Wetenschap - 4 oktober 2001

English Summary

Last week the Executive Board for Wageningen UR approved the proposal for a new North-South Centre.

This expertise centre will coordinate at a central level the search for research work in the area of development cooperation, for both Wageningen University and the DLO institutes. With a budget of 180 thousand guilders it should position itself in such a way that it follows World Bank and DGIS policy developments and so can point out opportunities that the expertise groups may otherwise miss. It should also improve the information sharing between the expertise groups and for instance Marketing and Communication, which focuses on growth markets for research and education such as in Brazil, South Africa and China.

Researchers at Applied Plant Research (PPO) have developed an apple variety which is resistant to apple scab.

This is good news for organic farmers, who have been plagued for years by low quality apples as well as low productivity. The best varieties after three years of testing are Santana, developed by Plant Research International and Topaz, a variety from the Czech Republic. The good news is that these types need far less spraying. Organic farmers spray with sulphur but this damages the vitality of the trees and leads to fruit that looks unattractive. Farmers still need to be aware of scab; in areas where there is a lot of scab even these varieties are not totally resistant.

Research from Germany indicates that ploughing the fields with tractors releases considerable amounts of dust into the atmosphere.

Two researchers from the Wageningen Erosion, Soil and Water Conservation group worked together with the Institute for Soil Technology in Bremen, Germany. Measurements were taken in an agricultural area of Lower Saxony where the soil consists of fine sand, loam and clay. While the wind is also responsible for much of the dust in the air, ploughing activities in spring and autumn also caused considerable emissions over a longer period of time. Dirk Goossens notes that these fine particles can cause damage to the respiratory system, and more information is needed about levels of emissions, transport and deposition of dust released by ploughing.

After the alarming news last week from Alterra biologist Gerard Jagers op Akkerhuis that the human race is likely to be taken over by robots, Wb polled opinions, including that of the famous Dutch futurologist Chriet Titulaer.

"The researcher is right that computers can learn more quickly than people. Computer capacity doubles each year. I predict also that the rise of the robots will be the next step in the evolutionary path. They are already as clever as people. If you want proof you have to look in Japan rather than Europe. There they have a robot that can play the organ for example. The robot reads the music and plays it. It is inevitable that robots will supersede humans. I estimate that it will happen in the next ten years. The end of the human race is in sight."

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