Reinventing quantitative genetics for plant breeding: something old, something new, something borrowed, something BLUE

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The goals of quantitative genetics differ according to its field of application. In plant breeding, the main focus of quantitative genetics is on identifying candidates with the best genotypic value for a target population of environments. Keeping quantitative genetics current requires keeping old concepts that remain useful, letting go of what has become archaic, and introducing new concepts and methods that support contemporary breeding. The core concept of continuous variation being due to multiple Mendelian loci remains unchanged. Because the entirety of germplasm available in a breeding program is not in Hardy–Weinberg equilibrium, classical concepts that assume random mating, such as the average effect of an allele and additive variance, need to be retired in plant breeding. Doing so is feasible because with molecular markers, mixed-model approaches that require minimal genetic assumptions can be used for best linear unbiased estimation (BLUE) and prediction. Plant breeding would benefit from borrowing approaches found useful in other disciplines. Examples include reliability as a new measure of the influence of genetic versus nongenetic effects, and operations research and simulation approaches for designing breeding programs. The genetic entities in such simulations should not be generic but should be represented by the pedigrees, marker data, and phenotypic data for the actual germplasm in a breeding program. Over the years, quantitative genetics in plant breeding has become increasingly empirical and computational and less grounded in theory. This trend will continue as the amount and types of data available in a breeding program increase.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-385
Number of pages11
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020

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