Relational Database: Jargon or Jewel?

Data management software for plant breeding has dramatically evolved during the past decade.  Systems available in today’s marketplace offer added benefits, such as global access, varying security permissions and data configurations that developers a decade ago only dreamed of. Today’s plant breeding software can give scientists a true competitive edge.

Not very long ago data management was overwhelming when handling multiple years of data or even multiple crop portfolios. This might still be the case for breeders who are using software that’s not designed for the task at hand.

As a former breeder, I know it’s more important than ever to easily enter data, compare data and analyses over multiple years, as well as locations, regardless of crop type. I also know that data can accumulate very fast and that is where time management and optimal decision-making can be heightened through proper data management.

This is where a relational database management system excels. Now what exactly is a relational database management system, or RDBS as it’s known in the tech world? Essentially, it’s a database where all the data is interconnected for the maximum advantage of the breeder.

When it comes to plant breeding, a RDBS should do be able to perform tasks like:

  • Link data across generations to see the response to selection. For example, if I’m looking at an F5 population, I can see where it came from with the stroke of a key, and this helps in the selection process.
  • Link the parents and their data to every cross and all the generations. For example, if I’m looking at an F4, I should be able to easily view parental data. If one parent is resistant and one is susceptible and all my genotypes are susceptible, somewhere I’ve made a mistake.
  • Link DNA information or markers to any genotype in the whole breeding program for legal compliance or improved selection processes.
  • Easily pull all the data for a specific genotype or several. When it’s time to register a variety for release, depending on the country, the breeder must provide documentation of where it was planted, all the data associated with those plantings and from which populations it was derived. This alone could save your team two to three weeks of time, depending on the methods currently used.
  • Quickly and easily compare hybrids or varieties “head-to-head” from hundreds of trials — crucial in any seed company’s success for releasing the next superior royalty paying hybrid or variety.

A relational database connects data in a way that’s useful and meaningful for a breeder. That helps to increase profits and regain or maintain a competitive edge.