Jean-Pierre Vandergeten, Director IRBAB

Jean-Pierre Vandergeten














What do you do in your daily life?

I have worked for the IRBAB, the Royal Belgian Institute for Beet Improvement, since 1978. I started as a scientific researcher and since 2010 I have been director. During my career I have worked in all the departments at IRBAB, with the exception of the ‘plant protection’ department. In addition to my tasks as director, I still have responsibility for the ‘mechanisation’ department. This department works on all the mechanical aspects involved in sugar beet production: sowing, hoeing, harvesting and cleaning.


I am currently also vice-chairman of the IIRB (International Institute for Beet Research). From next year I will be chairman for a period of two years. Finally I also hold a position in COBRI, an organisation that includes Belgians, Dutch, Germans, Swedes and Danes. The aim is to approach projects in sugar beet production in the same way in these countries.


Which tasks does IRBAB have?

The IRBAB has been in existence since 1932 and is specialised in applied research into varieties and seed, plant protection, mechanisation, fertilising, storage and quality. The main tasks are focused on sugar beet production; the institute is also active in chicory production. 


The aim of our research is to improve sugar beet yield. The environment is also a very important aspect. We work together every day with the seed producers, the planters and the sugar producers to make sugar beet production as environment-friendly as possible. A good example of this is that since 1980 we have reduced the amount of mineral nitrogen fertilisers required per tonne of beet by more than half, while beet yield has continued to increase.


Finally information and communication also form an important part of our work. For this reason we work together closely with universities, colleagues and public authorities.


What role does Raffinerie Tirlemontoise play in your life?

Of course it’s a very important role! We work together closely to continuously improve sugar beet production on all technical and scientific levels such as the choice of seed, plant protection against leaf diseases, increased sugar content in the beet, beet protection against weather conditions, etc.


You could say that Raffinerie Tirlemontoise and the IRBAB share certain objectives: increased sugar production and improved beet quality together with respect for the environment.


What is your favourite Sugar of Tirlemont?

Raffinerie Tirlemontoise has 3 products that I think are special for different reasons. There are the famous unique Hard Cubes®, RT’s most well-known product. Then you also have the Pearl Sugar that goes so perfectly with Liege waffles. And finally the Cassonade Graeffe® with its delicious taste. Every time I go to France I take a few kilos with me for my French friends.