PLNT*6340 Plant Breeding

course node page

The following description is for the course offering in Fall 2021 and is subject to change. It is provided for information only. The course outline distributed to the class at the beginning of the semester describes the course content and delivery, and defines the methods and criteria to be used in establishing the final grades for the course.

This course examines principles of plant breeding in self- and cross-pollinated crops. Additional topics include crop domestication, mating systems, heritability, gain from selection, disease resistance, polyploidy, marker assisted selection and government regulations. Offered in conjunction with MBG*4160. Extra work is required of graduate students. 


Teaching Assistant:

Deus Mugabe

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Graduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Fall

Class Schedule and Location:

Please refer to Web Advisor for class schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Identify sources of genetic variation to conduct a breeding program 
  2. Identify characteristics of self- and cross-pollinated plants 
  3. Determine breeding methodology appropriate for plants with different mating systems
  4. Conduct basic statistical analyses related to plant breeding
  5. Analyze journal articles related to cultivar development
  6. Conduct and analyze a selection experiment
  7. Communicate background information and original ideas related to breeding a specific crop

Lecture Content:

Topics to be covered in lectures include:

  • Evolution and Domestication
  • Impact of plant breeding on agriculture
  • Centres of origin and diversity
  • Gene banks
  • Variation in plants
    • quantitative
    • qualitative
  • Modes of reproduction/genetics of breeding
  • Self-pollinated crops
    • Selection during segregating generations
    • Selection following fixation of alleles
  • Cross-pollinated crops
    • Hardy Weinberg equilibrium
    • Gain from selection
    • Population improvement
      • individual plant selectin
      • family selection
  • Inbreeding and heterosis
  • Cytoplasmic male sterility
  • Hybrids
  • Polyploidy
  • Marker Assisted Breeding
  • Disease resistance
  • Seeds Act and regulations
Labs & Seminars:

Topics to be covered in labs include:

  • Rapid cycling brassicas
  • Statistics 
  • Pollination of crop plants
  • Estimates of hertability
  • Soybean breeding
  • Asparagus breeding

Rapid Cycling Brassicas - A population of B. rapa which matures in 35 to 40 days was developed by Dr. P. H. Williams at the University of Wisconsin. With this genetic material you will perform a selection experiment and estimate gains from selection and realized heritabilities.

Term Paper and Oral Presentation - Students will be assigned a plant breeding topic (e.g. heterosis, interspecific hybridization, comparison of breeding methods, etc) and will write a 10 page review paper based on primary literature. A 20 minute seminar will be presented during the last two weeks of class. 

Heritability - Students will be given data sets and instructed in the calculation of heritability.

Statistics in Plant Breeding - Students will calculate and interpret some basic statistical parameters commonly used in plant breeding.

Pollination of Crop Plants - Students will perform emasculation and pollination of some common crop plants in order to practice some common breeding techniques.

Discussion of Journal Articles - Students will be asked to analyze journal articles. Questions will be assigned before lab and answers will be collected at the start of lab. Answers do not need to be correct but student must show preparation before coming to lab. Each of the two exercises is worth 2.5 pt to the final grade.

Course Assignments and Tests:

Assignment or Test Contribution to Final Grade


Final exam


Written report


Oral presentation


Lab: Brassicas


Lab: Statistics


Lab: Heritability


Lab: Journal article I


Lab: Journal article II


Final examination:

Please refer to Web Advisor for exam schedule and location.

Course Resources:

Required texts:


Recommended texts:


Lab manual:


Other resources:
All lecture notes and labs are posted on Courselink.
This course will use a variety of technologies including:
  • CourseLink
  • Zoom (lectures)
  • Teams (via Office 365)
  • Respondus LockDown Browser
To help ensure you have the best learning experience possible, please review the list of system and software requirements.
CourseLink System Requirements
You are responsible for ensuring that your computer system meets the necessary system requirements. Use the browser check tool to ensure your browser settings are compatible and up to date. (Results will be displayed in a new browser window).
Teams (via Office 365)
Office 365 Teams is a collaboration service that provides shared conversation spaces to help teams coordinate and communicate information. This course will use Teams for one on one meetings with your Instructor. It is recommended that you use the desktop version of Teams. As a student you are responsible for learning how to use Teams and its features. 
For Teams Support visit the CCS website for more information.
This course will use Zoom for lectures. Check your system requirements to ensure you will be able to participate.
Technical Skills 
As part of your learning experience, you are expected to use a variety of technologies for assignments, lectures, teamwork, and meetings. In order to be successful in this course you will need to have the following technical skills:
  • Manage files and folders on your computer (e.g., save, name, copy, backup, rename, delete, and check properties);
  • Install software, security, and virus protection; 
  • Use office applications (e.g., Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or similar) to create documents;
  • Be comfortable uploading and downloading saved files;
  • Communicate using email (e.g., create, receive, reply, print, send, download, and open attachments);
  • Navigate the CourseLink learning environment and use the essential tools, such as Dropbox, Quizzes, Discussions, and Grades (the instructions for this are given in your course);
  • Access, navigate, and search the Internet using a web browser (e.g., Firefox, Internet Explorer); and
  • Perform online research using various search engines (e.g., Google) and library databases.
Contact your course instructors if you need support with any of the above.
Field Trip


Additional Costs:


Course Policies:

Grading Policies

All assignments are due at the beginning of class on the prescribed dates. Late penalty is 10% per day from the due date and time. Late assignments will not be accepted after 3 days.

