Plant Breeding for Non-Plant Breeders: An Introduction to Basic Concepts

Soybean plant in field

Summer 2020: June 8 – August 13, 2020

One unit


Keenan Amundsen


Noncredit Professional Development


Meeting the global demands for food, fuel and fiber in part will depend upon the development of new crop genetics and varieties. These new varieties will need to have unique genes that allow the crop to yield higher than before, be grown in ever-changing environments such as periods of drought, and withstand stress due to insects, pathogen and weed pressure. This requires a large team effort including partnerships with professionals with a variety of expertise including: plant breeding, weed science, plant pathology, entomology, chemical science, plant biology, applied agronomy (crop production), mechanical engineering, farmers, seed sales professionals, etc. With these interwoven professions in mind, the department of Agronomy and Horticulture faculty members have developed this self-paced online module to help participants obtain a conversational knowledge of plant breeding in order to understand basic principles and better communicate with each other no matter the role each plays in this global effort.

Module Outline

The module is divided into 10 topics covering different aspects of plant breeding as outlined below, with more detailed objectives found in the course website within each topic area:

  • Introduction to plant breeding
  • History and important milestones
  • Plant biology 101
  • Evaluating performance and stress tolerance
  • Genes, genomes, and germplasm
  • Genotype, phenotype, and the environment
  • Breeding strategies: open-pollinated
  • Breeding strategies: self-pollinated
  • Marker assisted breeding and biotech
  • Cultivar and germplasm management and release


The module will be delivered over a 10-week period of time and therefore there is no specific or required live meeting attendance required, allowing participants to work at their own pace. Modules content is available through Campus eXtension Online.  Please create a username and log in for this system. You will receive an Enrollment Key/Password closer to the module start date.


High-speed Internet access with updated browser, email, common plug-ins such as Adobe Reader, virus protection, flash player, and speakers.


There is no required text for the module. Content will be delivered through a mix of online lessons, course notes, presentations and videos. A discussion board will be used for participants to ask questions and interact with the instructor and with one another.


The module is developed assuming participants have had some undergraduate science courses (or more advanced). If not, participants may want to take an introductory genetics or plant science module or course.. The department has both of these online as well and they may be viewed on the webpage showing the Plant Breeding & Genetic Certificate modules.