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Training scientists in maize information management

During 19-21 June 2012, researchers, technicians, and students from the Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA), Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA), Improved Maize for African Soil (IMAS), and Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) projects attended a course on the use of Fieldbook at the Kiboko Research Station, Kenya. The objective of the training was to familiarize technicians and students with Fieldbook, a tool developed by CIMMYT maize breeders for managing experiments and data analysis using R software. Participants learnt how to create an inventory, a seed increase nursery, a nursery to form single crosses, and a stock list. The course also covered consolidating inventories, generating trials, and data analysis for single- and multi-location sites.

Yoseph Beyene, CIMMYT maize breeder, explained that Fieldbook is used to prepare seed for nurseries and trials, make field books and maps, generate stock lists for different pollinations, manage stocks and trial data, conduct statistical analysis, apply selection indices, maintain and manage pedigree information, and generate shipment lists, labels, and bar codes. He also noted the flexibility of the tool; while it is tailored to maize, it can be adapted for other crops as well.

Reiterating the importance of the training, Stephen Mugo, CIMMYT principal scientist/maize breeder and team leader of the IRMA and WEMA projects, gave an overview of CIMMYT global research and explained its guiding principles: demand driven, high impact partnerships (public and private); cutting edge science; state-of-the-art technologies; and effectiveness, efficiency, and quality.

The training was appreciated by both young and experienced researchers, who considered it crucial for understanding Fieldbook concepts. “The training was timely and inspiring. I never imagined that creating nursery and trial designs could be achieved in less than 10 minutes, provided one has the technical knowhow of using the Fieldbook software,” said James Mwololo, a PhD student at Makerere University, Uganda. “I gained the skills and knowledge on how the Fieldbook can be used in managing breeding programs, right from nursery and trial designing, planting, data collection, and data analysis based on R and SAS interfaces. This forms a strong foundation for my career development as a researcher in the plant breeding context, because I will be able to establish and manage sound breeding programs,” he added.

Lewis Machida, who was first exposed to Fieldbook in 1997 but never received any formal training on its use, also appreciated the course: “The training gave me the opportunity to learn what I didn’t know about using Fieldbook,” he said. The participants were encouraged to continue using Fieldbook, as it is the only way to become proficient in its use. The training was facilitated by Mugo, Beyene, Andrew Chavangi, and Joseph Kasango.