plant Research International team is using its EU funds to examine the stalks during the winter, and has already found some potential candidate fighting fungi.
A plea came this week from Professor Fons Werry 'let's stop the biotech debate'.
This is surprising since Werry is the coordinator of the biotechnology debate within Wageningen UR. According to Werry a discussion on where the food on our plate comes from would be a better starting point, as everyone is interested in that subject. Dr Guido Ruivenkamp said he would regret such a move: the biotech debate presents opportunities for new groupings to form.