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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: 71 (57 lectures, 14 practicals)
Personal work hours: 104
Character: Compulsory
Venue: Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza, laboratory of the Department of Genetics and Plant Production of the Experimental Station of Aula Dei of CSIC.
- Developed during the first academic year of the Master, at the end of the first semester and the beginning of the second one.
- The assessment of this Unit consists of a written exam and the evaluation of the work carried out in the discussion sessions and the laboratory practicals during the second semester.
Requisites and permanence
There are no previous requisites
Learning methods
Combination of theoretical and practical classes, individual and group study and work, and technical visits.
Lecturers may deliver the course 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

This unit describes and analyzes different methods for the obtention of pure lines, populations, hybrids, synthetic varieties and clones, assessing their advantages and constraints in relation with the general and specific objectives of the breeding programme. Marker-assisted breeding is being introduced in all programmes as a direct application of the use of molecular markers to select for particular traits or genotypes by means of assisted back-crossing, gene pyramiding, marker assisted recurrent selection, genomic prediction and selection, and hybrid prediction in particular. Finally, the unit deals with commercial seed and plant production as the ultimate purpose of agricultural breeding programmes, considering the process from the release of new varieties to seed marketing, exploring property rights issues, registration procedures, production processes and seed quality control and legal aspects of plant breeding.



Specific competences

  • SC7 Assessing the relevant methods and techniques that contribute to greater efficiency in the processes of selection and development of new varieties, particularly molecular techniques aimed at the development of marker-assisted selection programmes.
  • SC10 Planning, developing and assessing specific programmes for breeding in different situations and environments, considering the available materials, the objectives set and the agronomic, environmental and socioeconomic constraints.
  • SC11 Having a good command of the national and international legislation concerning the registration of new varieties and the protection of the intellectual property rights and, in particular, breeder's rights and patents.

General competences

  • GC1 Integrating scientific and technical knowledge and applying them discerningly.
  • GC2 Performing scientific and/or technical information searches and processing them selectively.
  • GC3 Analyzing results or strategies and elaborating conclusions which contribute to clarify the problems and to find possible solutions.
  • GC7 Communicating reasoning and conclusions both to a general audience and to a specialized public.


Learning outcomes

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

  • Knows the different types of commercial crop varieties and the characteristics common to each of them.
  • Knows the particularities of the processes of breeding and obtention of pure lines, populations, hybrids, hybrid varieties and clones.
  • Analyzes the factors determining the selection strategy to be applied to a particular breeding programme.
  • Delves into the application of molecular markers in assisted selection as a tool that helps facilitate the process of obtaining new varieties.
  • Has a good command of selection methods, including marker-assisted methods, and has criteria to determine their appropriateness according to the breeding objectives, the crop reproduction system, the traits to be bred and the environmental conditions.
  • Is familiar with the procedures of production of certified seeds and plants, with seed processing and with the functioning of the seed marketing sector, as the final part of the breeding process.
  • Knows the national and international legislation concerning registration of new varieties and intellectual property rights, and in particular, breeder's rights and patents.



  • Breeding methods
  • Pure lines       
  • Populations    
  • Hybrids
  • Synthetics
  • Clones 
  • Marker-assisted breeding         
  • Back-cross assisted breeding
  • Gene accumulation (Gene pyramiding)      
  • Marker assisted recurrent selection 
  • Genomic prediction and selection    
  • Hybrid prediction      
  • Commercial seed and plant production              
  • Legal aspects of plant breeding

Learning activities

Learning activity 1: Lectures combined with case studies, particularly on presentations of plant breeding programmes
ECTS: 5.4
Hours: 135
Percentage of contact: 42%

Learning activity 2: Session of joint discussion of selected publications and specific examples of plant breeding programmes. Groups of 4-5 students will be created and their work distributed. Each group receives documentation on plant breeding programmes and must present in public their publications and/or breeding programmes, and encourage the general discussion. Finally each group will prepare a document of synthesis, both of the documentation received and of the general discussion.
ECTS: 0.6
Hours: 15
Percentage of contact: 13.5%

Learning activity 3: Practical sessions in the lab to determine the selection footprint in a breeding programme of an autogamous species. The practicals are carried out in the laboratory of the Department of Genetics and Plant Production of the Experimental Station of Aula Dei of CSIC. The students work in pairs and analyse the lab results with a specific software. They have to prepare a report with the results and conclusions.
ECTS: 0.5
Hours: 12
Percentage of contact: 33%

Learning activity 4: Seminar-round table on the role of transgenic varieties in different agricultural systems, focusing both on technical aspects and on socioeconomic ones, in particular, on those related to IP and FTO (intellectual property and freedom to operate). Students will receive documentation in favour and against the topic, in order to enhance their participation.
ECTS: 0.2
Hours: 5
Percentage of contact: 40%

Learning activity 5: Technical visit to a plant breeding company, such as Limagrain-Ibérica in Pamplona.
ECTS: 0.3
Hours: 8
Percentage of contact: 75%


Assessment method

Assessment system 1: Written exam, composed by questions provided by the different lecturers of the Unit. The questions are concrete and require a short development. The exam assesses the content of lectures and the understanding of the joint discussion of papers and the processes observed in the technical visit.
In the written exam, the questions 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 lecturers in charge of:
a) The active participation in the sessions for joint discussion of publications. The mark will be based both on the written documents and on the participation in the discussion. The score is the same for all group members.
b) The lab practicals. The mark will be based on the accuracy of the results and the quality of the report. The score is the same for both members of the pair.
Weighting: 25% of the final score of the Unit.



Javier BETRÁN, Bayer, Toulouse (France)
Ana CASAS, CSIC-EEAD, Zaragoza (Spain)
Paul CHRISTOU, UdL-ICREA, Lleida (Spain)
Jaime COSTA, Monsanto Agricultura España S.L., Madrid (Spain)
José ELENA, Consultor-CPVO, Madrid (Spain)
Ana GARCÉS, CITA-GA, Zaragoza (Spain)
Ernesto IGARTUA, CSIC-EEAD, Zaragoza (Spain)
José Miguel MARTÍNEZ ZAPATER, ICVV, Logroño (Spain)
M. Ángeles MORENO, CSIC-EEAD, Zaragoza (Spain)
Enrique SÁNCHEZ-MONGE, Limagrain, Pamplona (Spain)
Chris SCHÖN, Technical Univ. Munich (Germany)
José Miguel VILLAÚ, DuPont Pioneer Spain, Sevilla (Spain)