Wetenschap - 7 februari 2002

English summary

Three lecturers from Wageningen University visited Beijing last month to see how the 89 students are doing who are due to come to Wageningen in September 2003 to complete the last two years of their 4-year BSc in Food Science, Biotechnology or Environmental Sciences.

All are very much looking forward to coming to Wageningen and many hope to go on to do an MSc here, but most also see their future in China. Economic growth there is proceeding at a fast rate, in contrast to the economically uncertain climate in Europe. The lecturers were able to compare the content of courses here and there, and make the necessary adjustments. These included reducing the amount of chemistry for the Environmental Sciences and increasing the amount of ecology. For Biotechnology the amount of physics has been reduced to make way for more microbiology.

Wageningen plant researchers have published an article on the blossom period of Arabidopsis in the prestigious journal Nature Genetics.

For a journal which concentrates on human genetic research it might seem that the article is misplaced. Not so, according to co-author Professor Maarten Koornneef. "Many human characteristics, such as intelligence, are complex." A number of genes are involved, and how they interact is important. While little is yet known about the human genes, research on the flowering time in plants may provide clues, as it is also a complex genetic phenomenon. Using software developed by Plant Research International the researchers compared genetic material for two Arabidopsis varieties with different flowering responses to daylength, and succeeded in mapping one of the four genes responsible for this.

Maintaining an ecological balance in shallow lakes and also keeping water sports enthusiasts happy is a challenge.

PhD candidate Egbert van Nes of the Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management Group carried out research on the Veluwemeer, which lies between the provinces of Gelderland and Flevoland. He found that there were two possible balances of the lake ecology: unclear water with few water plants, and clear water with water plants dominating. Surfers and sailors like clear water, but the water plants tend to get in the way of their surfboards and boats. Trying to steer a middle course is difficult. One possibility would be to mow the plants at the surface, but this is expensive, and the ecological balance always tends to veer towards one of the extremes.

The recently published report on world hunger from the Wageningen Platform for Food Security received critical scrutiny from experts within and outside Wageningen UR last Wednesday, 30 January.

Nice plan, but look at reality was the main message of the day. Dutch government representatives criticised the report for not considering the role that the private sector should play in solving the problem of hunger. However, senior vice president of the Rabobank, Frans van Bijsterveld, put forward the private sector opinion saying that the Rabobank does not invest in Africa as 'no business solutions are possible there'. It seems there is still a long way to go.

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