Does germplasm documentation need a social networking makeover?

The story so far:

John Cho is a plant pathologist and taro breeder at the University of Hawaii. A few days ago he posted a youtube video on his Facebook wall. It shows some very successful trial results from the Dominican Republic. The experiment in question is the evaluation for taro leaf blight resistance of some hybrids from Dr Cho’s breeding programme. Unfortunately, the interview with pathologists Drs Graciela Godoy and Miguel Martínez of the Instituto Dominicano de Investigaciones Agropecuarias y Forestales (IDIAF) is in Spanish, and John doesn’t speak that language. So he asked his Facebook friends to help, and one of them, an agronomist from Puerto Rico, sent him a translation.

But it doesn’t stop there. A discussion develops. Here it is, reproduced verbatim, time stamps and all, with the kind permission of the participants:

John Cho – Muchas garcias, looks like 3 of my taro hybrids are very tolerant to taro leaf blight in the Dominican Republic. That is great! Let’s hope that IDIAF will start breeding for tolerant materials with Bun Long attributes.
January 22 at 4:44am

John Cho – Carlos, I checked to see what hybrids corresponded to the tolerant ones mentioned by Miguel and they are the following: H2 is 2002-21f, H4 is 2000-109, H6 is MS3. I think that I also sent those 3 to you for trials as well.
January 22 at 4:54am

Carlos Emilio Ortiz-Malavé – 21f did well here, MS3 grew too slow to be considered in the afirmative. 109 was not among the ones we received in the the first lot. Ill b checking If I have it among the ones you sent May 2008. I ran out of $$ for evaluations, but Im asking for permition to continue. I let you know on the results of these actions.

John Cho – Carlos, the genetic background are the following: H2 or 2002-21f = India x [Pwetepwet x Maui Lehua]; H4 or 2000-109 = [Red Moi x PH15-11] x Maui Lehua; H6 or MS3 = Maui Lehua x Sushi. Background for the parents are the following: India = a variety collected by Vincent Lebot in 1991 from the marketplace in India; Pwetepwet = a Micronesian line tolerant to TLB; Maui Lehua = a hybrid variety selected from a cross between 2 Hawaiian varieties (thought to be a cross between Piialii and Lehua Maoli); Red Moi = a Hawaiian variety; PH15 = a TLB tolerant variety from Papua New Guinea; Sushi = a TLB tolerant variety from Micronesia.
Yesterday at 3:36am

Carlos Emilio Ortiz-Malavé – Thank you John for the information, part of which you provide me for the Res. Note under evaluation. I should stress that among the Hawaiian Hybrids we tested 19F was by far the best adapted -really the best regarding over all horticultural performance- although 21F did well. Did you sent 19F to de Dom. Rep.? This will be my choice as parent for crossing to Lila-BunLong
18 minutes ago

Carlos Emilio Ortiz-Malavé – John; Im wondering if 109 at the Dominican Republic is the same genotype as 19 in Puerto Rico (that is, with an “0” missing between 1 and 9. Thats because this 109-19 wast among the best performers. And because looks to me that we should have the same genotypes. Illl check the original documentation and be back with you.
about a minute ago

And so on. Now, my question is this. What is likely to lead to more use of a germplasm collection: this kind of open-ended discussion, or tables of accession x descriptor results?

Just asking.

6 Replies to “Does germplasm documentation need a social networking makeover?”

  1. yes scientists do use social network tools like the common of human being! It is not incompatible with using books, inventories and databases. Someone may need to see the papers or refer to the measurements made that enable a validation of the statements made in this discussion.

    I would suggest tagging this discussion with few keywords (perhaps using an automatic ‘tagger’ ), e.g. the name of the varieties involved in the pedigrees and trait names so we could link this discussion to a web site, to the content of a scientific or bibliographic database or a photos repository, etc …. Google search on the full discussion text could be enabled by the person launching the discussion and with authorization of all contributors.

    It reminds me the happy days of the Forum for the Banana Taxonomy Group. However, a forum needs an active moderator to remain alive while Facebook is self moderated and acts as an amplifier. Social networks is another comtemporary way of sharing science!

  2. Does this type of discussion occur naturally? Or do we need something to motivate it? … Maybe we should do something about it?

    We could write up a project and find somebody to fund it. Maybe it would be a risky project — social networking for crop improvement (genetic resources use)… But would it be any riskier than the current database hell projects?

    Luigi? Simone? Elizabeth?

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