Pan-African Soybean Variety Trials Database Supports Decision-Making Across Africa
This post was written by Erica Leles, Josy Francischini, Michelle Santos and Courtney Tamimie at the Soybean Innovation Lab.
Varietal performance data is a valuable asset that, when properly managed, stored and made accessible through transparent platforms, can support the agricultural seed complex in Africa seeking to register and release new, high-yielding materials for growers.
Large amounts of varietal performance data that are necessary for the registration to commercialization process are generated during a given crop season, including weather, soil attributes, phenotypic characteristics and yield and oil and protein levels. The seed registration to commercialization process also requires data be spatially distributed and replicated, which in turn adds both to the complexity and volume of collected data. The challenge is how to collect, store and convert these data from diversified sources and formats into an integrated database capable of providing useful conclusions to support the goals of the soybean value chain, including growers, breeders, seed companies and processors.
The Soybean Innovation Lab, through our Pan-African Soybean Variety Trial (PAT) program, effectively stores, manages and makes transparent a current dataset involving over 11,000 unique observations, across trials conducted in 24 countries and over 100 locations, to support decision-making by the soybean value chain in Sub-Saharan Africa. The PAT database expands by thousands of observations every year. This robust database involves a cross section of data on yield, phenotype, disease, protein and oil concentration with associated data on weather, soils, latitude and elevation.
This robust dataset, involving thousands of observations, is used to compare locations, countries, lines and traits across seasons. Soybean stakeholders can leverage this dataset to:
- Provide the performance data needed for varietal registration and licensing.
- Guide seed producers as to which varieties to target for their licensing needs and new product offerings.
- Define maturity groups, allowing farmers to select the right variety for their location, which reduces variability and improves productivity, and also allows seed companies to effectively market their products.
- Allow processors to better understand how variety and location impact protein and oil concentration, critical metrics for their sourcing needs.
- Identify rust-resistant soybean varieties and serve as an early warning system for emerging diseases and threats due to the year-round planting and harvesting nature of the PAT network.
- Support soybean researchers interested in topics related to gene-environment interaction (GxE) effects, as the same varieties are tested under the same methodology across varied locations and environments.
Data storage, access and data sharing
One mission of the Soybean Innovation Lab is to provide researchers, extensionists, the private sector, non-governmental organizations and funders operating across the entire value chain the critical information needed for the successful advancement of soybean development in Africa. The program consortium leverages its role as an independent third party and its unique access to international, regional and national supplies of high-yielding and disease-resistant germplasm to swiftly bring new varieties to market.
More data means more evidence
Data sharing encourages more connection and collaboration between researchers, which can result in important new findings within the field. In a time of reduced monetary investment for science and research, data sharing is more efficient because it allows researchers to share resources. With a unique way of sharing data, and through strong public-private sector collaborations, the PATs offer transparency and accessibility, reducing isolation among independent breeding programs.
Today, the PAT network involves 65 organizations, institutions and companies across 28 countries, with close to 50% of network members coming from the private sector. The network comprises 133 individuals, with over half working in private sector companies or businesses.
The PAT database has already supported the registration of seven new soybean varieties for farmers in Ghana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali and Uganda, with 10 more in the registration pipeline in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia.
Anyone interested in accessing the PAT data can do so on online using SIL’s searchable and downloadable Tropical Soybean Information Portal (TSIP). The TSIP is a curated repository of information related to tropical soybean production, processing and utilization. The interactive homepage map on the portal serves as a data visualization tool containing geotagged trial and operator information on soybean variety performance, yields and economic returns in response to different agronomic inputs. Users can also read and download industry extension reports from all countries involved in the PAT program.