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Improving And Maintaining Winter Hardiness And Frost Tolerance In Bread Wheat By Genomic Selection

Sebastian Michel, F. Loeschenberger, Jakob Hellinger, Verena Strasser, Christian Ametz, Bernadette Pachler, Ellen Sparry, H. Buerstmayr
Published 2019 · Medicine, Biology

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Winter hardiness is a major constraint for autumn sown crops in temperate regions, and thus an important breeding goal in the development of new winter wheat varieties. Winter hardiness is though influenced by many environmental factors rendering phenotypic selection under field conditions a difficult task due to irregular occurrence or absence of winter damage in field trials. Controlled frost tolerance tests in growth chamber experiments are, on the other hand, even with few genotypes, often costly and laborious, which makes a genomic breeding strategy for early generation selection an attractive alternative. The aims of this study were thus to compare the merit of marker-assisted selection using the major frost tolerance QTL Fr-A2 with genomic prediction for winter hardiness and frost tolerance, and to assess the potential of combining both measures with a genomic selection index using a high density marker map or a reduced set of pre-selected markers. Cross-validation within two training populations phenotyped for frost tolerance and winter hardiness underpinned the importance of Fr-A2 for frost tolerance especially when upweighting its effect in genomic prediction models, while a combined genomic selection index increased the prediction accuracy for an independent validation population in comparison to training with winter hardiness data alone. The prediction accuracy could moreover be maintained with pre-selected marker sets, which is highly relevant when employing cost reducing fingerprinting techniques such as targeted genotyping-by-sequencing. Genomic selection showed thus large potential to improve or maintain the performance of winter wheat for these difficult, costly, and laborious to phenotype traits.
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