Banana breeding tracking tool BTracT makes light work of breeding

Banana breeding tracking tool BTracT was developed as part of a project led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). It is a digital tool that uses barcodes to track the banana breeding process. It helps scientists identify suitable varieties, aimed at improving cultivation programmes.

A specific barcode identity is fixed on each plant in each location, and the BTracT records features such as pest resistance, plant stature, colour and feel of cooked bananas. The details are then stored in a global banana breeding database called MusaBase to be accessed by scientists.

Scientists say that prior to the development of BTracT, it was challenging to organise and keep track of data on banana varieties being bred over several years. Allan Brown, IITA banana breeder based in Arusha, Tanzania: “When I arrived [here] six years ago, all of the operations were written down and then transferred to three different Excel [spread] sheets: for pollinations, for seeds harvested … and seeds that were being weened for the field and planted in the field. There were mistakes made on all of these sheets and they rarely matched up with each [other].”

Trushar Shah, IITA’s Integrated Breeding Platform hub manager, tells SciDev.Net that the tool can be used to collect field and laboratory data through Android handheld tablets or phones, with a dashboard aggregating the data from different users and locations. The dashboard also provides real-time analytics and reporting at all levels of the breeding programme.

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