Plant Breeding

Organized by MAI Zaragoza
Mai Coordinators: Dr. Ramzi Belkhodja

Aims

  • To understand the basics and principles of modern plant breeding, including molecular, genomic and biotechnological techniques.
  • To know the classical selection and breeding methods and have criteria to assess their advantages and disadvantages, considering the crop species, the breeding objectives, the environmental conditions and the socioeconomic context.
  • To integrate in a breeding programme the conventional and up-to-date techniques that contribute towards greater efficacy in selection processes and in the development of new varieties.
  • To design breeding programmes for a specific crop species according to the particular conditions of a country or a region following specific objectives.
  • To have the experience in planning and carrying out a work of initiation to research in plant breeding whose results may be potentially publishable, working under the supervision of a tutor but in a manner that must be largely autonomous.
  • To have a good command of the scientific and technical information underpinning the research conducted, knows how to use the techniques and methodologies relevant to such research, and can objectively evaluate the significance of its results and conclusions.
  • To know how to communicate the reasoning and conclusions of tutored works carried out in a group or autonomously, to prepare informative and synthetic documents, and to prepare and present oral communications to be delivered and defended before an audience

Objectives

Plant breeding plays a key role in increasing crop yield and quality, by developing varieties that are adapted to the different environmental conditions, make better use of inputs and are integrated into environmentally and economically viable agricultural systems. This discipline has evolved to a complex science, integrating molecular and cell biology and informatics tools into classical selection methods. It is therefore necessary to train young professionals and scientists to meet the challenges of future agriculture.

PART 1
THE MASTER OF CIHEAM - ZARAGOZA PROGRAMME

TRAINING SEQUENCE

The programme is organized in 10 Units (60 ECTS)

Unit 1
26 Sep.-14 Oct. ‘16    INTRODUCTION TO PLANT BREEDING AND GENETICS (5 ECTS)

Unit 2
17-31 Oct. ’16 and 20-27 Jan. ’17    EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN AND ANALYSIS FOR PLANT BREEDING (6 ECTS)

Unit 3
02-18 Nov. ‘16    POPULATION AND QUANTITATIVE GENETICS (6 ECTS)

Unit 4
21 Nov.- 02 Dec. ‘16    MOLECULAR MARKERS AND QTL MAPPING (5 ECTS)

Unit 5
12-14 Dec. ’16, 12-19 Jan and 31 Jan.-2 Feb. ’17    GENE, GENOMICS AND GM TECHNOLOGIES (6 ECTS)

Unit 6
07- 24 Feb. ‘17    VARIETY DEVELOPMENT AND DEPLOYMENT (7 ECTS)

Unit 7
27 Feb.- 10 Mar. ‘17    BREEDING TECHNOLOGY (4 ECTS)

Unit 8
13-31 Mar. ‘17    TRAIT BREEDING (7 ECTS)

Unit 9
04-28 Apr.and 08-26 May ’17    EXAMPLES OF BREEDING PROGRAMMES (7 ECTS)

Unit 10
26 Sep. ’16- 08 June ’17    DESIGN OF A PLANT BREEDING PROGRAMME (7 ECTS)

EXAMINATIONS

Each unit is independently graded.
Participants take 7 written examinations, corresponding to Units 1 to 9. Written exams consist of a set of questions that require a concise answer. Some of the questions are multiple choice. Lengthy questions are avoided. Exams evaluate the comprehension of lectures content, exercises, laboratory, field and computer practices, individual/group work methodologies, and processes observed during technical visits. Participants may retake failed exams once.
In addition, participants present: (i) written documents carried out in groups, which are presented and defended orally, to complement the examinations of Units 2, 5, 6 and 9; (ii) individual exercises, laboratory results or written reports to complement the examination of Units 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9.
To evaluate Unit 10, participants must elaborate an individual written document that is presented and defended orally before a jury for its qualification.

LANGUAGE OF INSTRUCTION
The working languages are English, French and Spanish. Lecturers can teach in any of the three languages. Simultaneous translation into Spanish is provided when lecturers speak English or French; therefore participants should prove knowledge of Spanish at the start of the course. From the beginning of July to the end of September IAMZ organizes an intensive course of Spanish for those who require it. Participants can answer the exams in Spanish, French or English. In the selection of candidates, knowledge of English is nevertheless valued, as part of the documentation distributed may be written in this language.

