Sparse testing using genomic prediction improves selection for breeding targets in elite spring wheat
Sparse testing using genomic prediction enables expanded use of selection environments in early-stage yield testing without increasing phenotyping cost. We evaluated different sparse testing strategies in the yield testing stage of a CIMMYT spring wheat breeding pipeline characterized by multiple populations each with small family sizes of 1–9 individuals. Our results indicated that a substantial overlap between lines across environments should be used to achieve optimal prediction accuracy. As sparse testing leverages information generated within and across environments, the genetic correlations between environments and genomic relationships of lines across environments were the main drivers of prediction accuracy in multi-environment yield trials. Including information from previous evaluation years did not consistently improve the prediction performance. Genomic best linear unbiased prediction was found to be the best predictor of true breeding value, and therefore, we propose that it should be used as a selection decision metric in the early yield testing stages. We also propose it as a proxy for assessing prediction performance to mirror breeder’s advancement decisions in a breeding program so that it can be readily applied for advancement decisions by breeding programs.