MBG*4160 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 the application of genetic principles to plant improvement. Topics include breeding objectives, mating systems, selection, testing and germplasm maintenance of horticultural and crop plants. 

This course addresses basic genetic principles important for plant breeding, and selection methodology for self- and cross-pollinated crops.  Students will learn concepts that can be applied to the breeding of many plants.  Laboratories will offer opportunities to conduct a selection experiment, learn crossing techniques, review literature, apply statistics, and understand unique aspects of breeding several crops.  

Pre-Requisite(s): (MBG*2040 or MBG*2400), STAT*2040



Teaching Assistant:

Deus Mugabe

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

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, you should 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
  • Centers of origin and diversity
  • Gene banks
  • Variation in plants
    • quantitative
    • qualititative
  • 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 selection
      • 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:

  1. Rapid cycling brassica
  2. Statistics 
  3. Pollination of crop plants
  4. Estimates of heritability
  5. No lab 
  6. Soybean breeding 
  7. Journal article 
  8. Rapid cycling brassicas
  9. Journal article 
  10. Asparagus breeding 
  11. Oral reports 
  12. Oral reports 

Course Assignments and Tests:

  Contribution to Final Grade



Final Exam


Written Report


Oral Presentation


Lab: Brassicas


Lab: Statistics 5%
Lab: Heritability 5%
Lab: Journal article 2.5%
Lab: Journal article


Final examination:

Please refer to Web Advisor for exam schedule and location.

Course Resources:

Required Texts:

Not applicable.

Recommended Texts:

Not applicable.

Lab Manual:

Not applicable.

Other Resources:

All lecture notes and labs are posted on Courselink.

Field Trips:

Not applicable.

Additional Costs:

Not applicable.

Course Policies:

Grading Policies

All assignments are due at the beginning of class on the prescribed dates. Late penalty is 10% per days 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:

Assessment Details:
Quizzes (20%)
Bi-weekly quizzes will be given at the start of class on Fridays. The best 4 of 5 quizzes will count towards the final grade.
Rapid Cycling Brassicas (10%)
A population of B. rapa which matures in 35 to 40 days will allow you to conduct a plant breeding experiment. With this genetic material you will perform recurrent selection and estimate gains and realized heritabilities.
Term Project (25%)
In groups of two, students will choose a crop plant. First, each student working independently will submit on Oct 22 a written report on the centres of origin and diversity, natural pollination biology and artificial hybridization methods for the crop (15% of final grade). Second, groups will prepare 15 minute oral presentations on their crops to be given in the laboratory sessions during the last two weeks of the semester (10%). The presentations will include material in the written report as well as the development of a breeding methodology to solve a specific problem of the crop. The two students will share responsibilities for one oral presentation.
Heritability (5%)
Students will be given data sets and instructed in the calculation of heritability
Statistics in Plant Breeding (5%)
Students will calculate and intepret some basic statisical parameters commonly used in plant breeding.
Pollination of Crop Plants (0%)
Students will perform emasculation and pollination of some common crop plants in order to practice some common breeding techniques.
Discussion of Journal Articles (5%)
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 students must show preparation before coming to lab. Each of the two exercises is worth 2.5 points towards the final grade.

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

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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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