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Advanced methods in Plant Breeding

Would you like to breed plants, and learn how to direct their evolution? Would you like to help fight hunger across the globe? Would you like to learn about the latest techniques in plant breeding? In this minor “Advanced Methods in Plant Breeding” (15 ECTS) you will study modern, advanced, and molecular techniques in plant breeding, and advise a real seed company on how to implement such techniques in their breeding programs.

You will study several advanced plant breeding methods, such as transgenesis, mutagenesis, marker-assisted selection and in-vitro propagation, to complement the breeding program of a given crop. You will follow classes in molecular breeding, data analysis, and clonal propagation, and also take part in an international excursion. Classes are taught by experienced lecturers as well as several guest speakers.

This minor is embedded in a full year program on Plant Breeding (60 ECTS) 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. Due to the advanced nature of this minor it is only available to those who follow the minor “Plant Breeding and Seed Production” (15 ECTS) as well.

For specific information about the full-year program Plant Breeding, please contact the coordinator Bram Knegt at


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

  • 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 basic molecular techniques in plant breeding;
  • mention the most important players and developments in the world wide sector of Plant Breeding.

A seed company wants to breed new cultivars for a given crop. The main breeder of the company asks you to explore the possibilities to speed up the breeding program with the use of molecular markers, genetic modification, or any other advanced breeding technique. You will individually write an advisory report, and present your advice to the main breeder.


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. Subjects of your previous education should include: plant taxonomy, plant growth and reproduction, plant physiology, Mendelian genetics, biology of pests and diseases, cell biology, basis statistics.


  • 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 the report and oral presentation.

  • Assessment: advisory report + presentation, excursions (6 ECTS), September - January
  • Molecular Breeding 1 (theory class) (2 ECTS), exam in November
  • Molecular Breeding 2 (theory class) (2 ECTS), exam in January
  • Data Analysis (computer practical) (2 ECTS), November – January
  • Clonal Propagation (lab practical) (3 ECTS), September - January


Practical guides and additional documents will be provided through the online learning environment (Canvas).

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


The courses of this minor will be taught on Tuesdays and Thursdays weekly. This course includes a mandatory international excursion (approximately 60 Euros).

Weeks: 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 44, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 1, 2.