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Farmers to see benefit from open-research platform

grinvalds/Getty Images Farmer in corn field using digital tablet for smart farming
BETTER DATA: A new international collaboration is working to standardize research data to boost results and analysis for ag research. Better use of data can also improve rising use of artificial intelligence in agriculture.
Consortium for Precision Crop Nutrition and Agmatix have created an open-data crop nutrition platform that can bolster future research.

A lot of agricultural research is going on around the world, but the results aren’t easily available to other researchers. Recently, the Consortium for Precision Crop Nutrition and Agmatix announced the launch of a global platform designed to drive international research collaboration, and expand open access to crop nutrient data for farmers and others related to agriculture.

“To be honest, what we’ve created here is primarily something that will benefit researchers,” says Achim Dobermann, chief scientist for the International Fertilizer Association (IFA). “So it is not something that a farmer would use directly; but indirectly, we expect they will benefit from it with more shared data resources that we are creating.”

The key is the ability to unlock research that may be stored away or in formats that aren’t common, and make them available for greater use. The new platform includes two active databases, which can serve as a key open-data resource for agricultural researchers and professionals who conduct field trials on soil fertility and crop nutrition.

The system lets users not only contribute to the data, but also benefit from the data sets. The platform has already resulted in a published paper estimating nutrient use and storage in corn.

Ron Baruchi, president and CEO of Agmatix, explains that the role of his company is to standardize and fuse data from research and field data. “What we’ve done here with IFA and other partners is exactly this: using the same platform and technology we developed but in a larger scale,” he says, “but also in an open platform, which is a unique approach because practically everyone can join the platform and either download the data or analyze it.”

Challenge of data

Those research reports and field trials done across universities and companies around the world can be a treasure trove of information. Agmatix has developed a process that allows pulling that information into a common format, opening research to a wider audience. And the company is digitizing information that has been sitting on bookshelves, too.

The ability to create a standardized database has value to current and future research. For example, IFA and Wageningen University and Research have developed a database looking at factors affecting nutrient concentrations to determine the total amount of nutrients removed from the field in the harvested crop.

A second database created in collaboration with IFA, the African Plant Nutrition Institute and Innovative Solutions for Decision Agriculture includes data from researchers and institutes around the globe. The focus is to support site-specific recommendations to optimize nutrient management by enabling researchers to compare crop nutrition requirements and plans.

Adds Dobermann: “The information collected via this database will be invaluable in improving our understanding of ongoing trends in crop nutrient uptake and removal. This will make it easier to create decision support systems to determine how to optimize crop production in a sustainable way.”

Looking for partners

The two new databases created as part of this collaboration will enhance research knowledge regarding crop nutrient use. Dobermann is also looking to bolster the platform with more data from different groups.

“Many people have collected such data, but most of the time it sits in their own spreadsheets and even odd publications,” he says. “This is not necessarily shared widely and freely. And then if you get into the private sector, where people collect this kind of data usually for their own use, that’s limited.”

Dobermann says as more data becomes available in a more standard format, there’s another benefit. “We can actually do more of the artificial intelligence analytical work with [the information],” he says. “Instead of just assuming some kind of average concentration of nutrients that may be quite far from the truth, we will be more accurate.”

Boosting available data to the ag research community becomes more important as farmers work to raise efficiency in their operations. New tools like this new database, in the end, offers farmers more tools to boost input efficiency.

TAGS: Technology
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