Plant breeders are in desperate need of talented employees and Wageningen University (part of Wageningen UR) is fostering that talent. For five years now, these two parties have successfully run the Summer School Green Genetics, organised by Wageningen Academy. From 26 to 30 August 2013, 35 enthusiastic students from around the world learned about plant breeding in Wageningen and were given an inside look at several plant breeding companies.
Widespread interest in Summer School Green Genetics
The 35 Summer School participants were selected from a long list of applicants. “All students were asked to submit a motivation letter,” explains Richard Visser, Professor of Plant Breeding and one of the Summer School’s founders. Lisanne Smulders, a Biomedical Laboratory Research student at Saxion University of Applied Sciences in Deventer, explained what motivated her to join during her second day of Summer School: “An internship at Wageningen UR Plant Breeding was part of my study programme. When I told them I was thinking about doing a Master’s degree at Wageningen University, they immediately gave me a flyer about the Summer School. It’s helping me decide whether this is something I’d like to do or not. And I have to admit, I really love it so far. The classes are interesting and it’s fun to get a look behind the scenes at plant breeding companies.”
They key objective of the Summer School is to show participants what it’s like to work in the seed and plant cultivation industry. This sector is in desperate need of well-trained employees and hopes to inspire young and talented students to opt for a career in ‘green genetics’ – a tactic that has proven successful. The Summer School participants were extremely enthusiastic about the company visits. This, in turn, has inspired several seed and plant cultivation companies, as well as the Seed Valley Foundation, to contribute to the school.
Another key goal is to encourage participants – many of whom are higher vocational students – to enrol in the Master’s programme in Plant Breeding in Wageningen. This goal has also been met. “Every year, three to five Summer School participants apply for the MSc Plant Breeding,” Visser explains.
From far and wide
From Germany and France to Greece and Brazil, students from around the world travelled to Wageningen for the Summer School Green Genetics. Deniz Bueno, Thaís Daz’sasso (both students at the Federal University of Vicosa) and Orlando Maciel (a student at the Federal Rural University of the Amazon) have spent three years studying at CAH Vilentum University of Applied Sciences in Dronten. “Our supervisor there told us about the Summer School in Wageningen and asked us whether we’d be interest in joining. Our immediate response was: ‘Of course!’ Wageningen University is one of the best universities in the world in this field. It’s also by far the most famous Dutch university in Brazil. My professor studied here, too,” Maciel explains with enthusiasm. His fellow students could not agree more. “My teacher in Brazil told me to visit Wageningen while I was in the Netherlands,” says Daz’sasso, who would love to do her PhD here. “I’m going there this week to make some contacts.” Bueno is mainly interested in visiting Dutch seed cultivators. “These are global companies that operate in Brazil as well. I’d like to arrange an internship at the Brazilian branch of one of these companies.”
Wageningen University is not alone in its quest for developing attractive new study programmes: the business community is lending a helping hand as well. The Technological Top Institute Green Genetics, founded by the Dutch plant cultivation sector, is a major Summer School sponsor. Although the institute is being disbanded, Visser believes the Summer School Green Genetics can be continued with the support of individual companies or perhaps by requesting a small donation from the participants themselves. Until now, the Summer School has always been free for participating students.