Wetenschap - 24 januari 2002

English summary

If you didn't already know it, farmers are the most intelligent people in the Netherlands.

This was 'scientifically' proven, during the national IQ test, held by the popular Dutch TV channel BNN. Farmers scored the highest IQ average with 127 points. Ard Nieuwenhuizen, chair of the student association for agricultural technology was not surprised, and put forward the explanation that the minister of agriculture has made the rules for farmers so complicated that only the most intelligent can possibly survive. Students came second in the intelligence test, which of course would suggest that students from farming families must be the most intelligent of all.

The Executive Board has given the go-ahead to the proposal to split up the degree course on Land Management.

The tropical and Dutch oriented courses were combined two years ago, but the marriage was never an easy one. Most reactions to the recent decision were positive. The joint course has attracted fewer students than when there were two separate degrees, and the introduction of the Bachelor's and Master's system has also had no effect on enrolment figures. Vice-chancellor Bert Speelman is still not sure whether graduates in tropical land use are competitive in the job market, but agrees that it is important to include the degree in the choice for school leavers.

Farmers in northern Burkina Faso make life difficult for themselves by not ploughing the soil.

Researcher Saskia Visser of the Erosion, Soil and Water Conservation group interviewed farmers in the area and discovered that fear of wind erosion was what stopped the farmers from ploughing. If they do not break up the hard crust that forms, however, it becomes impossible to farm the land and precious water just runs off. Ironically, another researcher in the same group has come up with exactly the opposite conclusion for certain nature conservation areas in the Netherlands. According to Michel Riksen wind erosion is just what is needed in some nature conservation projects, as this is a natural process which can increase biodiversity. Eroded gullies are favoured by many rare pioneer plant types.

At the Research Institute for Animal Husbandry horse researcher Andrea Ellis has come up with a simple way to prevent lameness in growing foals caused by osteochondrosis.

Foals grow very rapidly in the first few months of their life, which can lead to joint problems. Most foals overcome this problem after about ten months, but about 25 percent remain lame. The mother's food during her pregnancy can affect the foal, especially if she receives too much fat. In addition the mare should be given a small amount of extra copper in the last four months of her pregnancy to help the bone formation in the young foal.

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