Growing a Database

David Remucal, University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

We have been struggling with a propagation database. This has been of particular interest as our orchid conservation program has grown, we have needed a way to track individual maternal sources or populations from seed to potted plant as they go through different treatments and use different media. We began with an excel spreadsheet, but within a couple of years this spreadsheet has become an unwieldy monster. We need to move to a database that can handle our accessions, our inventory, and our propagation efforts, both orchid and non-orchid. We had originally tried to keep the database in-house. To that end, we worked with knowledgeable volunteers to develop an architecture for a database. We are now leaning towards using a pre-built product BUT the process of developing the framework for our own database was extremely informative and useful. It aided us not only in thinking about what we want in a database, but in many other ways, such as how we collect data, how we label our plants, and what we want to say with our data. It was a long process, but I feel we are much better equipped to find the right kind of database for our needs, or adjust the closest product we can find to suit our needs.