Pushing Spreadsheets with your PhD?

- Dieter Mulitze

Do you know how much time you, or plant breeders within your company, spend looking at spreadsheets? It might surprise you. I’ve recently had conversations with leaders at one large seed company who estimate breeders there spend about 20 percent of their time looking at spreadsheets. That’s more than two months out of the year. I have to ask: What does that cost the company? And what does it cost the plant breeder?

As a breeder, losing 20 percent of your time to managing and analyzing spreadsheets is significant. How else might you spend that time? Reading journals and scientific literature. Keeping up with industry innovations. Evaluating the data and making better decisions. If you don’t have time, or your time in these other areas is limited, your professional career might be jeopardized or hindered.

I often hear breeders say they don’t have enough time to go through and compare data, especially if they have a lot of data, across a lot of traits and years. Imagine if one of those months was spent carefully looking at and evaluating the data. Would different decisions be made, and how might that affect the direction and success of your breeding program? This ultimately impacts the quality and number of hybrids or varieties a company might bring to market, and the value they deliver to growers.

As a company, if your breeders aren’t spending time reading journals and scientific literature, they’re not bringing new knowledge and ideas into the company. Both the plant breeder and the company might be missing out on opportunities to get in front of a technology, in terms of education, adoption and implementation — and not even know it. How tragic!

Furthermore, by not adopting `plant breeding software, companies might be hurting their recruitment and retention efforts. For young plant breeders or those coming from other companies where they’ve been exposed to or used software based on a relational database, it’s extremely frustrating to go backward and have to work in Excel spreadsheets. They know there are better and more efficient ways that are far more powerful.

Think about it — would you give up your smartphone of today for the old phone that used to hang, or still is, on your kitchen wall? No. It’s clunky. It’s only good for one thing. And you’re limited as to how far you can go from the receiver.

Don’t allow your PhDs to push spreadsheets. There are far better things they can do with their time that will ultimately help the overall company.