Yield response of winter wheat cultivars to environments modeled by different variance-covariance structures in linear mixed models
The main objectives of multi-environmental trials (METs) are to assess cultivar adaptation patterns under different environmental conditions and to investigate genotype by environment (G×E) interactions. Linear mixed models (LMMs) with more complex variance-covariance structures have become recognized and widely used for analyzing METs data. Best practice in METs analysis is to carry out a comparison of competing models with different variance-covariance structures. Improperly chosen variance-covariance structures may lead to biased estimation of means resulting in incorrect conclusions. In this work we focused on adaptive response of cultivars on the environments modeled by the LMMs with different variance-covariance structures. We identified possible limitations of inference when using an inadequate variance-covariance structure. In the presented study we used the dataset on grain yield for 63 winter wheat cultivars, evaluated across 18 locations, during three growing seasons (2008/2009-2010/2011) from the Polish Post-registration Variety Testing System. For the evaluation of variance-covariance structures and the description of cultivars adaptation to environments, we calculated adjusted means for the combination of cultivar and location in models with different variance-covariance structures. We concluded that in order to fully describe cultivars adaptive patterns modelers should use the unrestricted variance-covariance structure. The restricted compound symmetry structure may interfere with proper interpretation of cultivars adaptive patterns. We found, that the factor-analytic structure is also a good tool to describe cultivars reaction on environments, and it can be successfully used in METs data after determining the optimal component number for each dataset.
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