In an effort to introduce new technology into plant breeding programs, members of the Poland Lab at Kansas State University have developed several free PhenoApps for collecting data with Android smartphones and tablets. By fundamentally designing these tools for plant breeders and geneticists, the group hopes to improve specific areas in the plant breeding process where data management remains difficult.
Field Book, developed to replace paper field books, gives breeders a simple interface to collect data on field research plots. It was created because other digital note-taking tools were too complex, didn’t allow for fast and flexible data entry, or were prohibitively expensive. Field Book reduces transcription errors, seamlessly collects metadata, and allows for rapid data analysis. Data collected is further enhanced because of its digital nature, providing the ability to capture photos and other custom data types.
OneKK is an app designed to analyze seed lots. Its name comes from the one thousand (1K) kernel weight commonly used as a selection criterion in plant breeding programs. OneKK extracts individual seed length, width, and area from images captured by phone and tablet cameras. Reference circles of known size are included to translate the pixel measurements of seeds to actual size. For measurement of thousand kernel weight, the total number of seeds are counted and divided by the total weight.
Inventory is an app that interfaces with a USB Scale to quickly weigh and categorize barcoded samples such as seed stocks or harvest bags. In addition to the Box and Sample ID, a timestamp and the name of the inventory taker are collected. Data is exported to a text file that can be directly uploaded to a central database. Inventory makes collecting weight data significantly faster, decreasing the amount of time needed for data collection and increasing plant breeding efficiency.
Coordinate is a data collection app based on defining templates and then collecting data in grids created from those templates. Templates are highly customizable including custom fields for metadata collection, row and column naming, and rules for cell exclusion. All collected data is saved internally and can be exported. Coordinate comes with two default templates: a seed tray used for organizing samples to be planted and a DNA plate used for associating tissue sample names with specific wells.
One of the principal advantages of relying on a mobile platform is that it allows updates and new features to be rapidly disseminated to users. These freely available and open-source apps have been installed more than 2400 times across the world. More information about all of these apps can be found on the Poland Lab website (www.wheatgenetics.org/apps) or by emailing Trevor Rife (firstname.lastname@example.org). Future PhenoApps will address additional data bottlenecks in breeding programs including managing crossing blocks, collecting specific geospatial data, analyzing root phenotypes, and further ensuring data integrity.
About the author:
Dr Eng Hwa NG, Theme Leader- Forward Breeding, Genetic Gains Program, ICRISAT.