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Master in

Plant genetics, genomics and breeding

Next edition: 1st part: September 2023 – June 2024 / 2nd part: September 2024 – June 2025

Master in

Plant genetics, genomics and breeding

General information on the Unit

ECTS: 4.5
Contact hours: 38 (32 lectures, 6 practicals)
Personal work hours: 62
Character: Compulsory
Venue: Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza (CIHEAM Zaragoza)
- Developed during the first academic year of the Master, at the beginning of the first semester.
- The assessment of this Unit consists in a written exam and the assessment of exercises and problems during the first semester.
Requisites and permanence
There are no previous requisites
Learning methods
Combination of theoretical and practical classes, and individual study and work.
Lecturers may deliver the topics in English. The documents supplied by the lecturers should be written in English.


Presentation of the Unit and context within the syllabus

The Unit presents the historical evolution of plant breeding and makes the student understand and analyse the different elements and conditions that must be considered when designing a breeding programme, highlighting the role played by innovation.The Unit introduces also the agronomical, physiological and environmental context of plant breeding, and its contents are applied transversally in various of the following units. In this part, the Unit first presents the agricultural systems, the use of resources and the different production systems and cultivation technologies, then providing a vision on the importance of digitalization and the use of big data in agriculture. Subsequently, the Unit discusses the physiological determinants of crop production in the context of breeding, focusing on the genotypic effect, as well as the relationships climate change/agriculture, presenting options to adapt agriculture to the effects of climate change and to mitigate the impact of agriculture on climate change. Finally, the Unit deals with the use of crop models, presenting examples applied to plant breeding.



Specific competences

  • SC1 Mastering the basics and principles of modern plant breeding.
  • SC2 Identifying and assessing key elements of plant breeding programmes under different purposes and contexts.
  • SC3 Integrating the knowledge of agriculture, plant physiology, climate change, biotechnology, biochemistry and pathology in a plant breeding programme.

General competences

  • GC1 Integrating scientific and technical knowledge and applying them discerningly.
  • GC2 Analysing results or strategies and elaborating conclusions which contribute to clarify the problems and to find possible solutions.
  • GC3 Learning and working autonomously, responding to unforeseen situations and re-aiming a strategy if necessary.
  • GC4 Writing presentations and synthesis, preparing and presenting oral communications, and defending them in public.


Learning outcomes

At the end of Unit 1, the student:

  • Has an overview of the characteristics and challenges of agricultural systems, the different production systems and the cropping technologies.
  • Is aware of the historical evolution of plant breeding, knowing which have been the key scientific and technical advances that have influenced its development or accelerated its results.
  • Has an overview of the context, elements and actors of plant breeding programmes as well as of their processes and products.
  • Has criteria to discern the requirements of a breeding programme according to their objectives and conditioning factors.
  • Values the importance of digitalizing agriculture and using big data, and is aware of the challenges that imply.
  • Knows the physiological determinants of crop production in the context of plant breeding, with a focus on the genotypic effect.
  • Is conscious of the effect of climate change in agriculture and at the same time of the impact that agriculture has on climate change, and knows options of mitigation and adaptation.
  • Recognizes the importance of crop modelling as a tool for environmental characterization and has skills in the use of crop models in breeding programmes.



  • Historical perspective of agriculture and plant breeding
  • The plant breeding framework
  • Introduction to agricultural systems
  • Big data and digitalization in agriculture
  • Physiological determinants of crop production
  • Agriculture and climate change
  • Environmental characterization and crop modelling

Learning activities

Learning activity 1: Lectures combined with case studies
ECTS: 3.4
Hours: 85
Percentage of contact: 85%

Learning activity 2: Tutored individual and group work. Students, divided in groups, have to complete a task as homework in which each member of the group has to select an institution and crop and conduct a digital search on plant breeding, genetics or genomics. Then, each one has to answer a series of predetermined questions, prepare a slide per question and submit the report to the tutor. Afterwards, they have to discuss in groups, listing individual topics and selecting one of the cases. In the plenary session each group presents the selected case and debates with the other groups and the tutor.
ECTS: 0.3
Hours: 8
Percentage of contact: 8%

Learning activity 3: Tutored individual and group work. Using Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM). Students, guided by the tutor, use APSIM to perform exercises on: (a) calculation of a fallow water balance, (b) simulation of a sorghum crop, and (c) analysis of the variation across years and the influence of time of sowing, genotype and climate change on wheat flowering time. Thereafter, students have to solve, also individually, a similar exercise and present to the tutor a brief document with the answer to the questions given by him.

ECTS: 0.3
Hours: 8
Percentage of contact: 8%

Assessment methods

Assessment system 1: Written exams, composed of questions provided by different lecturers of the Unit. The questions are either multiple choice or concrete questions requiring a short explanation. The exam assesses the content of lectures.
In the written exam, the questions which are not multiple choice are marked according to the technical and conceptual precision of the answer, and to the reasoning approach.
Weighting: 70% of the final score of the Unit

Assessment system 2: Global assessment by the tutor of the individual work based on the reports submitted by each student on an exercise similar to those performed in the learning activity 3. Understanding of the methodology and quality of the results will be assessed.
Weighting: 15% of the final score of the Unit

Assessment system 3: Global assessment by the tutor of the individual reports submitted by each member of the work groups of learning activity 2. Understanding of the methodology and quality of the results will be assessed.
Weighting: 15% of the final score of the Unit


Gabriel ANZALDI, Centro Tecnològic de Catalunya (Eurecat), Lleida (Spain)
Javier BETRÁN, Bayer, Toulouse (France)
Carlos CANTERO, Univ. Lleida (Spain)
Scott CHAPMAN, Univ. Queensland, St Lucia (Australia)
José Ignacio CUBERO, Univ. Córdoba (Spain)
Inés MÍNGUEZ, Univ. Politécnica Madrid (Spain)
Gustavo SLAFFER, Univ. Lleida (Spain)