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New sustainability professor

Tommy Dalgaard from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University has been appointed professor of agriculture and sustainable resource management.

2016.03.04 | Janne Hansen

Tommy Dalgaard has been appointed as professor and will give his inaugural lecture on 15 April 2016.

Aarhus University has a new professor. The man of the hour is 45-year-old Tommy Dalgaard from the Department of Agroecology, who with effect from 1 January 2016 has been appointed Professor with Special Responsibilities in agriculture and sustainable resource management.

 

Some professors dig deep into a subject and become experts in a very narrow field. Tommy Dalgaard does the opposite in his research. He flies high and looks at things from a large perspective. Where some people see trees, others see woods. Tommy Dalgaard, however, sees whole landscapes, with both woods, fields, livestock, ponds and the people who live on and off the land – and he studies the related material and energy balances both nationally and internationally. In other words, to get such a view you need more than just a helicopter – you need both a satellite and a time machine, because the new professor incorporates both time and space in his work.

 

Tommy Dalgaard explains the holistic approach to his subject from the title of his professorship: agriculture and the sustainable use of resources.

 

- The word ’agriculture’ includes the entire agricultural landscape – not simply the individually cultivated fields. The concept ‘sustainability’ includes both the economic, human and environmental aspects. The word ‘use’ which I look at in time and space, for example the type of land use. Finally, the word ‘resources’ which is the soil and the inputs and outputs to agriculture; in other words, the use of the cultivated soil, inputs such as nutrients and energy, and outputs such as maize or milk, explains Tommy Dalgaard.

 

Professor of the big picture

Ever since his Masters study at The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Professor Tommy Dalgaard has endeavoured to create a more detailed picture and wider perspective of the use of the cultural landscape. He completed his Masters degree in agricultural studies in 1996 and has had practical experience as a farmer, as a dairy technician and in carrying out crop experiments as a volunteer with the Tureby-Køge agricultural advisory service.

 

After a spell undertaking vocational folk high school studies, military service and completing his agricultural degree, Tommy Dalgaard was taken on by the then National Institute of Animal Science and subsequently by the Danish Institute of Plant and Soil Science as a scientist and PhD fellow in agroecology. In his PhD study, which included a study trip to University of California, he developed methods to identify suitable scales for accurately measuring the effects of resource use in agriculture.

 

The PhD study was completed in 2001 and Tommy Dalgaard remained in Foulum where he in 2002 became a senior scientist and in 2004 head of a research unit at the Department of Agroecology. In 2012 he also took on the role as coordinator of the MSc programme Agro-Environmental Management at Aarhus University where he also teaches agroecology and agricultural policy, among other things.

 

As a professor of ’the big picture’ Tommy Dalgaard is used to working across disciplines and national boundaries. He incorporates a wide range of areas of expertise and recognised international universities in the research. Knowledge is gathered particularly via EU projects, the supervision of MSc and PhD students from all over the world and as leader of the Danish nitrogen research alliance (dNmark)  covering a range of disciplines such as agronomy, economy, sociology, bio-geography, landscape management, consultancy, geology, health science, culture and society.

 

Agriculture in the past, present and future

Tommy Dalgaard is also co-chair of the UN taskforce on reactive nitrogen resource management in North America, Europe and Russia. The role here is to show and promote good practices for the sustainable use of nitrogen, particularly in relation to the agrifood sector.

 

- We use life cycle assessments and good real-life examples to show how you can use the resources – in this case particularly nitrogen – with respect for the rest of society and the environment. You have to solve the local problem without creating a global problem, says the newly minted professor.

 

Tommy Dalgaard has contributed to more than 200 scientific publications, and in the last five years to more than 50 peer-reviewed publications, but the two authorships that he is the most delighted with are not those that would score the highest points in academic circles.

 

- I am happiest with my contribution to Aarhus University’s splendid series of ‘world books’ on the natural and cultural history of Denmark. I have written articles about agriculture to “Romantikkens Verden” (the world of romanticism), “Modernitetens Verden” (the world of modernity) and “Fremtiden” (the future). I am also very proud to contribute to the prestigious work called “Trap Danmark” where I am writing about farming in Denmark. It is a sort of reference book that is written only once in a generation and only by specially invited authors, says Tommy Dalgaard. He gives top priority to the communication of his extensive knowledge to the wider society.

 

- My mission is to create and communicate knowledge about our need to invest in a more sustainable utilisation of resources. We need to understand the entire spectrum from the purchase of fertiliser to the serving of the food at the table. But instead of seeing it as a linear chain, we need to see it as a circular, biobased economy – in other words a green economy. There has to be value added to all the links in the chain for the benefit of our water resources, the terrestrial landscape, agriculture and people. This is achieved by the recycling of resources, he explains.

 

Professor Tommy Dalgaard will be holding his inaugural lecture entitled “Long-term perspectives for a sustainable use of resources in agriculture – why are investments in the biobased economy so important just now?” on Friday 15 April at 13:00 hours in the auditorium at Foulum (the presentation will be in Danish).

 

For further information please contact: Professor Tommy Dalgaard, Department of Agroecology, e-mail: tommy.dalgaard@agro.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 7746, mobile: +45 2070 6132

Agro, DCA