Extending the breeder’s equation to take aim at the target population of environments

Cooper M, Powell O, Gho C, Tang T and Messina C

Frontiers in Plant Science


A major focus for genomic prediction has been on improving trait prediction accuracy using combinations of algorithms and the training data sets available from plant breeding multi-environment trials (METs). Any improvements in prediction accuracy are viewed as pathways to improve traits in the reference population of genotypes and product performance in the target population of environments (TPE). To realize these breeding outcomes there must be a positive MET-TPE relationship that provides consistency between the trait variation expressed within the MET data sets that are used to train the genome-to-phenome (G2P) model for applications of genomic prediction and the realized trait and performance differences in the TPE for the genotypes that are the prediction targets. The strength of this MET-TPE relationship is usually assumed to be high, however it is rarely quantified. To date investigations of genomic prediction methods have focused on improving prediction accuracy within MET training data sets, with less attention to quantifying the structure of the TPE and the MET-TPE relationship and their potential impact on training the G2P model for applications of genomic prediction to accelerate breeding outcomes for the on-farm TPE. We extend the breeder’s equation and use an example to demonstrate the importance of the MET-TPE relationship as a key component for the design of genomic prediction methods to realize improved rates of genetic gain for the target yield, quality, stress tolerance and yield stability traits in the on-farm TPE.