Testing new genetic and genomic approaches for trait mapping and prediction in wheat (Triticum aestivum) and rice (Oryza spp)
Advances in molecular marker technologies have led to the development of high throughput genotyping techniques such as Genotyping by Sequencing (GBS), driving the application of genomics in crop research and breeding. They have also supported the use of novel mapping approaches, including Multi-parent Advanced Generation Inter-Cross (MAGIC) populations which have increased precision in identifying markers to inform plant breeding practices. In the first part of this thesis, a high density physical map derived from GBS was used to identify QTLs controlling key agronomic traits of wheat in a genome-wide association study (GWAS) and to demonstrate the practicability of genomic selection for predicting the trait values. The results from GBS were compared to a previous study conducted on the same association mapping panel using a less dense physical map derived from diversity arrays technology (DArT) markers. GBS detected more QTLs than DArT markers although some of the QTLs were detected by DArT markers alone. Prediction accuracies from the two marker platforms were mostly similar and largely dependent on trait genetic architecture. The second part of this thesis focused on MAGIC populations, which incorporate diversity and novel allelic combinations from several generations of recombination. Pedigrees representing a wild rice MAGIC population were used to model MAGIC populations by simulation to assess the level of recombination and creation of novel haplotypes. The wild rice species are an important reservoir of beneficial genes that have been variously introgressed into rice varieties using bi-parental population approaches. The level of recombination was found to be highly dependent on the number of crosses made and on the resulting population size. Creation of MAGIC populations require adequate planning in order to make sufficient number of crosses that capture optimal haplotype diversity. The third part of the thesis considers models that have been proposed for genomic prediction. The ridge regression best linear unbiased prediction (RR-BLUP) is based on the assumption that all genotyped molecular markers make equal contributions to the variations of a phenotype. Information from underlying candidate molecular markers are however of greater significance and can be used to improve the accuracy of prediction. Here, an existing Differentially Penalized Regression (DiPR) model which uses modifications to a standard RR-BLUP package and allows two or more marker sets from different platforms to be independently weighted was used. The DiPR model performed better than single or combined marker sets for predicting most of the traits both in a MAGIC population and an association mapping panel. Overall the work presented in this thesis shows that while these techniques have great promise, they should be carefully evaluated before introduction into breeding programmes.