PLNT*6340 Plant Breeding

course node page

The following description is for the course offering in Fall 2019 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 the application of genetic principles to plant improvement. Topics include breeding objectives, mating systems, selection, testing and germplasm maintenance of horticultural and crop plants.


Teaching Assistant:

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 characteristics of self- and cross-pollinated plants
  2. Identify sources of genetic variation to conduct a breeding program
  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.

Field Trips:


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.

Other Course Information:

University Policies

Academic Consideration

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The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


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