Kies op maat

Inloggen Menu

Plant Breeding and Seed Production

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. 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.

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 learn to execute the different steps in developing new cultivars:

  1. determine the aims of the breeding program based on the analysis of crop production and market data;
  2. introduce genetic variation;
  3. assess selection trials;
  4. design selection experiments for desired traits, while including disease tests.

The minor 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.

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. The entire 60 ECTS program contains two minors, a company placement coupled with a thesis. It is highly recommended to follow the whole programme, however for Dutch students it is also possible to follow the minors separately.

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


This course prepares you for the professional tasks of an assistant breeder or a research assistant. After completing the course 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.

As an assistant breeder of smaller crops, your task is to develop a breeding program with colleague students. This breeding program contains breeding aims based 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.


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 and

  • 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 examined in 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 a presentation to the official client.

  • Assessment: breeding program + oral defence (4 ECTS), September – January
  • Genetic variation and breeding methods (4 ECTS), exam in January
  • Biology of seed production (3 ECTS), exam in November
  • Breeding for resistance (2 ECTS), exam in January
  • Experimental design and field trails (2 ECTS), computer exam in November


Practical guides and additional documents will be provided on Canvas.

Recommended: Acquaah, G. (2012) Principles of Plant genetics and breeding. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN: 978-0-470-66476-6 (not sure)


The courses of this minor will be taught on Monday and Friday weekly.

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