Our approach

Wageningen University & Research conducts scientific research across the board in the healthy food and living environment domain. This ranges from fundamental to applied research. Much of the research of Wageningen University & Research is connected with the Sustainable Development Goals, some of the major targets are listed below.

The Sustainable Development Goals also provide guidelines for new research projects and programmes and collaborations with our partners.

  • End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  • Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages
  • Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  • Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  • Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  • Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  • Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  • Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Food: Focusing on the total system: careful production and processing of healthy food, sustainable use of soil, water and atmosphere, reduction of inputs of nutrients, auxiliary chemicals and pesticides, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, with special attention to sustainability and animal welfare.

Liveable metropolis: Generating metropolitan solutions in order to arrive at smart cities: cities and metropolitan regions that – in close relationship with the surrounding rural areas – are liveable, healthy, resilient and cyclical.

Clean water: Improving sustainable use and management of ground and surface water, contributing to water purification and tackling salinisation.

Biodiversity: Acquiring insight into System Earth’s capacity for recovery, and possibilities to improve that capacity locally and regionally.

Circular economy: Facilitating the transition to a circular economy founded on biobased raw materials, and studying the social and economic consequences of feed-food-fuel choices.

Well-being: Improving food products and production processes, enhancing healthy choice behaviour and acquiring insight into the role of cultural and behavioural factors.

Examples of our research:

Climate-smart coffee

Coffee production in Colombia is suffering from climate change. Drought, heavy rain and erosion are reducing harvests and placing the income of half a million small farmers at risk. Scientists from WUR are part of a public-private partnership which looks to identify technologies that could reduce cultivation risks. Using climate scenarios, they develop warning systems that indicate the right time to plant, fertilise and carry out pest control in coffee cultivation, and design systems for soil covering that prevent drying out or improve drainage during heavy rains. This was one of the Wageningen Climate Solutions presented during the climate summit in Paris.

Action for climate

While the Paris climate accord was historic, scientists from WUR have found that, even if all the pledges to reduce CO2 emissions are kept, average temperatures will rise far above the agreed 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius. WUR is therefore calling for stricter national plans and more support for initiatives by companies, cities, NGOs and individuals. Agriculture has a key role to play, as a major source of greenhouse gases as well as a sector that captures carbon in soil and vegetation. Government, industry and science must work together to create a climate-smart agriculture.

Read more in Dossier Climate Smart Agriculture 

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More durable seed

The seed of some of our food crops can only germinate for a short period. Onion, lettuce and leek seeds age quickly, even when kept cool and dry. Scientists from WUR found that seed has a much longer shelf-life when stored in an environment that is not only cool, but also how in oxygen. Armed with this knowledge, national gene banks and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault are better fulfilling their mission of preserving the diversity of plants for the future of humanity. This is a good example of how WUR contributes to the quality of life of people across the globe.

For more information, visit Wageningen Seed Centre  

Evolution in Action

Although antibiotics and vaccines have saved many lives, infectious diseases have not disappeared. The number of untreatable infections is even growing due to drug resistance. WUR is therefore trying to understand the genetic adaptability of pathogens: Which evolutionary routes can a fungus or bacterium follow, and what determines the outcome? This will make it easier for us to make predictions of their evolution and give pharmacists and physicians the opportunity to intervene if a new or resistant variant is about to appear. In this respect WUR is working on the health and wellbeing of humans and animals worldwide.

Find out more about prediction of infectious diseases

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More grain in Africa

The population of Africa is growing exponentially. New land available for farming will run out within a few decades and grain yields per hectare will have to rise to avoid food shortages. Scientists from Wageningen University & Research (WUR) have made a Global Yield Gap Atlas that compares current yields to what could theoretically be achieved. This has shown that current harvests often produce no more than a quarter of what is feasible, a figure which could be tripled given better management and fertilisation. African and international decision-makers can use this knowledge to ensure food security in the future as WUR continues to work on the quality of life of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

For more technical information, see the Global Yield Gap Atlas

New banana varieties

Banana is a popular fruit in Europe. In the tropics, it is a staple crop and millions of farmers’ livelihoods depend on its cultivation. All farmers grow the same single variety of banana for export, however, and it is very sensitive to fungi. One type of leaf fungus necessitates pesticide spraying on a massive scale, while a soil fungus is making all banana cultivation impossible in large areas of the world. WUR is developing methods to quickly detect these fungi so as to limit further damage. While the most durable solution would be the development of new varieties of banana, the question then arises as to who should finance this type of research?

More information about panama disease in banana

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