Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Improved Soybean Insect Research Database

The Soybean Insect Research Information Center (SIRIC) was established by the Illinois Natural History Survey and the University of Illinois' Agricultural Experiment Station in 1969 to comprehensively compile the world literature of arthropods associated with soybeans. The bibliographic database was computerized in 1972, making SIRIC one of the first agricultural databases to enter the electronic age. The database currently consists of over 44,000 references on soybean-related arthropods; over 10,000 of these deal with soybean entomology. The database, more than a simple collection of citations, has three important strengths:

1. The structure of the database has been designed by a library science professional. At its core is a controlled vocabulary, or thesaurus, of over 8,000 species names and subject terms, organized hierarchically. The thesaurus allows for more precise and powerful searching of the database than could be provided by simple keyword searching.

2. Entomologists have provided their expertise in the selection and organization of the subject terms chosen for the thesaurus. Entomologists have also read and assigned subject terms to the documents in the database, ensuring that the contents of the documents were accurately assessed.

3. The collection of documents on the subjects of interest to SIRIC is intended to be exhaustive.

The collection includes documents retrospectively into the 19th century, and special efforts have been made to identify documents outside of the mainstream publishing channels commonly termed "grey literature." As a result, SIRIC contains many documents that are not found in other agricultural sources. Thus, the SIRIC database is of higher content value than that of other commercially produced databases in agriculture.

SIRIC was closed in 1990, but with funding for 1997 and 1998 from the Illinois Soybean Program Operating Board, the database is now being updated. This revitalization project will make a valuable resource on the world literature of arthropods associated with soybeans available to a wide range of potential users, including producers, agribusiness, and researchers. With the rapid development of the Internet and the World Wide Web, it is now both appropriate and feasible to make this database available through this new medium to those who have an interest in soybeans and their associated arthropods. You can now access the database on the Web at <http://insectweb. inhs.uiuc. edu/Soy/SIRIC/index.html>. The objectives for this first two years of revitalization include:


1. Convert the database format from one designed for an out-of-date IBM mainframe platform that relies on custom programming to a user-friendly format that is accessible on multiple current computer platforms using commercially available software products.


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Grasshopper feeding on soybeans.

2. Make the database in its new format available via the Internet and World Wide Web, and develop the search interface required to provide users of the new database with the same powerful searching capabilities that were previously available only to SIRIC's librarian.

3. Complete a large portion of the task of updating the content of the database and the reprint collection with material published since the database was last updated.

With the SIRIC database converted to a user-friendly format, valuable information can be made rapidly available to the agricultural and research communities. When insect outbreaks occur as a result of introductions of exotic species, expensive corrective action is usually necessary, and the longer the delay in taking action, the costlier the program. The SIRIC database, in tandem with the International Soybean Arthropod Collection (ISAC), can provide essential information to researchers and soybean producers on the identity of new pest species, alert them to weaknesses in their life cycles, and inform them of the most effective management strategies. This information conservatively could save two to five years of research time necessary to evaluate the problem and to implement corrective measures. Until 1990, the information contained in SIRIC was available and operational at an annual cost of about 1/1,000% of the annual value of the Illinois soybean crop and an infinitesimal fraction of the value of the world soybean crop. The investment in this database is, therefore, extremely small compared to its value as a research tool, especially in the event of pest outbreaks. 

Lynn Hanson, Soybean Insect Research Information Center, and Michael Irwin, Center for Economic Entomology



Illinois Natural History Survey

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