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Master in

Plant breeding

Next edition: 1st part: September 2020 – June 2021 / 2nd part: September 2021 – June 2022

Master in

Plant breeding

General information on the Unit

Contact hours: 48 (42 lectures, 6 practicals)
Personal work hours: 77
Character: Compulsory
Venue: Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of 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 Spanish or in English. In the second case, simultaneous interpretation into Spanish is provided. The documents supplied by the lecturers may also be written in Spanish or in English.


Presentation of the Unit and context within the syllabus

The unit is divided in two parts: Objectives, principles and processes in plant breeding and Plant genetics and variability. In the first part of the unit, the evolution of plant breeding is reviewed from a historical perspective. Then the objectives, processes and determining factors of plant breeding are explored, including time, heritability and the nature of the final product. Examples of public and private modern plant breeding programmes are introduced, considering their socioeconomic, agronomic and environmental context. In the second part of the unit, the principles of plant genetics and molecular biology are dealt with. The final part of the unit is devoted to the study of the safeguarding and use of plant genetic resources, through the study of material collections, their conservation, multiplication and documentation, as well as of database management and sample exchanges.



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.

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.
  • GC7 Communicating reasoning and conclusions both to a general audience and to a specialized public.


Learning outcomes

At the end of Unit 1, the student:

  • Analyzes 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.
  • Knows the different plant reproduction systems, how they affect genetic variability and how they condition the strategies and processes of selection and breeding.
  • Has a deeper insight into the genetic basis supporting plant breeding, from the individual gene to the complete genome.
  • Knows the aim of the genome analysis projects of certain model plant species and the possibilities offered by their comparison with the genomes of other species of agronomic interest.
  • Understands the importance of identifying genes, isolating them, determining their function and controlling their expression.
  • Can identify genetic variability, locating the genetic regions associated with traits of interest for breeding, and determining the connection between phenotypic and genetic variability.
  • Considers the importance of plant genetic resources as a source of variability in plant breeding programmes, and knows the appropriate processes for their collection, conservation, evaluation and use.



  • Historical perspective of plant breeding
  • Determinants of plant breeding (time, heritability and product nature)
  • Socioeconomic, agronomic and environmental framework
  • Examples of public and private modern plant breeding programmes
  • Plant genetics principles
    • Basic Mendelian genetics
    • Linkage and recombination
    • Basic biometrical genetics
    • Chromosome structure, structural and numerical changes
    • Plant reproduction systems and breeding products
  • Plant molecular biology
    • DNA structure and replication
    • Gene structure
    • Gene expression
    • Why isolate genes?
  • Molecular tools
    • Basic methodology
    • Gene libraries
    • PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction)
    • Functional genomics
    • Reverse genetics
  • Plant genetic resources

Learning activities

Learning activity 1: Lectures combined with case studies
ECTS: 4.4
Hours: 109
Percentage of contact: 39%

Learning activity 2: Practical sessions with solving of exercises and problems on Mendelian genetics and biometrics.
ECTS: 0.6
Hours: 14
Percentage of contact: 43%


Assessment methods

Assessment system 1: Written exams, composed by questions provided by the different lecturers of the Unit.
The questions are either multiple choice or concrete questions requiring a short development. The exam assesses the content of lectures as well as the understanding of the practicals, through exercises similar to those developed during the practical sessions.
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, and the exercises according to the understanding of the methodology and the validity of the results.
Weighting: 80% of the final score of the Unit

Assessment system 2: Global assessment of the solving of exercises and problems by the lecturer in charge of them. Understanding of the methodology and quality of the results will be assessed.
Weighting: 20% of the final score of the Unit



Javier BETRÁN, Bayer, Toulouse (France)
José Ignacio CUBERO, Univ. Córdoba (Spain)
José T. ESQUINAS, Univ. Politécnica Madrid (Spain)
Gemma FARRÉ, Agrotecnio-UdL, Lleida (Spain)
Moncef HARRABI, INAT, Tunis (Tunisia)
Marcelino PÉREZ DE LA VEGA, Univ. León (Spain)