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Data synthesis for crop variety evaluation. A review

Crop varieties should fulfill multiple requirements, including agronomic performance and product quality. Variety evaluations depend on data generated from field trials and sensory analyses, performed with different levels of participation from farmers and consumers. Such multi-faceted variety evaluation is expensive and time-consuming; hence, any use of these data should be optimized. Data synthesis can help to take advantage of existing and new data, combining data from different sources and combining it with expert knowledge to produce new information and understanding that supports decision-making. Data synthesis for crop variety evaluation can partly build on extant experiences and methods, but it also requires methodological innovation. We review the elements required to achieve data synthesis for crop variety evaluation, including (1) data types required for crop variety evaluation, (2) main challenges in data management and integration, (3) main global initiatives aiming to solve those challenges, (4) current statistical approaches to combine data for crop variety evaluation and (5) existing data synthesis methods used in evaluation of varieties to combine different datasets from multiple data sources. We conclude that currently available methods have the potential to overcome existing barriers to data synthesis and could set in motion a virtuous cycle that will encourage researchers to share data and collaborate on data-driven research.