Pablo Tittonell is leaving Wageningen. The professor of Farming Systems Ecology has been offered a job in his homeland, Argentina, at the national agricultural research organization INTA.
He will be coordinator of a national research programme in the field of natural resources and environment. ‘I had some sleepless nights before deciding to do this, because I love working at Wageningen,’ says Tittonell. ‘But in this new job I can go beyond science and link science with policy. Hopefully I can influence agricultural policy in Argentina. That is a very nice challenge. And I look forward to living in my home country again after 15 years.’
Tittonell and his Farming Systems Ecology chair group study alternative, nature-oriented farming systems such as agro-ecology and organic farming. Tittonell has engaged in frequent debates with others in Wageningen UR who argue in favour of more industrial farming. He says his departure has nothing to do with that discussion. ‘There are different opinions, and that is a good thing. Discussion of substantial issues is healthy and leads to better science.’ ‘I hope Wageningen will cherish these differences and see them as a plus,’ he adds. ‘A university should not aim at a uniform corporate vision on agriculture or sustainability. Because the university is not a corporation, but a public institution.’ It is not yet certain whether the chair group will be kept.
• The face of ecological agriculture at Wageningen returns to Argentina.
• Plea to keep chair group.
It is customary when a professor departs for a committee to look into the future of the discipline and whether it is advisable to keep the chair group. Ernst van den Ende, director of the Plant Sciences Group, favours the continuation of what he calls a successful group. The Boerengroep, a student group in Wageningen, has placed a petition on the internet asking the executive board of Wageningen UR to keep Tittonell’s group. The petition was recently presented at the organic farming fair in Zwolle on behalf of farmers, companies, researchers and others in the organic farming sector. If he does have a successor, Tittonell would like to maintain a link with Wageningen University as a parttime external professor.