Course overview

The Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants course is aimed at individuals who wish to understand how research into agricultural traits, crop genetics and the breeding of crop plants is actually done.

Course participants will develop their understanding of the factors which influence how crop plants can be genetically improved and how Biotechnological approaches can be intelligently applied. This involves taking into account the fundamental constraints represented by factors such as the breeding system and life cycle of the plant; the domestication process it underwent and the tools currently available within the target species.

They will gain practical experience of how ‘DNA markers’ are used to breed desirable characteristics into crops and will be able to meet scientists working on fundamental and applied crop research, together with experts from the plant breeding industry, who will offer their own perspectives on crop breeding within the industry and where Biotechnological approaches have benefited the industry and where they have failed.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding gained
  • How have crop breeding and genetic improvement programmes succeeded or failed historically.
  • How integration of cross-disciplinary approaches is being applied in practice.
  • What is realistic in a crop genetic improvement programme.
  • The constraints, limitations and timescale of biotechnological improvement of crop plants.
  • Basic knowledge of practical techniques used in crop genetic improvement.
Skills gained
  • Critically evaluate current research in the field of the genetic improvement of crops and allied disciplines.
  • Acquire substantial quantities of information systematically and process it selectively and effectively.
  • Develop ideas and interpretations through the use of information from a wide variety of sources.
  • Critically assess past failures and successes of plant breeding through a group case study.
  • Appreciate the relationship between what is scientifically possible and what is feasible in practice.
  • Evaluate journal reported science and case histories critically and to present the conclusions to a mixed audience.
  • Search for and retrieve information from a wide range of sources, including electronic and print systems.
  • Present in written format scientific data to a standard and format consistent with that as accepted by the professional, scientific and business community.
  • Evaluate the nature of genetic information and understand the relative quality and applicability of such information derived from a number of different genetic approaches to crop improvement.
  • Gain practical lab skills relevant to biotechnological approaches to crop improvement.
  • Communicate effectively through written and verbal forms.
  • Critically appraise and present information from a wide range of sources.
  • Use general IT tools, Internet and other learning resources to generate concise scientific overviews and to advance their own knowledge base.
  • Appreciate the limitations, time-scales and problems associated with particular approaches to genetic improvement of crop plants.
  • Develop practical plant skills.
Additional Course Information

Areas covered on this course will include:

  • Practical application of Biotechnology
  • Food Security
  • Self-incompatibility
  • Plant Genetics
  • Molecular Markers and Linkage Analysis
  • Tissue Culture
  • Plant Genetic Engineering Techniques
  • Disease Resistance
  • Biofortification;
  • Dynamic Genome
  • Genomics and Candidate Genes
  • Quantitative Traits
  • Microarrays
  • Next Generation Sequencing
  • Genetic Improvement of Wheat and Oil Palm

There are two pieces of assessed coursework: a report based on work carried out during the Practical Course at Sutton Bonington and an essay on improving a named crop species.



Key facts

Course Dates
Introductory session: 1 day (Sutton Bonington). Online e-Learning (lecture series with associated quizzes and direct reading): Available after the introductory session. Practical course and seminar series (2 days) (Sutton Bonington).
Entry Requirements
Graduate level or relevant experience within the crops/horticultural industry
IFST Membership
Your course enrolment also entitles you to one year of free membership to the IFST (Institute of Food, Science and Technology).
Course Provider
University of Nottingham
Provider Reference Number
Course Arrangements
Full joining instructions will be confirmed by the course provider.
Course Location
Online, University of Nottingham
AFTP Cohort
Course Logistics
Lunch is provided.
My AFTP training course has given me greater confidence day-to-day and more insight into the impact of new techniques and technologies.
Andy Russell - Fresh Produce Technologist, Bakkavor

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