Models to Estimate Genetic Gain of Soybean Seed Yield from Annual Multi-Environment Field Trials

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Genetic improvements of discrete characteristics such as flower color, the genetic improvements are obvious and easy to demonstrate; however, for characteristics that are measured on continuous scales, the genetic contributions are incremental and less obvious. Reliable and accurate methods are required to disentangle the confounding genetic and non-genetic components of quantitative traits. Stochastic simulations of soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.) breeding programs were performed to evaluate models to estimate the realized genetic gain (RGG) from 30 years of multi-environment trials (MET). True breeding values were simulated under an infinitesimal model to represent the genetic contributions to soybean seed yield under various MET conditions. Estimators were evaluated using objective criteria of bias and linearity. Results indicated all estimation models were biased. Covariance modeling as well as direct versus indirect estimation resulted in substantial differences in RGG estimation. Although there were no unbiased models, the three best-performing models resulted in an average bias of ±7.41 kg/ha −1 /yr −1 (±0.11 bu/ac −1 /yr −1 ). Rather than relying on a single model to estimate RGG, we recommend the application of multiple models and consider the range of the estimated values. Further, based on our simulations parameters, we do not think it is appropriate to use any single models to compare breeding programs or quantify the efficiency of proposed new breeding strategies. Lastly, for public soybean programs breeding for maturity groups II and III in North America from 1989 to 2019, the range of estimated RGG values was from 18.16 to 39.68 kg/ha −1 /yr −1 (0.27 to 0.59 bu/ac −1 /yr −1 ).

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