1 Introduction

AFEIS stands for Agriculural Field Experiments Information System wherein experiments related to Agriculture, their data and results are available. The information has been hyper-linked so that users can view the information in an easy manner.

AFEIS provides information about agriculural field experiments in the field of agricultural science that may help as reference material for scienists, research workers and those who are wokring in the field of agricultural sciences. As improved systems on component technologies become available, they will replace or be linked to the system.

AFEIS is aimed at intermediary technology transfer agents and is simple to use.

When a user accesses the index page of AFEIS through a web browser, the web server will return the requested pages on the user screen.

AFEIS has been developed to cater to different kinds of users. Accordingly, authentication levels containing suitable privileges are being assigned to the users. The authentication levels vary from guest (who does not have to register yet can have a flavor of the system) to registered users, advanced user, principle investigator, supervisor level I, supervisor level II, supervisor level III, administrator and super administrator. Users other than guests have to get registered in the system through the Sign up link on the Home Page, Registered users can view detailed information of experiments from the database.

Agricultural modernization is one of the vital keys towards economic growth of the country. With development of agriculture over the years, it has become more complex and sophisticated. Research support is a necessary pre-requisite for planning and development of agriculture and allied disciplines. For increasing the crop productivity and for crop diversification / intensification etc., a large number of agricultural experiments are being conducted in the country. For realizing full benefits of efforts and resources spent on agricultural research, it is essential to ensure readily availability of results obtained from agricultural experiments to the concerned agencies in a compatible form. The documented research data not only assists a scientist in drawing a program of investigation but also helps in knowing the extent of work done in the past, the approaches followed and the type of results obtained by other scientists in the field. It helps a planner in building reliable estimates of yardsticks of additional production for the various inputs on sound footing. It helps administrators and extension workers to take the proven results from the lab to land for adoption by farmers.

In agriculture and natural resources research and development, the role of research managers is as crucial as the role and value of information. With the management’s task of decision-making and problem-solving, their quality and effectiveness are affected by the accuracy, sufficiency, and timeliness of information. And since problems in any field - including agriculture - are best understood as one of the basic endeavor of information processing, an appropriate availability of information through some information system is desirable.

Agriculture Field Experiments Information System (AFEIS) is such an initiative of Indian Agricultural Statistics Research Institute (IASRI) which has its roots in its erstwhile all India scheme namely National Index of Field Experiments (NIFE) initiated in the year 1955. NIFE was started at the recommendations of FAO experts with the objective of collecting and systematically maintaining, at a central place, the experimental data of agricultural field experiments (excluding purely varietals trials) conducted in the country at various research centers under the aegis of Agricultural Universities, Central Institutes, All-India Coordinated Crop Improvement and other Coordinated Research projects of ICAR etc. The collected experiments were used to be published in the form of compendium volumes separately for each state of the country. Three series of compendia volumes were published for different periods namely 1948-53, 1954-1959 and 1960-1965. These compendium volumes are available with most of the libraries of different agricultural institutes and agricultural universities of the country. The publication of compendium volumes was discontinued partly due to administrative reasons and mainly due to need of reducing the time lag in the conduct of the experiment and making its result available to the users. Keeping in view the developments in information technology, the scheme was reorganized to a computer based information system and renamed as Agricultural Field Experiments Information System (AFEIS). This operates at two levels - (I) Regional Centers and (II) Head Quarters. Regional centers are located at different Agricultural Universities/State Department of Agriculture and are responsible for the collection of experimental data from research stations falling within their jurisdiction. The headquarters, located at IASRI, is responsible for validation of data, conversion of data in physical form to electronic form, creation, implementation and maintenance of database of collected agricultural experiments. The database developed under the system now contains details of more than 19,000 experiments conducted at different research stations of the country.

The software for the system was developed earlier on MS-DOS platform as a standalone system. With the fast growth and en-mass dependence on Internet, we have taken up a program for making the information collection, storage and retrieval on-line by making suitable changes in the structure of the existing database as well as the software by using new technologies such as HTML, JavaScript, JSP and SQL server. The objective is to gear the present AFEIS, designed several years ago, to address to the new needs of users and to respond to the new production environment by taking advantage of new technologies through computers and databases. The goal is to provide reliable and timely information on various types of agricultural experiments conducted in the country. We shall be discussing the details of the system in sequel.

