Wetenschap - 11 januari 2001

English Summary

If the current liberal EU agricultural policies continue farmers in the Netherlands are likely to die out.

Researchers Dr Pieter Vereijken and Waldo de Boer at Plant Research International draw this conclusion on the basis of statistics from the Central Statistics Office and LEI (Agricultural Economics Research Institute). The number of farmers younger than 55 has decreased considerably as has the total area of land that they farm, while the number older than 55 has remained constant since 1980, and the area of land they farm has increased by 300,000 hectares. Possible remedies include supporting joint use of land, for instance for water storage. This will prevent further splitting up of land, and make agriculture less intensive, which is likely to suit older farmers better as well.

Good news as well for agriculture this week: reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands can be achieved by reducing the emissions of laughing gas (N2O) in the agricultural sector.

Changes in water management and reduction in the use of artificial fertilisers will help, according to Alterra researcher Dr Peter Kuikman, who coordinated the research commissioned by the Netherlands agency for energy and the environment. Agriculture is responsible for about 13 percent of the Dutch greenhouse gas emissions, of which about 40 percent consists of nitrous oxide, coming from nitrogen in the soil. Peat soil contains a lot of nitrogen, and by placing about 20 percent of the grass land on peat soil permanently under water significant reductions could be achieved, at the same time contributing to nature development and fighting drought. Other measures include more efficient use of animal manure and an increase in the area of clover grass.

The executive board of Wageningen University is determined to continue with its plans for a new course entitled 'Bioproduct Management' despite opposition from both student and staff councils.

The latter are worried that a new course will attract students away from other courses, that it will be expensive and there may not be employment for graduates. The board however cites the fact that last year 3000 potential students were interested in coming to Wageningen, whereas only 500 actually enroled, indicating that Wageningen needs to offer more variety in its courses. The new course for organic agriculture would focus on the social and economic aspects, in contrast to the more scientific focus of many of the courses already offered in Wageningen. The Minister of Agriculture, Brinkhorst, is also in favour of the new course.

From next year 4,200 living units will be connected via a glass fibre cable to the Wageningen University computer network.

This will also make it possible to place telephone connections in all units which are on the cable. The accommodation office SSHW will discuss the possibility in the coming months with the university and telephone company.

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