Genome-Assisted Prediction of Quantitative Traits Using the R Package sommer

PLoS One. 2016 Jun 6;11(6):e0156744. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0156744. eCollection 2016.


Most traits of agronomic importance are quantitative in nature, and genetic markers have been used for decades to dissect such traits. Recently, genomic selection has earned attention as next generation sequencing technologies became feasible for major and minor crops. Mixed models have become a key tool for fitting genomic selection models, but most current genomic selection software can only include a single variance component other than the error, making hybrid prediction using additive, dominance and epistatic effects unfeasible for species displaying heterotic effects. Moreover, Likelihood-based software for fitting mixed models with multiple random effects that allows the user to specify the variance-covariance structure of random effects has not been fully exploited. A new open-source R package called sommer is presented to facilitate the use of mixed models for genomic selection and hybrid prediction purposes using more than one variance component and allowing specification of covariance structures. The use of sommer for genomic prediction is demonstrated through several examples using maize and wheat genotypic and phenotypic data. At its core, the program contains three algorithms for estimating variance components: Average information (AI), Expectation-Maximization (EM) and Efficient Mixed Model Association (EMMA). Kernels for calculating the additive, dominance and epistatic relationship matrices are included, along with other useful functions for genomic analysis. Results from sommer were comparable to other software, but the analysis was faster than Bayesian counterparts in the magnitude of hours to days. In addition, ability to deal with missing data, combined with greater flexibility and speed than other REML-based software was achieved by putting together some of the most efficient algorithms to fit models in a gentle environment such as R.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Breeding / methods
  • Chimera
  • Crops, Agricultural / classification
  • Crops, Agricultural / genetics*
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Genome, Plant*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods*
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Models, Genetic
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable*
  • Software*
  • Triticum / genetics
  • Zea mays / genetics

Grant support

CONACYT (Mexico) funded PhD studies of GCP, but the funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.