During the month of September, the Early Stage Researchers on CerealPath had the opportunity to participate in the Zürich-Basel Plant Science Center's summer school. Over the course of an intensive week, the ESRs participated in workshops and seminars and took part in a field trip to Agroscope, the Swiss centre of excellence for agricultural research. The ESRs were joined by a number of other junior researchers from a number of Swiss universities and research centres.
The summer school, which was split between Einsiedeln in the Canton of Schwyz and the Agroscope facility at Reckenholz just north of Zürich city, looked at the overarching theme of "Agriculture in Transformation: New Concepts for an Agricultural Production that is Socially Fair, Environmentally Safe and Economically Viable".
Future demand in agricultural output is supposed to match the needs of 9 billion people with less input of resources. With this problem in mind, the course looked to examine if and how we can transform current agricultural practices and move beyond existing paradigms to develop innovative and sustainable agriculture production systems.
Participants in the course benefitted from talks, seminars and workshops from a host of international experts in fields such as concepts and best practice in agro-ecological farming, sustainable food systems, governance and sustainable intensification, ethics in agriculture, the protection and improvement of rural livelihoods and transitions to sustainable agriculture.
A mix of autonomous learning, group projects and presentations and role-playing and gamification tools was used to bring the topics to life. Participants also had to develop a team-based case study report and presentation, which was made on the final day hosted at the Agroscope centre at Reckenholtz.
Many of the participants have a firm understanding of the biology of agricultural systems but many have not had any exposure to the more human facets of farming. The summer school provided a unique opportunity to develop new skills and to look at the wider issues surrounding scientific developments for the betterment of agriculture in the future.
CerealPath would like to sincerely thank Dr Melanie Paschke and Dr Carole Rapo of the Zürich-Basel Plant Science Center for putting together such an extensive portfolio of talks and exercises and for allowing our ESRs to avail of this unique opportunity. We would also like to extend our sincere thanks the numerous speakers at the course, who gave up time to talk to the candidates share their knowledge and ultimately open up the minds of these young researchers to issues that go beyond just lab work.
A publication from the summer school will be published later this year. Further details will be posted on this website.