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Open-nucleus breeding strategies compared with population-wide positive assortative mating

I. Equal distribution of testing effort

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Positive assortative mating (PAM) can enhance the additive genetic variance in a breeding population (BP). This increases the potential for gains in the production population (PP, selected subset of the BP) for recurrent selection programs in forest trees. The assortment of mates can be either: (1) by individual tree rank across the whole BP (PAM), or (2) trees of similar rank can be merged into larger hierarchical groups and then mated randomly within group (“open”-nucleus breeding, NB). The objective of this study was to compare PAM and NB in quantitative terms. The NB simulation model assumed two tiers (nucleus, main) with unrestricted migration between the tiers. Clonal tests were used to predict breeding values and test resources per mate were kept constant for all mates. Both gain and diversity were combined into a single selection criterion, “group-merit selection.” Alternatives were compared over five breeding cycles by considering genetic gain and diversity in a selected PP established in a seed orchard. The assortment of mates in both alternatives enhanced additive variance and increased the additive effect in the BP, leading to additional gain in the PP. Gains generated under PAM always exceeded gains under NB. Thus, the main message from this study is that PAM in both the short- and long-term results in more gain at any target level of diversity in the PP (the breeder’s target) than is achieved by the NB alternative. The optimum size of the nucleus varies with the desired level of seed orchard diversity. At lower target diversity, smaller nucleus sizes are favorable, while larger sizes result in more gain when seed orchard diversity is considered more important.

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We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Föreningen Skogsträdsförädling (Swedish Tree Breeding Association) and the North Carolina State University–Industry Cooperative Tree Improvement Program. We also thank Dr. Jennifer Myszewski and Dr. Floyd Bridgwater for their valuable comments on the manuscript and Dr. Ross Shepherd for his generous help with the animal breeding terminology.

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Correspondence to T. J. Mullin.

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Communicated by D.B. Neale

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Lstibůrek, M., Mullin, T.J., Lindgren, D. et al. Open-nucleus breeding strategies compared with population-wide positive assortative mating. Theor Appl Genet 109, 1196–1203 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00122-004-1746-1

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  • Random Mating
  • Breeding Population
  • Genetic Gain
  • Assortative Mating
  • Seed Orchard