Breeding Programs Optimization with Reinforcement Learning (Papers Track)
Omar G. Younis (ETH Zurich); Luca Corinzia (ETH Zurich - Information Science & Engineering Group); Ioannis N Athanasiadis (Wageningen University and Research); Andreas Krause (ETH Zürich); Joachim Buhmann (ETH Zurich); Matteo Turchetta (ETH Zurich)
Crop breeding is crucial in improving agricultural productivity while potentially decreasing land usage, greenhouse gas emissions, and water consumption. However, breeding programs are challenging due to long turnover times, high-dimensional decision spaces, long-term objectives, and the need to adapt to rapid climate change. This paper introduces the use of Reinforcement Learning (RL) to optimize simulated crop breeding programs. RL agents are trained to make optimal crop selection and cross-breeding decisions based on genetic information. To benchmark RL-based breeding algorithms, we introduce a suite of Gym environments. The study demonstrates the superiority of RL techniques over standard practices in terms of genetic gain when simulated in silico using real-world genomic maize data.