Het grote belang van de wetenschap voor de landbouw

AMSTERDAM – In de Mekong-delta oogsten boeren 6-7 ton rijst per hectare in droge seizoenen en 4-5 ton per hectare in natte seizoenen, waarbij ze gebruik maken van snel rijpende rijstvariëteiten die drie opeenvolgende oogsten per jaar mogelijk maken. West-Afrikaanse rijstboeren oogsten daarentegen jaarlijks slechts 1,5 ton per hectare van de traditionele rijstvariëteit voor het hoogland, terwijl andere graansoorten niet meer dan één ton opleveren – een oogst die vergelijkbaar is met de opbrengst in Europa tijdens de middeleeuwen.

Zulke grote verschillen zijn onnodig. De proliferatie van landbouwtechnologie – van efficiëntere machines tot grotere oogsten opleverende en robuustere gewasvariëteiten – kan de productiviteitskloof aanzienlijk verkleinen, ook al blijven de verschillen tussen klimaten en producenten uiteraard bestaan.

Een nieuwe variëteit van de Afrikaanse hooglandrijst, Nerica, verdrievoudigt bijvoorbeeld de jaarlijkse opbrengst. Op dezelfde manier hebben de afgelopen vier decennia betere fokmethoden, beter voedsel en betere veterinaire zorg de gemiddelde melkproductie wereldwijd meer dan verdubbeld. Niettemin blijven de regionale verschillen enorm: koeien in Nederland kunnen jaarlijks ruwweg 9000 liter melk produceren, terwijl zeboes in de tropen slechts ongeveer 300 liter voortbrengen.

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