Data Standards

Agricultural research increasingly seeks to quantify complex interactions of processes for a wide range of environmental conditions and crop management scenarios, leading to investigation where multiple sets of experimental data are examined using tools such as simulation and regression. The use of standard data formats for documenting experiments and modeling crop growth and development can facilitate exchanges of information and software, allowing researchers to focus on research per se rather than on converting and re-formatting data or trying to estimate or otherwise compensate for missing information.

IBSNAT Data Standards

The standards developed by the International Benchmark Sites Network for Agrotechnology Transfer (IBSNAT) project and subsequently revised by the International Consortium for Agricultural Systems Applications (ICASA) were of considerable value for describing experiments. However, the resulting ICASA Version 1 standards did not consider important management practices such as tillage and use of mulches, lacked descriptors for certain soil and plant traits (especially related to nutrient levels), and contained minor logical inconsistencies. The ICASA standards have evolved to allow description of additional management practices and traits of soils and plants and to provide greater emphasis on standardizing vocabularies, clarifying relations among variables, and expanding formats beyond the original plain text file format.

Data Standards for Agricultural Field Experiments and Production ICASA Version 2.0

The paper entitled “Integrated description of agricultural field experiments and production: The ICASA Version 2.0 data standardsprovides an overview of the ICASA Version 2.0 standards” provides the first published set of data standards for crop model evaluation and application. The foundation of the standards is a master list variables that is organized in a hierarchical arrangement with major separations among descriptions of management practices or treatments, environmental conditions (soil and weather data), and measurements of crop responses. The paper also provides a plain text implementation in detail and implementations in other digital formats (databases, spreadsheets, and data interchange formats) are also reviewed. Areas for further improvement and development are noted, particularly as related to describing pest damage, data quality and appropriate use of datasets. The master variable list and sample files are provided as electronic supplements.


Jeffrey W. White, L.A. Hunt, Kenneth J. Boote, James W. Jones, Jawoo Koo, Soonho Kim, Cheryl H. Porter, Paul W. Wilkens, Gerrit Hoogenboom. 2013. Integrated description of agricultural field experiments and production: The ICASA Version 2.0 data standards. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture 96:1-12. | PDF

ICASA Version 2.X and beyond

Since the release of the ICASA Data Standards Version 2.0, the standards are being updated continuously to address the needs for adding new definitions for crop traits, environmental variables and other related crop model parameters. The current list is viewable and downloadable at For specific questions on the standards, including requests for possible new terms to be added, please contact the curators, Cheryl Porter and Jeff White, via the DSSAT contact us page.