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Master in

Plant breeding

Present edition: 1st part: 26 September 2016 – 9 June 2017 / 2nd part: September 2017 – June 2018 ··
Next edition: 1st part: September 2018 – June 2019 / 2nd part: September 2019 – June 2020

Master in

Plant breeding

General information on the Unit

Contact hours: 59 (38 lectures, 21 practicals)
Personal work hours: 91
Character: Compulsory
Venue: Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza
- Developed during the first academic year of the Master, in the middle of the first semester.
- The assessment of this Unit consists in a written exam and the assessment of problem and exercise solving during the first semester.
Requisites and permanence
There are no previous requisites
Learning methods
Combination of theoretical and practical classes, and group study and work.
Lecturers deliver the topics in English and simultaneous interpretation into Spanish is provided. The documents supplied by the lecturers is also written in English.


Presentation of the Unit and context within the syllabus

The first part of the unit includes an introduction to population genetics, analyzing the genetic constitution of a population, the changes in allele and genotype frequencies, the population structure, the genetic distance between populations and the linkage disequilibrium. The second part of the unit is devoted to the understanding of continuous variation of phenotype trait expression, the analysis of the components of phenotypic and genotypic variance and the different models for assessing genotypic values. The third part of the unit analyses the response to selection, its estimation and improvement. Simple selection methods, indirect selection, multitrait selection and selection indexes are reviewed. Practical exercises focus on the concepts and applications of these types of analysis to applied breeding programmes.



Specific competences

  • SC1 Mastering the basics and principles of modern plant breeding, including new quantitative and molecular tools like genomics and, in general, the knowledge and application of '-omics' technologies.
  • SC2 Identifying and assessing phenotypic and genetic variability and determining the components of variation.
  • SC3 Assessing the importance of genetic resources as variability sources in breeding programmes, and commanding the appropriate processes for their collection, conservation, evaluation and use.
  • SC4 Understanding and using quantitative tools to solve biological, mathematical and statistical problems.

General competences

  • GC1 Integrating scientific and technical knowledge and applying them discerningly.
  • GC5 Learning and working autonomously, responding to unforeseen situations and re-aiming a strategy if necessary.


Learning outcomes

The student, at the end of the learning of this Unit:

  • 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 able to assess the available phenotypic and genotypic variability and to determine which are the components of variation.
  • Has a good command of the genetic bases of selection, and knows the different methods for simple-, correlated-trait- and multi-trait selection.



  • Population genetics
  • Components of variation
  • Response to selection
  • Selection indexes

Learning activities

Learning activity 1: Lectures combined with examples
Hours: 100
Percentage of contact: 38%

Learning activity 2: Practical work on solving exercises and problems on population genetics and quantitative genetics for determining genetic distances, population structure, variance components and basic genetic parameters such as heritability and response to selection. The exercises will be carried out in pairs, manually, with EXCEL, and using specific software.
Hours: 50
Percentage of contact: 42%


Assessment methods

Assessment system 1: Written exams, with partial access to computers for solving practical matters, composed by questions provided by the different lecturers of the Unit. The exam questions are concrete and require a short development. Both the content of conferences and understanding of practicals are assessed through exercises which are similar to those done in the practical sessions.
In the written exam, the questions are marked according to the technical and conceptual precision of the answer, and to the reasoning approach, and the exercises according to the understanding of the methodology and the validity of the results.
Weighting: 75% of the final score of the Unit

Assessment system 2: Global assessment of the solving of exercises and problems by the lecturers in charge of them.
Understanding of the methodology and the validity of the results will be assessed. The score is the same for both members of the pair.
Weighting: 25% of the final score of the Unit



John BRADSHAW, James Hutton Institute, Dundee (UK)
Keith GARDNER, NIAB, Cambridge (UK)
Wolfgang LINK, Univ. Göttingen (Germany)
Bruno SANTOS, NIAB, Cambridge (UK)