Wetenschap - 20 december 2001

English summary

Chairman of the Executive Board of Wageningen UR Professor Cees Veerman vacates his position at the end of 2001.

Looking back he notices a 'slight feeling of satisfaction' at what has been achieved during his chairmanship. He oversaw the merger between Wageningen university and the DLO research centres, which involved cuts, reorganisations and above all a change in culture. In hindsight he regrets that the distance between the management and the work floor has grown, and puts it down to lack of time to deal with a problem that is more complex than in the biggest multinationals. More also needs to be done to involve Wageningen in public debate on agriculture in the Netherlands, although Wageningen UR is well on the way.

Wageningen University has kept records on how much researchers publish for 25 years now, and the changes in that period have been considerable.

Total research capacity has tripled since 1976, and Wageningen is the most successful university in the Netherlands in terms of attracting private funding for research. The lion's share of the research is now done by research assistants (AIOs). While in 1976 only 28 PhDs were awarded, this year 207 students graduated. Publishing productivity in scientific journals has also increased.

The deciduous forest along the Atlantic coast of Southeast Brazil is far more threatened than the famous Amazon rainforest, according to recent PhD graduate Luis Carvalho.

Once covering an area of one million square kilometres, he estimates that only five percent of this area remains due to coffee plantations and the encroaching grass lands. Carvalho has developed a warning system which makes use of satellite images, which he believes can help prevent illegal felling of trees in the area. Carvalho, who received his PhD on 10 December was supervised by Professor Steven de Jong of Geo-information science, specialising in remote sensing, and Professor Andrew Skidmore of the International Institute for Aerospace Survey and Earth Sciences (ITC) in Enschede.

The Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering (IMAG) has developed an automatic machine in cooperation with the agricultural mechanisation company JOZ.

The JOZ AutoMaatje can perform routine agricultural tasks itself, as long as a person is there to keep an eye on it. In farm tests it manages to successfully get rid of 95 percent of the weeds, leaving only difficult corners and stubborn weeds. It can also be used for sowing, planting, ridging and cutting tops of bulb plants off. While a person is needed to check that all is well, the machine turns itself off if it encounters a problem. By using GPS the machine is capable of positioning itself with an accuracy of a few centimetres. Further commercial testing will take place in 2002, and the machine will be on show at Agrinova on 18 January, 2002.

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