dr.ir.ing. AGT (Tom) SchutUniversitair hoofddocent
Growing up in a family of dairy farmers means that farming is in my blood. But so were allergies for cows! Therefore, a switch to a MSc in soil, water and atmosphere was made. A strong interest in environmental issues related to Dutch farming systems resulted in a thesis on modelling nitrate leaching of De Marke (Hack-ten Broeke et al., 1999) and I graduated as a spatial soil scientist. In my PhD, I focussing on the use of imaging spectroscopy to monitor and quantify growth, assess nutrient and water deficiency and quantify the nutritive value of grass. A mobile version of the system was also tested in the field (Schut et al., 2006). My focus expanded further while working in Australia for a period of 8 years, focusing on monitoring of both grazing (Mundava et al., 2015) and cropping systems (Schut et al., 2009) and identifying refugia for native vegetation in relation to climate change (Schut et al., 2014). The drastic changes in the Mediterranean climates of Australia fueled my interest in sustainability of farming systems in relation to land use change and loss of landscape productivity, a project with PBL Assessment Agency for the Environment (Schut et al., 2015). The important role of trees is evident. The work of PhD student Alain Ndoli (Ndoli et al., 2017; 2018) shows that there are clear trade-offs with agriculture, with net negative impact of trees on crops in smallholder landscapes that are amplified when increasing fertilization.
Other projects include STARS-ISABELA (Mali), focussing on the use of UAVs (drones) to provide cropping information to the agricultural value chain (Bleas et al., 2016; Schut et al., 2018).
My interest in spatialising agronomy for efficient agriculture resulted in the Geodatics project http://www.geodatics.net/, where fertilizer recommendations were tailor-made for smallholder farmers in Kenya and Tanzania. Via PhD students, other aspects of spatialised agronomy are explored, e.g. in the TAMASA project focussing on soil catenas and UAV assessments (Elias Nagol) and in ACAI project focussing on yield and nutrient requirement and uptake patterns of Cassava in major climate zones (Joy Adiele). Other interests focusses on improved agronomy of perennial crops including e.g. Banana in Uganda (Hannington Bukomeko) and Cocoa in Nigeria (Deo-Gratias Hougni).
Recent interests are in exploring future scenarios for circular agriculture and its impacts on Dutch agriculture, environment and society. One of the key questions will be how to use the available land in the best possible manner to reduce impacts of food production on biodiversity and greenhouse gass emissions. Again a matter of efficient spatialised agronomy!