Robust Modelling of Additive and Non-additive Variation with Intuitive Inclusion of Expert Knowledge
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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We propose a novel Bayesian approach that robustifies genomic modeling by leveraging expert knowledge (EK) through prior distributions. The central component is the hierarchical decomposition of phenotypic variation into additive and nonadditive genetic variation, which leads to an intuitive model parameterization that can be visualized as a tree. The edges of the tree represent ratios of variances, for example broad-sense heritability, which are quantities for which EK is natural to exist. Penalized complexity priors are defined for all edges of the tree in a bottom-up procedure that respects the model structure and incorporates EK through all levels. We investigate models with different sources of variation and compare the performance of different priors implementing varying amounts of EK in the context of plant breeding. A simulation study shows that the proposed priors implementing EK improve the robustness of genomic modeling and the selection of the genetically best individuals in a breeding program. We observe this improvement in both variety selection on genetic values and parent selection on additive values; the variety selection benefited the most. In a real case study, EK increases phenotype prediction accuracy for cases in which the standard maximum likelihood approach did not find optimal estimates for the variance components. Finally, we discuss the importance of EK priors for genomic modeling and breeding, and point to future research areas of easy-to-use and parsimonious priors in genomic modeling.