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The Plant Genome Abstract - Original Research

AlphaSim: Software for Breeding Program Simulation


This article in TPG

  1. Vol. 9 No. 3
    unlockOPEN ACCESS
    Received: Feb 09, 2016
    Accepted: July 06, 2016
    Published: September 22, 2016

    * Corresponding author(s): john.hickey@roslin.ed.ac.uk
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  1. Anne-Michelle Fauxa,
  2. Gregor Gorjanca,
  3. R. Chris Gaynora,
  4. Mara Battagina,
  5. Stefan M. Edwardsa,
  6. David L. Wilsona,
  7. Sarah J. Hearneb,
  8. Serap Gonena and
  9. John M. Hickey *a
  1. a The Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, The University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Midlothian, Scotland, United Kingdom
    b CIMMYT, Texcoco, Mexico
Core Ideas:
  • AlphaSim allows breeders and researchers to simulate genomic data with specific user criteria.
  • AlphaSim is flexible, computationally efficient, and easy to use for a wide range of possible scenarios.
  • AlphaSim can also be used in animal breeding, human genetics, and population genetics.


This paper describes AlphaSim, a software package for simulating plant and animal breeding programs. AlphaSim enables the simulation of multiple aspects of breeding programs with a high degree of flexibility. AlphaSim simulates breeding programs in a series of steps: (i) simulate haplotype sequences and pedigree; (ii) drop haplotypes into the base generation of the pedigree and select single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) and quantitative trait nucleotide (QTN); (iii) assign QTN effects, calculate genetic values, and simulate phenotypes; (iv) drop haplotypes into the burn-in generations; and (v) perform selection and simulate new generations. The program is flexible in terms of historical population structure and diversity, recent pedigree structure, trait architecture, and selection strategy. It integrates biotechnologies such as doubled-haploids (DHs) and gene editing and allows the user to simulate multiple traits and multiple environments, specify recombination hot spots and cold spots, specify gene jungles and deserts, perform genomic predictions, and apply optimal contribution selection. AlphaSim also includes restart functionalities, which increase its flexibility by allowing the simulation process to be paused so that the parameters can be changed or to import an externally created pedigree, trial design, or results of an analysis of previously simulated data. By combining the options, a user can simulate simple or complex breeding programs with several generations, variable population structures and variable breeding decisions over time. In conclusion, AlphaSim is a flexible and computationally efficient software package to simulate biotechnology enhanced breeding programs with the aim of performing rapid, low-cost, and objective in silico comparison of breeding technologies.

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