Course Policy on Group Work:

All submitted work is to be an individual effort with no collaboration or sharing of answers; this includes use of materials from previous years. Laboratory data may be collected as a group, however, analysis and written lab reports are individual efforts.

Course Policy regarding use of electronic devices and recording of lectures

Texting and use of electronic devices, except for laptops, are prohibited in lecture and lab.

Electronic recording of classes is expressly forbidden without consent of the instructor.  When recordings are permitted they are solely for the use of the authorized student and may not be reproduced, or transmitted to others, without the express written consent of the instructor.

Communicating with Instructors
  • During the course, your instructor will interact with you on various course matters on the course website using the following ways of communication:
  • Announcements: The instructors will use Announcements on the Course Home page to provide you with course reminders and updates. Please check this section frequently for course updates from your instructor.
  • Ask Your Instructor Discussion: Use this discussion forum to ask questions of your instructor about content or course-related issues with which you are unfamiliar. If you encounter difficulties, the instructor is here to help you. Please post general
  • course related questions to the discussion forum so that all students have an opportunity to review the response. To access this discussion forum, select
  • Discussions from the Tools dropdown menu.
  • Email: If you have a conflict that prevents you from completing course requirements, or have a question concerning a personal matter, you can send your instructor a private message by email. The instructor will attempt to respond to your email within one business day.
  • Video Call: If you have a complex question you would like to discuss with your instructor, you may book a video meeting on Teams. Video meetings depend on availability and are booked on a first come first served basis.
Nettiquette Expectations
The course website is considered the classroom and the same protections, expectations, guidelines, and regulations used in face-to-face settings apply. Inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated. Examples of inappropriate online behaviour include:
  • Posting inflammatory messages about your instructor or fellow students;
  • Using offensive language
  • Copying or presenting someone else's work as your own;
  • Adapting information from the Internet without using proper citations or references;• Buying or selling term papers or assignments;
  • Posting or selling course materials to course notes websites;
  • Having someone else complete your quiz or completing a quiz for/with another student;
  • Stating false claims about lost quiz answers or other assignment submissions;
  • Threatening or harassing a student or instructor;
  • Discriminating against fellow students, instructors, and/or TAs;
  • Using the course website to promote profit-driven products or services;
  • Attempting to compromise the security or functionality of the learning management system; and
  • Sharing your username and password.
Dropbox Submissions
Assignments should be submitted electronically via the online Dropbox tool. When submitting your assignments using the Dropbox tool, do not leave the page until your assignment has successfully uploaded. To verify that your submission was complete, you can view the
submission history immediately after the upload to see which files uploaded successfully.
The system will also email you a receipt. Save this email receipt as proof of submission.
Be sure to keep a back-up copy of all of your assignments in the event that they are lost in transition. In order to avoid any last-minute computer problems, your instructors strongly recommend you save your assignments to a cloud-based file storage (e.g., OneDrive), or send to your email account, so that  should something happen to your computer, the assignment could still be submitted on time or re-submitted.
It is your responsibility to submit your assignments on time as specified on the Schedule. Be sure to check the technical requirements and make sure you have the proper computer, that you have a supported browser, and that you have reliable Internet access. Remember that technical difficulty is not an excuse not to turn in your assignment on time. Don’t wait until the last minute as you may get behind in your work.
All assignments will be assessed for academic integrity with Turn-It-In. 
If, for some reason, you have a technical difficulty when submitting your assignment electronically, please contact your instructor or CourseLink Support.
Late Policy
If you choose to submit assignments to the Dropbox tool late, the full allocated mark will be reduced by 10% per day after the deadline for the submission of the assignment to a limit of three days at which time access to the Dropbox folder will be closed.
Extensions will be considered for medical reasons or other extenuating circumstances. If you require an extension, discuss this with the instructor as soon as possible and well before the due date. Barring exceptional circumstances, extensions will not be granted once the due date has passed. These rules are not designed to be arbitrary, nor are they inflexible. They are designed to keep you organized, to ensure that all students have the same amount of time to work on assignments, and to help to return marked materials to you in the shortest possible time.


Other Course Information:

University Policies

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the academic calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration:

Academic Misconduct

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community, faculty, staff, and students  to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring.

University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


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For more information, contact CSD at 519-824-4120 ext. 56208 or email or visit the Student Accessibility Services website:

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