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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

Contact hours: 72 (48 lectures, 24 practicals)
Personal work hours: 103
Character: Compulsory
Venue: Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza (CIHEAM Zaragoza)
- Developed during the first academic year of the Master, during the first semester.
- The assessment of this Unit consists in a theoretical and practical exam and the assessment of the work in groups during the first semester.
Requisites and permanence
Knowledge on basic genetics, statistics and molecular biology is required. Propaedeutics on basic statistics and molecular biology are organized for students who need them.
Learning methods
Combination of theoretical and practical classes, and group study and work.
Lectures are delivered in English and the documents supplied by the lecturers are also in English. The exams can be taken either in English, Spanish or French.


Presentation of the Unit and context within the syllabus

The Unit presents the principles of plant genetics and its contents are of greatest importance to understand the following Units.

The Unit presents the different plant reproduction systems, the evolution in the domestication of crop plants, the genetic structure of plant populations and the basis of quantitative genetics. The study of genetic diversity is the main core of the Unit, considering the different tools and methodologies that make possible its detection and assessment as well as the identification and validation of the genes responsible for traits of breeding importance.



Specific competences

  • SC1 Mastering the basics and principles of modern plant breeding.
  • SC2 Detecting and assessing phenotypic and genetic variability and determining the components of variation.
  • SC3 Understanding and using molecular and quantitative tools to solve biological, genetic, mathematical and statistical problems.

General competences

  • GC1 Integrating scientific and technical knowledge and applying it 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 2, the student:

  • Knows the different plant reproduction systems, how they affect genetic variability and how they condition the strategies and processes of selection and breeding.
  • Knows how to determine the genetic structure of a population and is aware of the changes that can be produced in it throughout time.
  • Is familiar with the different types of molecular markers most used in genetic studies and of genotyping systems, and is aware of the main application in breeding programmes.
  • Can identify and assess genetic diversity and understand the use of experimental populations and haplotype construction in genetic studies to generate new variability and to characterize genetic variation.
  • Understands the processes of DNA extraction and genotyping in the lab and has experience in the construction and comparison of genetic maps using specific software.
  • Is able to assess the available phenotypic and genotypic variability and to determine which are the components of variation.
  • Knows the methods to identify and validate genes responsible for particular characters and complex traits of interest in breeding.



  • Plant reproduction system
  • Genetic structure of plant populations
  • Genetic diversity and the domestication of crop plants
  • Detecting genetic diversity
  • Linkage analysis and genetic mapping
  • Essentials of quantitative genetics (D, R, H2, breeding values)
  • Gene identification and validation: forward and reverse genetics

Learning activities

Learning activity 1: Lectures combined with applied examples
Hours: 125
Percentage of contact: 38%

Learning activity 2: Laboratory practicals and individual work
a) DNA extraction and genotyping using basic molecular markers. The practicals are carried out in the laboratory of the Department of Genetics and Plant Production and the laboratory of the Department of Pomology of the Experimental Station of Aula Dei of CSIC.
b) RNA extraction and detection of genetic expression using Real-Time PCR. The practicals are carried out in the laboratory of the Department of Molecular Biology of the Aula Dei Scientific and Technological Park.
In both practicals the students work in pairs and prepare a report including the results.
ECTS: 1.1
Hours: 28
Percentage of contact: 87%

Learning activity 3: Totured individual work
(a) Solving exercises and problems on population genetics for determining population structure
(b) Calculation of genetic diversity matrices, factorial analysis and building phylogenetic trees
(c) Solving exercises and problems on quantitative genetics for determining variance components and basic genetic parameters such as heritability
Students, guided by the corresponding tutor, work individually on the exercises proposed. Thereafter, students have to solve a similar exercise as homework and present a brief document to the tutor with the results.
(d) Exercises on linkage and recombination using specific packages for the construction of genetic maps (Arús)
Students, guided by the tutor, work individually on the exercises proposed.
ECTS: 0.9
Hours: 23 (a: 6; b: 4; c: 8; d: 5)
Percentage of contact: 48% (a: 67%; b: 50%; c: 75%; d: 72%)


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: 65% of the final score of the Unit

Assessment system 2: Global assessment by the tutors of the individual work related to learning activities 2 and 3(a, b and c) based on the documents submitted by each student. Understanding of the methodology and quality of the results will be assessed.
Weighting: 35% of the final score of the Unit



Pere ARÚS, CRAG, Barcelona (Spain)
Ana CASAS, CSIC-EEAD, Zaragoza (Spain)
Jordi GARCIA-MAS, CRAG, Barcelona (Spain)
Yolanda GOGORCENA, CSIC-EEAD, Zaragoza (Spain)
Iñaki HORMAZA, CSIC-IHSM, Málaga (Spain)
Wolfgang LINK, Univ. Göttingen (Germany)
Marcelino PÉREZ DE LA VEGA, Univ León (Spain)
Pilar SOENGAS, CSIC-MBG, Pontevedra (Spain)
Robbie WAUGH, The James Hutton Institute, Dundee (United Kingdom)