Letter from the Dean

Last changed: 19 August 2020
Porträttfoto av Göran Bergkvist.

“Realize ideas in the doubling project”

The spring just arrived, it felt like summer and I was worried about incipient drought and crops that don´t emerge due to water shortage. My troubled mind was somewhat calmed by a snowfall that I, at the time of writing, was passing with the train somewhere in Sörmland. I have just co-organized and participated in a meeting on cover crops arranged by FältForsk subject groups Water and Cropping Systems on the theme "Cover crops". 

The great services with cover crops

At the meeting, researchers, advisers, farmers, officials at the Swedish Board of Agriculture, county administrative boards and municipalities discussed the benefits of cover crops, what restricts the use and what knowledge is lacking in order to be able to use them better for sustainable intensification of cropping systems. After last summer's drought, when the fields were full of easily available nitrogen and the crops were harvested early, it became clear what great services that can be achieved with cover crops.

During the meeting it also became clear that there are much more we need to know about how different cover crop species affect pathogens, how different management affect the carbon and nitrogen cycles, the importance of mixing species, and much more. These meetings between academia and stakeholders give me lots of energy and I spent much of the journey home amending an application to SLU EkoForsk.

The so often recurring feeling "that SLU is at the center of the challenges of the future" emerged. Others may surely find that cover crops are peripheral in soicietal perspective, but not me. For me, this is a sign of a society in transition that requires the attention of me and other SLU researchers.

The eagerly awaited Excel-file with information about the number of applicants to SLU's education programs rolled into my e-mail some time ago. It looked very good in some parts, but the long programs related to agriculture had no more applicants than previous years in spite of much efforts and good job opportunities. 

The doubling project feels just right

The doubling project and its consequences feels just right. With a three plus two-arrangement, we have the opportunity to invest in our MSc programs and take up the competition with the best universities in Europe on agrarian academic education. I hope we can build a crop production oriented MSc program, whatever the name on it should be, where we attract a large number of students from Europe and the world and that is world-class.

The agricultural students specialized in soil and plants take their MSc in soil science or biology. The student base is not enough for a program focused on crop production, but with the replenishment of foreign students, and with Swedish students more motivated to go for an MSc program, we can probably develop the missing courses. 

We particularly miss advanced courses with a system perspective focused on crops and cropping systems, as well as and farming systems. I hear the creativity is growing in many places in the departments, when it comes to creating new programs. This enthusiasm promise well for the future.

The spring stress is over

As Vice Dean of Agricultural Sciences, I think it is appropriate to note that the worst spring stress is over on SLU Lövsta Field Research Station. Everything that should been sown at this time is sown. Only maize and some legumes are left to sow. I guess the situation is similar on SLU Lanna, but that there are some more time needed at Röbäcksdalen.

It really feels like the field research has gained momentum, not least thanks to the investments made by the NJ faculty at Lövsta, but also with help of the food strategy. Do not hesitate to contact the managers at the respective field research station if you need help with conducting experiments. They are there for you.

Göran Bergkvist
Vice Dean Agricultural Science

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