Survey of Statistical Analysis Software Use in Horticultural Research: Trends during the Last Decade

Marina Curtis

Authors:  Marina Curtis, Gerardo H. Nunez

Faculty Mentor:  Dr. Gerardo H. Nunez

College:  Agricultural and Life Sciences


Horticultural scientists use software in order to quickly and accurately analyze experimental data. Open source software presents an opportunity for scientists to develop and share field-specific programs, access software regardless of academic affiliation, and save on the funding that would be spent on software licenses. Nevertheless, many labs continue to use proprietary statistical analysis software. We aimed to identify trends in statistical software use among horticultural scientists to determine if open source software use has increased in the field. We surveyed articles published in HortTechnology during the decade 2010 to 2019. From each issue, ten original research articles were randomly selected, and the software used was recorded. We found that while proprietary programs such as SAS continue to be mainstays for the industry, open source programs such as R and SPSS became more popular by the end of the decade. These results suggest that open source software use in horticulture will continue to grow in the future. Therefore, horticulture education programs should consider teaching basic coding for open source.

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8 Responses
      1. Marina Curtis

        SPSS was initially the only major open-source competitor, and the rise of R is not solely due to researchers switching from one open-source program to another, so use of open-source seems to have risen.
        The amount of programs hasn’t increased; however, the amount of packages for these programs, which makes them more user-friendly and can be tailored for specific tasks, continues to grow.

  1. Catherine Martinez

    Very interesting. I had no idea that coding was so prominent within the field of horticulture, this study was enlightening!

    In the future, do you believe SAS will continue to be the program that most horticulturalists use?

    1. Marina Curtis

      In general, senior faculty prefer SAS, and junior faculty prefer R. As the previous generation retires, SAS will probably lose its monopoly in the field. However, it can still remain relevant as long as the company continues to cater to academia, like it did by releasing a free version for university researchers in 2014.