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Harmonizing crop trait data: Crop Ontology

Sorghum varieties in Tanzania. Credit: Bioversity International/J. Van De Gevel

To improve crops and adapt them to changing environments, researchers need access to a broader pool of information on plant genetic diversity. To address this gap of knowledge, Crop Ontology was developed. Read more in this 2013 Annual Report story.

To improve crops and adapt them to changing environments, researchers need access to a broader pool of information on plant genetic diversity, which not only explains the interaction between a genotype and its environment, but also identifies its genetic basis and heritability of its adaptive traits. To address this gap of knowledge, eight CGIAR centres and their national partners developed Crop Ontology.

This open-source tool provides scientists and breeders with a common language that describes crop phenotypes and interprets descriptions provided by farmers for the performance of the varieties they prefer.

Led and developed by bioinformatics experts at Bioversity International, Crop Ontology houses standard lists of crop traits, methods and scales for breeders’ field books and crop information systems.

Bioversity International scientist and Crop Ontology project leader, Elizabeth Arnaud, reported some impressive figures from 2013: “Currently, it [Crop Ontology] boasts trait descriptions for 17 crops: cassava, banana, barley, chickpea, common bean, cowpea, groundnut, lentil, maize, pearl millet, pigeon pea, potato, rice, soybean, sorghum, wheat and yam. A total of 146 breeders, students and professors were trained in the use of the field book to record field evaluation data in 27 countries using the Crop Ontology traits.”

Crop Ontology is currently being used for data annotation by the International Cassava Database, Wageningen University and Research Centre, and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security’s repository of evaluation trials.

This story was featured in Bioversity International's 2013 Annual Report.

Read the entire Annual Report 2013 here.

Photo: Sorghum varieties in Tanzania. Credit: Bioversity International/J. Van De Gevel

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