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Plant breeding - 30 ECTS

The world population and demand for food is growing. In combination with loss and deterioration of arable land this leads to increased pressure on crop production. Furthermore, there is increased demand for sustainable production and local growers have to deal with climate change and growing importance of water management. Therefore the agricultural sector needs cultivars with higher yield, with resistance to pests and diseases and tolerance to abiotic factors like salt, temperature and drought.

New cultivars are mainly developed at seed companies worldwide. The seed companies have been able to develop high-quality food, feed, ornamental and industrial crop varieties. Dutch companies and research institutes play an important role in this development, especially in the areas of vegetable seed, seed potatoes, bulbs, propagating material for (fruit)trees and ornamentals. Conventional breeding techniques as crossing and selection are supplemented by new plant breeding techniques like marker assisted selection and genetic modification. Although improved plants obtained by these new techniques can be obtained by conventional techniques, time and effort needed to produce new cultivars is reduced.

This minor is set up for those who are interested in a career as an assistant breeder or a research assistant at a seed company or in seed production. After successfully completing this minor, you will be able to design, organize and implement a breeding program under supervision of the head breeder. You will be able to determine the aims of the breeding program, based on analysis of crop production and market data, introduce genetic variation, assess selection trials and design selection experiments for desired traits, while including disease test. You will be able to understand and discuss a variety of advanced plant breeding techniques, and choose appropriate methods for a given set of breeding aims. For the long term perspectives of a program you will be a able to find germ plasm resources and markers for a trait, as well as the best methods to enhance different stages of the breeding program: variation, recombination, selection and propagation.

This minor consists of two parts, which are organized parallel to each other.

  1. Plant breeding and seed production
  2. Advanced methods of Plant Breeding

The first part includes courses on genetic variation and breeding methods, biology of seed production, breeding for resistance and experimental design and analysis of field trial data. During the execution of the Assessment you will be able to develop the competencies to (project)manage, cooperate, present, research and organise.

The second part includes courses on molecular breeding, data analysis, clonal propagation and in vitro techniques. During the execution of the Assessment you will develop yourself in research, innovation, globalisation and being self-driven.

This minor is embedded in a full year program on Plant Breeding and is open to both Dutch and international students. All courses are taught in English. It is designed for those interested in a career in plant breeding.

For specific information about the full-year program Plant Breeding, please contact the coordinator Wieneke van der Heide at


This minor prepares you for the professional tasks of an assistant breeder of a research assistant. After completing this minor you will be able to:

  • describe the role of seed companies in the agricultural chain in the Netherlands;
  • choose the most appropriate breeding method for different crops and their traits;
  • assess selection trails and select plants based on the genetic background of the traits.
  • explain the reproduction cycle and the process of seed production in plant breeding.
  • apply the biology and genetic basis of pests and disease resistance in resistance breeding approaches.
  • design field trails for a breeding program and analyse data using MS Excel and other statistical programs.
  • describe the most important molecular tools to enhance the breeding process;
  • discuss laws and regulations regarding genetic modification;
  • use mixed models, multivariate analysis and spatial analysis to analyse data from novel data collection from field trials;
  • discuss the importance of cell and tissue culture in plant breeding;
  • apply the most important methods for clonal propagation and tissue culture;
  • mention the most important players and developments in the world wide sector of Plant Breeding.

This minor has two assignments:

  1. As an assistant breeder of smaller crops, your task is to develop a breeding program with colleague students. The breeding program contains breeding aims on crop production and market analysis, germ plasm choices and set up a detailed plan for the planting/sowing, crossing and selection for next generations.
  2. A seed company wants to breed new cultivars for a chosen crop. The head breeder of the company asks you to explore the possibilities to speed up the breeding program with the use of molecular markers and genetic modification, or any other advanced breeding technique.


You can participate in this minor if you have:

  • Successfully completed two to three years of a related bachelor program, such as Applied Biology, Horticulture and Arable Farming or an additional degree in a related course. Study subjects: Plant taxonomy, plant growth and reproduction, plant physiology, Mendelian genetics, biology of pests and diseases, cell biology, basis statistics.

  • In special situations in case the candidate can prove that he/she has a knowledge of these topics gained through working experience he/she may be exempted from fulfilling one of the previous criteria

  • English level of IELTS 6.0 or equivalent for EU students; a test can be taken at an intake session of the course, without extra costs. Overseas students need to provide an authenticated proof in advance.


There are several components in this minor, each with a specific evaluation procedure. Theory classes will be completed with a written exam; practicals and fieldwork will be evaluated by attendance and a proof of proficiency; the assessment will be evaluated on the quality of reports and oral presentation.

Part 1 Plant breeding and seed production

Module element: APSP01
EC: 4
Name: Assessment and Learning tasks
Exam: Assessment, including pass/ fail for excursions
Period (week): T2

Module element: APSP02
EC: 4
Name: Genetic variation and breeding methods
Exam: written exam
Period (week): T2

Module element: APSP03
EC: 3
Name: Biology of seed production
Exam: written exam
Period (week): T1

Module element: APSP04
EC: 2
Name: Breeding for resistance
Exam: written exam
Period (week): T2

Module element: APSP05
EC: 2
Name: Experimental design and field trials
Exam: computer exam
Period (week): T1


Part 2 Advanced methods of plant breeding

Module element: AMBP01
EC: 6
Name: Assessment and Learning tasks, including pass/ fail for excursions
Exam: Assessment
Period (week): T2

Module element: AMBP02
EC: 5
Name: Molecular breeding 1
Exam: written exam
Period (week): T2

Module element: AMBP06
EC: 5
Name: Molecular breeding 2
Exam: written exam
Period (week): T2

Module element: AMBP03
EC: 2
Name: Training data analysis
Exam: assignment
Period (week): T2

Module element: AMBP04
EC: 2
Name: Training Clonal propagation and in vitro
Exam: assignment
Period (week): T2


Practical guides and additional documents will be provided on blackboard.

Recommended: Acquaah, G. (2012) Principles of Plant genetics and breeding. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN: 978-0-470-66476-6


The courses of the minor days will be taught on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday weekly.