2 Objectives

One of the main objectives of this system is to create and maintain a computerized information system that manages agricultural field experiments data efficiently. Data is to be processed to generate agricultural information. This involves the operational aspect of collecting the data, inputting data into the system, storing, processing, retrieving as also maintaining the system by updating and deleting obsolete and redundant data.

The major weaknesses identified in agricultural experimental data collection that inspired for development of this web-based information system are:

An inadequate flow of agricultural data / information to users. It is observed that generally data is collected, processed and stored in different physical locations and is poorly disseminated. Data is usually retained at the level of each physical entity for organizational use. This system has been aimed at addressing this urgent need by establishing a single, centralized data storage and retrieval system with fast access for agricultural field experimental data generated in the country.

Adequate analysis of agricultural field experiments and interpretation of results over time and space seems to be lacking to effectively use it for agricultural policy planning and other purposes. Lack of training in the utilization of available statistics for decision making has been identified as a major loophole. Development of this system will help the agricultural research workers and planners to a great extant in this direction.

3 System Overview

The Agricultural Field Experiments Information System (AFEIS) at IASRI is an enterprise information system that aims at providing efficient and accurate access to the latest information about experimentations in the field of Agricultural Sciences.

A basic requirement for proper functioning of an Agricultural Field Experiments Information System is the systematic maintenance of data of experiments, undertaken on various disciplines of agricultural technology, at a central place.

4 The system should provide procedures for:

Data collection
Data validation
Data processing
Information generation

4.1 Data collection

Agricultural field experiments conducted at numerous research stations under the aegis of different organizations like ICAR institutes, Agricultural Universities etc in the country form the basis for generation of data in the database. The data regarding plot-wise response and/or results in respect of character under investigation along with ancillary information like objectives, treatments tried, basal conditions, general information relevant to the experimental period and statistical design adopted in respect of the experiments is being collected from the above agencies. The collection of the conducted experiments forms the key to enrich the database of the system. The present system to collect the experimental data is through the personal visits of the regional staff of the project working under the supervision of regional supervisor located in different parts of the country. The on-line entry forms to be used for collecting the data have been presented later.

The data being collected by the technical personnel of Indian Agricultural Statistics Research Institute (IASRI) is first recorded on printed forms devised to suit the database structure of the information system. Next, in the past, it used to be first got punched on to cards or saved on floppies by the key punching staff followed by repeated comparisons of listings as part of validation of data before being transferred to the information system. This not only led to delay but also took more man hours.

In the new web-based information system, once the data is recorded on the data entry forms, data can straight away be entered into the database through on-line data entry forms. The data entry forms, though can not check for validation in its entirety, still it undertakes several validation checks through the code written in JavaScript before submitting the data to the database that might reside on the server located at some remote place. The database finally performs rest of the validation checks that are not possible at client side, before accepting the data in the database. The new system of data entry is expected to decrease the time lag between conduct of the experiment and its inclusion in the database.

For each experiment, the information has been stored into eight divisions. These divisions are: (i) Identification (ii) Objective (iii) Basal Conditions (iv) Treatments (v) Design (vi) General Information (vii) Plot-wise data and (viii) Results. Results have, however, been stored in two parts – (1) Summary of results that includes General Mean, Standard Error, Critical Difference, Significance of various effects, Means of Control/Extra treatments, if any, tried in the experiment etc and (2) Means of the treatments/two-way mean tables for various factors tried in the experiment. Analyzed results of the experiments are mainly available in cases where plot-wise data is not available. Efforts to analyze and store the results of statistical analysis of all available experiments are also in progress.

Nine data preparation forms corresponding to nine data divisions of the database have been developed for on-line data entry of each experiment.

Identification division: The form for identification contains several parameters, mostly consisting of codes used as foreign keys and based on tables for States, Research stations, Crops, Seasons, Soil types, Soil textures, Designs, Total treatments, Number of replications, Factors tried etc. The primary key for this table has been created by concatenating State ID, Year and Reference number which is based on serial number of the experiment reported from a particular state in a given year. Identification table shall play most important role in retrieval of experiments as most of the user queries would be based on this table alone. This table would facilitate the user to custom create a query based on one or more parameters from almost all parameters of this table.

