Maintenance of UK bread baking quality: Trends in wheat quality traits over 50 years of breeding and potential for future application of genomic-assisted selection
Improved selection of wheat varieties with high end-use quality contributes to sustainable food systems by ensuring productive crops are suitable for human consumption end-uses. Here, we investigated the genetic control and genomic prediction of milling and baking quality traits in a panel of 379 historic and elite, high-quality UK bread wheat (Triticum eastivum L.) varieties and breeding lines. Analysis of the panel showed that genetic diversity has not declined over recent decades of selective breeding while phenotypic analysis found a clear trend of increased loaf baking quality of modern milling wheats despite declining grain protein content. Genome-wide association analysis identified 24 quantitative trait loci (QTL) across all quality traits, many of which had pleiotropic effects. Changes in the frequency of positive alleles of QTL over recent decades reflected trends in trait variation and reveal where progress has historically been made for improved baking quality traits. It also demonstrates opportunities for marker-assisted selection for traits such as Hagberg falling number and specific weight that do not appear to have been improved by recent decades of phenotypic selection. We demonstrate that applying genomic prediction in a commercial wheat breeding program for expensive late-stage loaf baking quality traits outperforms phenotypic selection based on early-stage predictive quality traits. Finally, trait-assisted genomic prediction combining both phenotypic and genomic selection enabled slightly higher prediction accuracy, but genomic prediction alone was the most cost-effective selection strategy considering genotyping and phenotyping costs per sample.