Nieuws - 1 januari 1970

Schouten hoogleraar natuurbeheer

Schouten hoogleraar natuurbeheer

Schouten hoogleraar natuurbeheer

Prof. dr Matthijs Schouten is benoemd tot bijzonder hoogleraar Oecologie van het natuurherstel aan de Landbouwuniversiteit. Schouten is senior medewerker landschapsecologie en vegetatiekunde bij Staatsbosbeheer en bijzonder hoogleraar Natuur- en landschapsbescherming aan de University Colleges van Cork en Galway. Hij geldt als een expert op het gebied van Ierse hoogveengebieden. Schouten gaat zich in Wageningen richten op de natuurgebieden in de hoger gelegen delen van Nederland. Hij moet een brug slaan tussen het fundamentele ecosysteemonderzoek en de praktijk van het natuurherstel. De leerstoel wordt betaald door de Stichting Bijzondere Leerstoelen Natuurbeheer, een samenwerking van het Prins Bernhardfonds, Natuurmonumenten, Rijkswaterstaat en Staatsbosbeheer. A.S

Last week saw the introduction of a new logo for Wageningen UR. Reactions are mixed. Professional designers are impressed: cool, abstract and sober, just what's needed for an academic establishment. Doubts creep in as to whether it conveys anything to the outside world, however. Meanwhile the internal reactions vary from lukewarm to ignorance of the whole affair. Interpretations are imaginative: My first association was the Arc de Triomphe. An inverted magnet in a bed of pig manure.

Animal welfare could be dramatically improved if selection were to take place at group level rather than individual level. This was the message that Johan van Arendonk stressed in his inaugural speech as personal professor of animal breeding and applied genetics. Selection for food uptake or growth is usually done on the basis of individual animals, but this often leads to the breeding of more aggressive animals. As group housing becomes the vogue this is an undesirable characteristic. Van Arendonk suggests that the average growth of a whole family should be measured. High average growth would indicate that social interaction has a positive effect on welfare and productivity

While we usually think of disasters as one-time discrete events, the eruption of the Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines in 1991 has led to a continuing disaster. Rosana Mula studied the effects on the local population for her PhD research in the Household Studies Group. The annual rains cause a mixture of ash and water (lahar) to flow over the rice fields, leaving a layer behind as hard as cement. Farmers have adopted various strategies to deal with the situation: altering the sowing calendar, emigrating to other areas and cultivation in areas not affected by lahar. Mula argues that the most important consequence of this continuing disaster is the change in social relations: increased labour requirements leads to negotiations for the division of labour and mutual help taking on more importance. Household membership becomes less rigid as solutions to problems are sought. Government help should above all be geared to protecting the rights and claims of people to underpin their survival strategies

How to keep pear trees short, so that fruit production is efficient? This is the challenge facing fruit researchers at the moment. Apples are grafted onto rootstock that has weak growth, but this is less successful for pears. Until recently the chemical growth inhibitor CCC (cycocel or chlormequat) was used, but his has been discredited since dangerously high levels were found in pears. The search for non-chemical alternatives continues. One of these is to introduce water stress, whereby the tree is given just enough water that fruit growth is not affected, but shoot growth is inhibited. Root pruning is the other strategy being tested, a sort of less extreme bonsai technique

This week's translation is of the article on the front page about the call for a European Food and Drug Administration'r

:Musical landscapes

It's not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of similarities, but according to Siv Wiersdalen, landscapes and music do have a lot in common

As part of her landscape architecture study she made a multimedia video on cd-rom that links Dutch water landscapes and music. Wiersdalen, from Norway, is in Wageningen on an Erasmus exchange programme

While still at secondary school Wiersdalen had a drawing teacher who used to listen to music while drawing. That made her aware that drawing and music are both art forms expressing feelings. And music and landscape architecture have a common language as well. In her project, Wiersdalen wanted to make that language explicit by composing music based on images of Dutch river landscapes. The idea is not new, Wiersdalen says, It's an ancient idea. Lots of composers were inspired by landscapes. Think of the Water Music by Handel, and in pop videos people try to express music visually as well. Talking about landscape architecture, a Norwegian scientist, Christian S370rensen said that architecture is frozen music.

Wiersdalen was responsible for all aspects of her project herself, from making the pictures to mixing the video. First she made trips to photograph the landscapes: from the beach at Scheveningen and the port of Rotterdam she followed the Rhine up to Wageningen and Arnhem, went up the river IJssel to the IJsselmeer, ending up at the North Sea again. Returning to WAU with more than 150 slides, she scanned a selection into a computer and mixed them into a slide show. Next she composed music, again herself, using a computer programme called Magix Music. Wiersdalen: One of the aims of the project for me was to learn how to use all the software and make a multimedia cd-rom. I am used to expressing myself on the piano and wanted to use piano music in the video, but technically that wasn't possible. So first of all I had to learn how to compose music using a computer.

