NCGA’s “Off the Cob” explored the new genome functionality tool


Yesterday, the National Corn Growers Association’s “Off the Cob” podcast series speaks with Dr. Jack Gardiner, the biologist selected to manage the NCGA-sponsored project developing software tools to be incorporated into the Maize Genetics and Genomics Database. In this position, Gardiner will work with software engineers and scientists to develop a tool that allows researchers to easily isolate and examine manageable data sets, thus decreasing the time and effort needed to utilize the massive amounts of genomic data on corn and produce results that will aid farmers.

“Not so long ago, when the National Corn Growers Association spearheaded the Maize Genome Sequencing initiative, a scientist spent 90 percent of his time conducting an experiment and 10 percent analyzing the results,” said Gardiner. “Now, due to the complexity of the data, scientists spend about 10 percent of their time generating information and the remaining 90 percent sifting through that data and trying to make sense of it.”

Gardiner noted that this exponential growth in the amount of data available changed the tools needed by researchers to utilize this wealth of information in a quick, effective manner.

“In the beginning, we thought that an Excel spreadsheet, with its 60,000 plus rows and multiple columns would be big enough to handle the genetic information being generated,” said Gardiner. “But as the next generation of sequencing commenced, we found that the sheer amount of data being generated, due to decreased research costs, was too much to be effectively analyzed in this format.”

Likening the tool to the way in which Google Maps allows users to zoom in on specific streets within a city or out for a view of the entire state, Gardiner explained exactly how the tool developed in this project will allow researchers to work with data in a more effective manner.

“This tool will allow researchers to zoom in and out on the desired areas of data, placing it in manageable piles that can be examined from a variety of angles,” said Gardiner. “Additionally, this sort of tool provides a visual representation of the data which provides a more easily digestible view from which researchers can begin their analysis.”

To listen to the full interview, click here.