The future needs farmers: A Q&A with agriculture expert Dr. André Drenth

Filed Under: EARTH News
Date: June 21st, 2019

Internationality and strong cooperative partnerships have long enabled EARTH University to be a space for vibrant academic and cultural exchange. With the aim of contributing to the processes of education and continual development of our students, faculty and staff, the University constantly seeks opportunities to organize exchanges, provide conferences, offer webinars and more.

Thanks to the work of EARTH Professor Luis Pocasangre, we recently enjoyed a visit from Dr. André Drenth – a Dutch academic from the University of Queensland, Australia. Drenth is a professorial research fellow at the Centre for Horticultural Science and an expert in plant pathology – especially tropical crop diseases. He presented to the EARTH campus community a seminar about the cavendish banana’s vulnerability to emerging diseases.

Below is a Q&A we held with Drenth.

Why did you decide to visit EARTH?

Visiting EARTH University is an opportunity to learn from you about banana production and biomanagement of Moko* disease.

So, how can Moko be controlled? In Australia, Moko is an exotic disease; that is why we are interested in learning how to appropriately handle it. Luis (Professor Pocasangre) has been showing us several ways of dealing with, controlling and eradicating it. That has been of great help to us.

In general, I have been very interested in coming to Costa Rica. I have heard many good things about EARTH University, how it works, the people who are here, how students are prepared. I must say that I am extremely impressed by that and the philosophy behind the University.

*Moko is a bacterium that affects plantain and banana crops, among others. It is transmitted through insects, water, contaminated seeds and tools, and workers’ shoes.

Why does agricultural science represent a great opportunity for young people?

Agriculture is very important because viable alternatives for producing food do not exist. We all need to eat three times per day. So, we need people who are trained in different methods of farming. That is why practical experiences in agriculture, what EARTH does, the way it prepares young people to solve problems – especially sustainably – are incredibly important.

The world cannot survive without farmers. Due to automation and large-scale production, the farming population keeps shrinking. Today, there are fewer farmers than there were 100 years ago. I believe we have arrived at a critical moment in which we must ensure that we have enough young farmers for the future, and I believe that EARTH University plays an important role in that.

What do you see in store for agriculture?

Agriculture has a promising future because there will be more people who want to eat more and better. Even if you have a lot of money and resources, your food continues being produced through agriculture. That is why, in general, it has a great future and people participate in it – there is no alternative. We will always have agriculture, but we need our practices to be better, more sustainable and to react to the challenges of both climate change and new diseases. We must work locally so that we all can find a sustainable way to produce enough food.