The music and the video images that are the result of this whole exercise are both staccato. With the aid of computer manipulation of the slides she was able to simulate movement in the show, to an accompaniment of appropriately menacing music. Wiersdalen: The Dutch landscape is flat and open. Water in Dutch landscapes forms lines and is evenly distributed. Beats and staccato music, like marching music, express the same feelings. The obvious difference between landscapes and music is that landscapes not only give rise to feelings, but are functional as well. People live and work in landscapes. But Wiersdalen sees another similarity right there. People live and work in music as well. I guess you listen to music while typing your text, don't you? J.T., photo S.W

:Football cards for potato growers

The potato forms the core of Dutch arable farming. Economically it is the most important crop, but the downside is that its cultivation also requires a large amount of pesticides

The Dutch are big potato eaters: they consume an average of 85 kg per person each year. Only the Poles eat more: 140 kg annually. The worldwide average lags way behind at 25 kg per person. The potato is not only important for consumers in the Netherlands. Farmers couldn't do without them either: fifty to sixty percent of agricultural income is derived from the humble spud. About one fifth of arable land in Holland is devoted to potato growing, a total of 180,000 hectares, which produce some five million tons annually. If you wanted to store all these potatoes together you'd need a shed the size of a football field with walls 200 metres high! Fifteen percent of the harvest goes directly into the stomachs of the Dutch and the rest is exported or processed

Three categories of potato cultivation take place in the Netherlands: in addition to ware potatoes (those destined for direct consumption and ready-to-eat products), seed potatoes and starch potatoes are also produced. Dutch seed potatoes are world famous. More than 3,000 farmers, nearly all in the province of North Holland, produce 1.2 million tons of seed potatoes. More than 250 different varieties are exported to over eighty countries all over the world. This accounts for sixty percent of the worldwide seed potato production. Ware potatoes are grown in all areas of the Netherlands, and the 84,000 hectares devoted to this forms an area twice as large as that devoted to seed potato production. Of the 3.7 million tons about one million tons are exported, and Germany is the biggest buyer within Europe. Starch potatoes are grown exclusively for the manufacture of potato starch. These are cultivated in old fenland areas, where peat was dug out in the past: in Groningen, Drenthe and Overijssel. The area is gradually declining. In 1998 57,000 hectares produced 1.9 million tons of starch potatoes

Potato production is potentially very profitable for farmers, but this crop is also very susceptible to disease and pests. Worldwide there are more than one hundred serious potato diseases. The result is a form of cultivation that uses a very high amount of pesticides: 2.3 million kg in 1995, 40 percent of the total used for agricultural crops (excluding grassland). Seed potatoes use the most: 20.8 kg active substance per hectare. Only bulbs and greenhouse flowers require more pesticides. Seed potatoes form the basis for future generations of potatoes, and need to be as free from fungi and viruses as possible, especially as they are exported worldwide. Ironically the most popular variety, Bintje, is also one of the most sensitive to diseases and pests

Nevertheless the use of pesticides has been on the decline now for a number of years. This is mainly due to the decrease in soil disinfection measures to fight potato nematodes. In 1986 more than 12,000 tons of pesticides were used to fight these, but this figure has now dropped to 1,800 tons per year. Nematodes are no longer the biggest problem. The prize now goes to the fungus Phytophthora infestans, commonly known as late blight. Every self-respecting plant institute currently devotes some of its resources to the study of this disease. Some are going in search of resistant potato varieties, others are investigating whether growing potatoes under plastic leads to Phytophthora appearing earlier in the year

This year looks like being a bumper year for late blight. At the moment the only way of fighting it is to spray, very regularly, even if no signs of the fungus are visible. The fungus is becoming a thorn in the side of the government, which is trying to enforce reduced use of pesticides. Pesticide use is declining, except for the use of fungicides, which are needed against late blight. Agricultural organisations have presented an ambitious plan to fight the disease, starting with an attack on all potential infection sources. One of the prime sources is refuse heaps, where potatoes from the previous year are left to rot. Covering these heaps with plastic considerably reduces the chance of infection, so a regulation is now in force ordering that all refuse heaps be covered. However, not all farmers are obeying this yet. One agricultural organisation (LTO-Nederland) has come up with a system of red and yellow cards. A farmer who fails to cover a refuse heap receives a red card within a few days, after which the inspection service is alerted. This is followed up with a fine for the farmer. Unfortunately lots of cards have already been handed out. The gravity of the problem is apparently not yet understood

photo Guy Ackermans

Beloon goede en straf slechte docenten

De universiteit moet volgens de raad onderzoeken of de bonus-malusregeling kan worden opgenomen in de arbeidsvoorwaarden voor het personeel bij de volgende cao-onderhandelingen. De studentenraad schrijft dit in een notitie aan de raad van bestuur

De studenten doen in de notitie verschillende suggesties om de kwaliteit van het onderwijs te verbeteren. Zo willen ze een nieuwe onderwijsenqu352te. Het huidige evaluatieformulier (de Muggen-enqu352te) biedt volgens hen te weinig ruimte voor toelichting en geeft te weinig inzicht in de didactische kwaliteiten van de docenten. Het nieuwe enqu352teformulier moet uitgebreiderer zijn en studenten meer ruimte bieden om hun beoordeling toe te lichten, vindt de studentenraad

Die meent verder dat de universiteit nog te weinig doet met de uitkomsten van de enqu352te. Onderwijsinstituten en richtingscommissies moeten strenger optreden tegen docenten die onvoldoendes scoren bij de evaluaties. De studentenraad stelt voor bij een slechte beoordeling een gesprek te organiseren tussen de docent, studenten en vertegenwoordigers van de onderwijscommissies. Bij een tweede slechte beoordeling willen de studenten het onderwijsinstituut betrekken in het gesprek. Helpt ook dat niet, en kan de docent niet aantonen dat hij getroffen is door overmacht, dan moet het onderwijsinstituut een andere docent zoeken voor het vak

Ook het personeelsbeleid voor docenten verdient volgens de studentenraad meer aandacht. Naast het genoemde bonus-malus-systeem willen de studenten dat onderwijs een belangrijk aandachtspunt wordt bij functioneringsgesprekken. Als stimulans voor goede docenten wil de studentenraad dat de universiteit haar onderwijsprijs jaarlijks gaat uitreiken. Nu gebeurt dat om de vier jaar. Op 18 juni bespreekt de studentenraad zijn voorstellen met de raad van bestuur. K.V