The form for data entry into identification division is as follows:

Objective division contains information on objective of the experiments and the form for entering this information is through the form presented below:

Basal Conditions division contains information on history of experimental site that includes crop rotation, previous crop, manure to previous crop, date(s)/period of sowing / planting, preparatory cultivation, method of sowing, seed rate, number of seedling/hole, spacing, basal manure, variety, post sowing operation(s), rainfall and date(s) / period of harvest. This information can be entered into the system by using the form presented below:

Treatments division contains information details of treatments applied in the experiment. This information can be entered into the system through the form presented below:

Design division contains information on number of plots per block, block dimension, gross plot size, net plot size and border row/guard size. This can be entered into the system through the form presented below:

General information division contains disease/pest attack details, duration of experiment, whether treatments were applied on same plots, reference to combined analysis, center(s) where experiment was conducted, abnormal occurrences. This information can be entered into the system through the form presented below:
Raw data division contains replication-wise plot data in respect of the experiment. In case the experiment is analyzed, the form that allows entry of results in the information system is presented instead of raw data. For experiments having raw data as well as results, first the form for entry of raw data is presented and then the form for entry of results follows. The form for entry of raw data is presented below:

On submit of raw data for un-analyzed experiment or results for analyzed experiment, we are prompted with the following page through which the user can select main menu to confirm for him the entry of the experiment.

4.2 Data validation

In order to arrive at perfect accuracy of data in the database, efforts have been made by incorporating several validation modules which check for the validity of the data at three stages.

First, at the time of data entry before submitting the data into the database

Secondly, at the time of accepting the data into the database residing on the server and

Lastly, by manual validation to correct the discrepancies and inconsistencies that are not possible to be traced and handled by the software.

4.3 Data processing

In the data processing part of AFEIS, the system takes care of:

processing of queries triggered by the users as well as

provision of suitable statistical analysis with interpretation of results.

4.4 Information generation

In this part, the information system dynamically generates different reports based on the data retrieved from the database through user created queries as well as through some pre-defined queries.

4.4.1 Accessing the system

AFEIS provides service to four kinds of users viz, (1) Unregistered user (2) Registered end user (3) Administrator and (4) Super administrator.

An Unregistered user can basically get a feel of the information system and can view certain reports but has to get registered with the system in order to query experiments of his choice as well as to reach the details of the selected experiments. A registered end user can only view the information. This user has, however, the option to create a query of his choice based on selection of different parameters of the experiments. Administrator, on the other hand, is a user who has all facilities that a registered end user possesses but has an additional privilege of editing the data. Super administrator is the user who has all the privileges as are enjoyed by an administrator but has got an additional privilege of upgrading a user from registered end user privileges to administrator or downgrading a user with administrator privileges to registered end user.

The database would be available on-line for use by the users. Facilities available in this version include search on selection of one or combination of the following parameters:

Agro-Climatic zone
Crop Group
Research Station
Type of Experiment
Soil Type
Soil Texture
Irrigation Type
One / Two / Three specific factor(s)

On selecting the parameter(s), the system provides a list of all the experiments which satisfies the query submitted by the user. This list mentions Year, Research Station, Objective, Experiment type along with a link called View Details (Full/Part). On clicking View Details (Full), we get details of all the divisions in respect of the selected experiment whereas View Details (Parts), gives a form that allows us to select the divisions of interest to us. Submitting of selection of various divisions provides detailed information on selected divisions.

4.4.2 Query building

On clicking main menu, we get the following form that allows the user to build a query of his choice. The user may select from one or more of the following parameters.

The query submitted in the above form gives the out put as:

On clicking full, we get the detailed information in respect of the experiment:

5 Conclusion

The system will help scientists/experimenters and their advisors facilitate planning, controlling, monitoring, steps for corrective actions, auditing, and review activities to ensure both that the agricultural policy is complied with and that the agriculture management system remains appropriate. With its vast amount of information, this product can successfully provide access to sound, science-based information that is the key to implementing good agricultural principles among producers, advisors, and policymakers.

It may, however, be said that the AFEIS - Agricultural Field Experiments Information System will help research community, planners etc. to carry out their work more efficiently.

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