Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Cell & Molecular Biology (PhD)

Degree Level



Biological Sciences


Richard Mason

Committee Member

Pengyin Chen

Second Committee Member

Andy Pereira

Third Committee Member

Ainong Shi


Agronomic Traits, Genome-wide Association Study, Genomic Selection, Grain Yield, Single Nucleotide Polymorphism, Soft Red Winter Wheat


Tools such as genome-wide association study (GWAS) and genomic selection (GS) have expedited the development of crops with improved genetic potential. While GWAS aims to identify significant markers associated with a trait of interest, the goal of GS is to utilize all marker effects to predict the performance of new breeding lines prior to testing. A GWAS for grain yield (GY), yield components, and agronomic traits was conducted using a diverse panel of 239 soft winter wheat (SWW) lines evaluated in eight site-years in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Broad sense heritability of GY (H2=0.48) was moderate compared to other traits including plant height (H2=0.81) and kernel weight (H2=0.77). Markers associated with multiple traits on chromosomes 1A, 2D, 3B, and 4B serve as potential targets for marker assisted breeding to select for GY improvement. Validation of GY-related loci using spring wheat from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico confirmed the effects of three loci in chromosomes 3A, 4B, and 6B. Lines possessing the favorable allele at all three loci (A-C-G allele combination) had the highest mean GY of possible haplotypes. The same population of 239 lines was used in a GS study as a training population (TP) to determine factors that affect the predictability of GY. The TP size had the greatest effect on predictive ability across the measured traits. Adding covariates in the GS model was more advantageous in increasing prediction accuracies under single population cross validations than in forward predictions. Forward validation of the prediction models on two new populations resulted in a maximum accuracy of 0.43 for GY. Genomic selection was “superior” to marker-assisted selection in terms of response to selection and combining phenotypic selection with GS resulted in the highest response. Results from this study can be used to accelerate the process of GY improvement and increase genetic gains in wheat breeding programs.