CGIAR announces new breeding data strategy and endorses single data platform

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To boost the efficiency and sustainability of its data-driven breeding efforts, CGIAR has endorsed a new strategy ensuring all network partners use a single data system. The strategy also creates a new organizational unit to manage, develop, and maintain data management tools.  

The Enterprise Breeding System (EBS) has been chosen as the preferred data management system of CGIAR. However, as many partners will continue to use other systems in the next years, they will continue to be supported by GI during a transition period.  

CGIAR breeding programs have been adopting the EBS over the past three years, and now the GI Management Team has decided to further unify data platforms. The decision was strongly guided by CCGIG – the Champions & Challengers Genetic Innovation Group – the advisory body for the science group. The Group made the recommendation in April, after a thorough evaluation of various systems and its integration with long term GI strategy. 

“Modern breeding requires real-time data flows and networks that cut across crops and programs,” says Breeding Research Services Senior Director, Sharifah Shahrul Syed Alwee. “Full adoption of EBS is a transformational change, and ensures CGIAR networks will be efficient, effective, and able to make the most strategic data-driven decisions.” 

CGIAR hopes all breeding programs will adopt EBS within the next few years, after the transition phase where other breeding data management systems will co-exist with EBS.  

To ensure efficient adoption and management of CGIAR’s data and technology solutions, a dedicated organizational unit called Breeding Information Management and Technology (BIMT) will be established within the BRS department. This unit, which already today leads and manages all EBS efforts as part of the Breeding Resources Initiative, aims to launch as BIMT by early 2024. This aligns with the final stages of EBS’s core development and its transition into a continuous improvement mode. 

Current status of EBS: current users and those adopting

The BIMT unit will be responsible for managing, developing, and maintaining data management tools used for breeding, with EBS as its backbone. As an example of that expanded responsibility, support will be provided to the Breeding Management System (BMS) users that had been funded through CGIAR Excellence in Breeding (EiB) until 2023, including all CGIAR Centers and some national agricultural research and extension services (NARES). This support follows the successful user-support approach developed by the EBS Team and will ensure BMS users continue to receive high-quality issue resolution while they gradually transition to EBS over the next years. More details will be shared with current BMS users in subsequent communications.

“We look forward to universal adoption of a common database system as CGIAR/NARES continue modernizing for impact in farmers’ fields,” says GIZ’s Sarah Schmidt, convenor of the Champions & Challengers of Genetic Innovation Group. “We’re pleased with the progress we’ve seen and expect a balanced but focused transition to a single breeding data plat to bring even more speed, accuracy and efficiency to CGIAR-NARES breeding efforts.”

Developed as a centrally deployed “software as a service,” EBS supports a diverse array of breeding programs, making it easier and less expensive to manage over time. The system aims to support core breeding activities such as germplasm inventory management, trial design, field operations, phenotyping, sample tracking, genotyping, data analysis and decision support.  Development is aimed to enable shared instances for breeding networks as well as economical deployment of institution specific instances.

In 2022, rice, maize, and wheat breeding programs at IRRI, AfricaRice, CIMMYT, and IITA successfully deployed EBS, while other Centers continue to follow in 2023. The national NARES partners will soon become important collaborators in the same breeding networks as well.


We would like to thank all funders who support this research through their contributions to the CGIAR Trust Fund. And thank you to the supporters  and partners of CGIAR Excellence in Breeding, particularly the funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Main image: IRRI.

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