Data Standards v1.0

ICASA Version 1.0 Data Standards for Agricultural Research and Decision Support (August 2006)


  • L.A. Hunt (University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada)
  • G. Hoogenboom (Washington State University, Prosser, Washington, USA)
  • J.W. Jones (University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA)
  • J. W. White (ALARC-USDA, Maricopa, Arizona, USA)


The use of standard data formats for documenting experiments and modeling crop growth and development can greatly facilitate exchange of information and software, allowing researchers to focus on science rather than on re-formatting data.

The standards developed by the International Benchmark Sites Network for Agrotechnology Transfer (IBSNAT) project and used in the original Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT) software package were of considerable value in this context, but they contained ambiguities that made them unsuitable for certain uses. The International Consortium for Agricultural Systems Applications (ICASA) revised the standards in the year 2000. Specific goals were to provide more complete documentation of experiments and to allow use of the standards in a wide range of decision support situations. Further modifications proved necessary, both to permit use with crops not previously considered and to place the standards in a more general framework, necessary as software systems evolve and researchers move towards more generic mechanisms for data interchange. The ICASA standards have thus been reformulated with greater emphasis on standardizing vocabularies and clearly specifying relations among variables. This change moves the standards closer to data ontologies being developed in other branches of plant science. The modified standards, which may be implemented in an ASCII file format, in a relational database, in eXtensible Markup Language (XML) format, or in other formats, are quite similar to those documented previously. They organize data into a two-level hierarchy, using indices or keys to link information both across and within hierarchies.

An overview of the ICASA Version 1.0 standards is presented in this document, and the ASCII implementation is described in some detail. Implementations being developed for relational databases and XML are also discussed briefly. The ICASA Version 1.0 Data Standards will be implemented in the next version of DSSAT.


PDF (37 pages; August 10, 2006)