MEET OUR SCIENTISTS
Jeroen Van Rie: The Adventurer
Dr. Jeroen Van Rie attaches high priority to nature – both in his private and professional life. In his free time, the Belgian scientist enjoys adventure holidays – and feels most comfortable when man and environment are in harmony.
I don’t see any contradiction between my life close to nature and my work as a researcher. It’s because I like nature that my private interests and my job fit together.
Some of my friends are surprised that I’m a researcher at Bayer. “You’re so green” is a comment I’ve heard more than once. I’m very close to nature and have been since my childhood. Today, I still like observing nature, birds especially. I like birds of prey because of their elegance, and power. I’m green at heart, that’s true, but I don’t see any contradiction between that and my work as a researcher at Bayer. It’s because I like nature that my private interests and my job fit together.
A growing number of people need to be fed
I currently spend most of my time on a research program where we want to improve the photosynthesis of crop plants. Our task is important in a global context. The amount of farmland remains the same – or is even decreasing–, but a growing number of people need to be fed. I want to contribute, and protect nature, at the same time.
Obtaining improved photosynthesis in a plant is a bit like installing a stronger engine in a car. We may be able to do this for example by increasing the abundance of some enzymes in key photosynthesis reactions, or by expressing a ’faster’ enzyme, by modifying the light distribution throughout the crop canopy, or by having plants react faster to changing environmental conditions. These modifications will likely result in more biomass being produced, and we hope that – perhaps in combination with other modifications – a significant part of the extra biomass will end up in the grains. Therefore, such improvements in photosynthesis will likely help to increase crop yield. Higher crop productivity without a requirement for additional inputs is needed for a sustainable solution to the challenge of global food security.
A second component of my work is a contribution to our efforts in making plants resistant to insect pests – not by applying an active substance to plants, but by genetically modifying their DNA. The plants produce their own insecticidal protein to protect them against the larvae of a certain moth, for example. We’re in a race that is difficult to win because insect pests like beetles and moths can adapt. That’s evolution. Our challenge is to delay this adaptation by insect populations for as long as possible. On my first trip to Kansas – I found out why a certain moth species is resistant to a certain bacterial protein. That was a fairly groundbreaking discovery at the time and got me an article in the renowned journal “Science”.
Discovering the World and A Life in Harmony
In my free time, I enjoy long trips to different corners of the world and I try to capture the beauty of the landscapes in pictures. The most beautiful experience I’ve had out in nature was a trip by kayak off the coast of Alaska. I’ve also journeyed to Ladakh, one of the most isolated parts of India. We came to a village during our trek, and I was so impressed by the harmony between the people and the wilderness that surrounded them. Nothing works by itself. We’re all part of one big whole – of this, I’m convinced. Living in harmony with nature is the most wonderful way of life as far as I’m concerned.
CV. DR JEROEN VAN RIE
1964 Born in Brugge, Belgium
1987 Thesis at University of Gent in agricultural engineering, biotechnology section – qualified as agricultural engineer with great distinction
1987-1991 PhD Thesis in agricultural sciences, qualified 1991 with greatest distinction with the congratulations of the examination committee
1992 Scientist, Plant Genetic Systems, N.V., Gent, Belgium
1998 Senior scientist, Aventis CropScience NV/Bayer BioScience, N.V., Gent, Belgium
2005 Scientific expert, Bayer BioScience N.V., Gent, Belgium
2008 Fellow expert, Bayer BioScience N.V./Bayer CropScience N.V., Gent, Belgium