A central library housing all of New Zealand’s historic and future pasture and crop growth and yield data, accessible to all, was the vision for Lincoln University’s Professor Derrick Moot.

The Agyields database has come to fruition thanks the forward thinking of Professor Moot, executed with funding from the T.R. Ellett Agricultural Research Trust.

Professor Moot, who has dedicated his career to the advancement of pasture in New Zealand, got to thinking about what would happen to the vast amounts of data he has amassed over his career on his retirement.

Although he says no retirement is imminent, he wanted to future proof his work, and the work of others.

“Because I’m getting older, I started thinking, what will happen to all the data I have generated over my career when I stop?”

It began with a conversation with DairyNZ, who were trying to aggregate dairy pasture data. “Four of us sat down and said it’s silly that New Zealand doesn’t have one place where we put our average data, why not?”

Professor Moot explains there was an existing database for soils and one for climate, but there was nothing for what grew in between. With funding from the Trust, he set about developing a database that would act as a repository for all this information. His hope is that, in time, it will ensure we don’t have to repeat experiments.

The idea is that the database is free to access and contribute to by all, from the farmer who has a cage on their farm and cuts herbage from it, through to those who have published data in scientific literature.

“We’ve got data that are peer reviewed and published through scientific literature and have pulled data out of journal articles, and also data that have been collected but never published – there are a lot of those.”

It’s a painstaking process and an expensive one, but it’s a project he feels passionately about.

His hope is that the database will give farmers the confidence to try things. “Farmers want to know if something will grow in their environment. For example, a seed company might have done a trial in a specific location. You might search red clover production in Hawke’s Bay and anything tagged with that will show up.

“It will be useful for farmers and consultants to know what sort of yields they can expect in a particular place.”

Professor Moot says the Trust bought into his idea and provided funding for the initial programming and set-up of the database.

“It’s the realisation of a vision. Without it (funding) I can’t do it. I was really delighted that the Trust very quickly saw what we were trying to do and said yes, it’s a programme we can support. There really wasn’t anywhere else I could go and the Trust allowed us to realise that vision.”

The Agyields database has officially been launched, and continues to be populated with data. Access is open and users simply need to create a login. This enables them to upload data, and to search data. Currently, they are looking for users to provide feedback.

His dream result would be that all industry and government organisations view the final milestone in a project as loading their data on to the Agyields database.

He hopes commercial companies will also put their data in. “I think it’s useful, if they have done a trial in a particular area. I’m not trying to pick cultivars but there is an opportunity to enter their data and we’re happy to engage and help them put it in.”