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Genomic prediction for sugarcane diseases including hybrid Bayesian-machine learning approaches

Sugarcane smut and Pachymetra root rots are two serious diseases of sugarcane, with susceptible infected crops losing over 30% of yield.

Genomic prediction for sugarcane diseases including hybrid Bayesian-machine learning approaches

A heritable component to both diseases has been demonstrated, suggesting selection could improve disease resistance. Genomic selection could accelerate gains even further, enabling early selection of resistant seedlings for breeding and clonal propagation. In this study we evaluated four types of algorithms for genomic predictions of clonal performance for disease resistance.

These algorithms were: Genomic best linear unbiased prediction (GBLUP), including extensions to model dominance and epistasis, Bayesian methods including BayesC and BayesR, Machine learning methods including random forest, multilayer perceptron (MLP), modified convolutional neural network (CNN) and attention networks designed to capture epistasis across the genome-wide markers. Simple hybrid methods, that first used BayesR/GWAS to identify a subset of 1000 markers with moderate to large marginal additive effects, then used attention networks to derive predictions from these effects and their interactions, were also developed and evaluated.

The hypothesis for this approach was that using a subset of markers more likely to have an effect would enable better estimation of interaction effects than when there were an extremely large number of possible interactions, especially with our limited data set size. To evaluate the methods, we applied both random five-fold cross-validation and a structured PCA based cross-validation that separated 4702 sugarcane clones (that had disease phenotypes and genotyped for 26k genome wide SNP markers) by genomic relationship.

The Bayesian methods (BayesR and BayesC) gave the highest accuracy of prediction, followed closely by hybrid methods with attention networks.

The hybrid methods with attention networks gave the lowest variation in accuracy of prediction across validation folds (and lowest MSE), which may be a criteria worth considering in practical breeding programs. This suggests that hybrid methods incorporating the attention mechanism could be useful for genomic prediction of clonal performance, particularly where non-additive effects may be important.

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