Breeding for disease resistance is a central focus of plant breeding programs, as any successful variety must have the complete package of high yield, disease resistance, agronomic performance, and end-use quality. With the need to accelerate the development of improved varieties, genomics-assisted breeding is becoming an important tool in breeding programs. With marker-assisted selection, there has been success in breeding for disease resistance; however, much of this work and research has focused on identifying, mapping, and selecting for major resistance genes that tend to be highly effective but vulnerable to breakdown with rapid changes in pathogen races. In contrast, breeding for minor-gene quantitative resistance tends to produce more durable varieties but is a more challenging breeding objective. As the genetic architecture of resistance shifts from single major R genes to a diffused architecture of many minor genes, the best approach for molecular breeding will shift from marker-assisted selection to genomic selection. Genomics-assisted breeding for quantitative resistance will therefore necessitate whole-genome prediction models and selection methodology as implemented for classical complex traits such as yield. Here, we examine multiple case studies testing whole-genome prediction models and genomic selection for disease resistance. In general, whole-genome models for disease resistance can produce prediction accuracy suitable for application in breeding. These models also largely outperform multiple linear regression as would be applied in marker-assisted selection. With the implementation of genomic selection for yield and other agronomic traits, whole-genome marker profiles will be available for the entire set of breeding lines, enabling genomic selection for disease at no additional direct cost. In this context, the scope of implementing genomics selection for disease resistance, and specifically for quantitative resistance and quarantined pathogens, becomes a tractable and powerful approach in breeding programs.
Keywords: genomic selection; plant breeding; quantitative disease resistance.