Genomic Selection for Forest Tree Improvement: Methods, Achievements and Perspectives
The breeding of forest trees is only a few decades old, and is a much more complicated, longer, and expensive endeavor than the breeding of agricultural crops. One breeding cycle for forest trees can take 20–30 years. Recent advances in genomics and molecular biology have revolutionized traditional plant breeding based on visual phenotype assessment: the development of different types of molecular markers has made genotype selection possible. Marker-assisted breeding can significantly
... ificantly accelerate the breeding process, but this method has not been shown to be effective for selection of complex traits on forest trees. This new method of genomic selection is based on the analysis of all effects of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) using a large number of molecular markers distributed throughout the genome, which makes it possible to assess the genomic estimated breeding value (GEBV) of an individual. This approach is expected to be much more efficient for forest tree improvement than traditional breeding. Here, we review the current state of the art in the application of genomic selection in forest tree breeding and discuss different methods of genotyping and phenotyping. We also compare the accuracies of genomic prediction models and highlight the importance of a prior cost-benefit analysis before implementing genomic selection. Perspectives for the further development of this approach in forest breeding are also discussed: expanding the range of species and the list of valuable traits, the application of high-throughput phenotyping methods, and the possibility of using epigenetic variance to improve of forest trees.