PART 2
THE MASTER OF SCIENCE THESIS

Supervised research work: Thesis and defence (60 ECTS)
Duration: 11 months

This part is organized in 2 Units

INTRODUCTION TO RESEARCH (30 ECTS)

This Unit is divided into two subjects. The first one, "Basic tools for the elaboration of scientific and technical documents and publications" (6 ECTS) provides skills in writing, composition and review of technical and scientific texts, and for the establishment and use of bibliographic reference databases. The second subject "Practicum on Plant Breeding" (24 ECTS) provides the background knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for the planning and realization of research or professional projects in a given topic within the Master speciality. The Practicum topic is chosen according to the educational and professional interest of the student, and can take place in various universities, research centres and companies collaborating in this part of the programme. It is a practical professional stage in which the student, under the supervision of a tutor, works and learns autonomously and benefits from being included in a working team. Training focuses on understanding the scientific-technical objectives of the research or work carried out by the host team on the topic chosen for the Practicum, on the handling of the instrumentation and equipment used by such team, on the identification of sources of knowledge relevant to the topic and on the effective planning of work.

Learning outcomes:

  • To be skilled in the search for information, as well as in its selective treatment.
  • To know how to elaborate scientific or technical documents and the conditions of content and quality necessary for their publication in renowned media which prove to be adequate for an optimal communication of the information, according to the contents and the audience targeted.
  • To have developed criteria for defining the objectives of a particular research study or professional project.
  • To know how to plan the research work in order to best achieve the objectives set and to optimize time.
  • To know how to use the techniques and methodologies relevant to the execution of a research project and how to discern the advantages and disadvantages of each one for each particular project.
  • To know how to integrate knowledge and has learned how to analyse and contrast results.
  • Values the guidance received to plan and develop a research work, fostering dialogue, criticism and capacity to work as a member of a team.
  • To be skilled in self-directed learning and autonomous work.
  • To have capacity of response to unforeseen situations and the ability to reorient a research if need be.

MASTER THESIS (30 ECTS)

This Unit represents the application of the training received to the production of an original research project on a specific topic, within the scope in which the student has performed the Unit "Introduction to research", and whose results are potentially publishable. The student is provided with training and supervision to master the application of techniques and methods selected for the research and for becoming able to objectively assess the significance of the results and conclusions obtained. Likewise, the student is endowed with the necessary training in order to produce a written document on the project carried out, and submit and orally defend the research results before a jury.

Learning outcomes:

  • To know how to apply previously acquainted knowledge, methods and techniques in a discerning manner.
  • To have developed skills in the analysis of problems and in the definition of objectives.
  • To be competent in data collection and analysis according to a pre-established research protocol.
  • To have gained experience in the analysis of results and the elaboration of conclusions that may contribute to clarify and find possible solutions to problems.
  • To have developed skills in the synthesis and presentation of contents and in the preparation of scientific texts.
  • To have gained practice in the preparation and presentation of oral communications and in their public defence.
  • To could favour exchange and collaboration with other researchers and professionals.

Research work is carried out in well-recognized institutions (universities, research centres or firms), generally throughout Spain or in the participant's country of origin, under the scientific supervision of a thesis director that must be a doctor of renowned prestige. Participants choose the topic according to their interest of training, which is approved by a Committee. If the participant so requires, the organizing institutions advise on the choice of the most appropriate thesis director and institution to carry out the desired project, and likewise propose topics related to their research activities or other topics of interest previously accorded with other institutions.

The assessment of acquired competences for the first subject of the first unit is made by the lecturers based on the practical work, considering the understanding of the methodology applied and the validity of the results gained. The assessment of the practicum of the first unit includes an evaluation made by the tutor on the results of the candidate’s theoretical and practical tutored learning.

Furthermore, both the Practicum of unit 1 and the unit 2 are assessed by an examining board composed of representatives of the organizing institutions and external members selected in each case for their expertise and prestige in the field of the research work. For the first unit, this assessment is based on: (i) an oral examination by the examining board on the achievement of the learning outcomes of all training activities; and (ii) the evaluation based on the reports presented periodically by the participant, with the support of the thesis director, on the development and progress of the research work. For the second unit “Master Thesis”, assessment is based on: (i) the quality of the thesis document submitted; (ii) the public presentation and defence of the thesis (background, objectives, methods, results and conclusions of the research work).

Research activities: most common topics for Master of Science theses

  • Application of genomics and other new technologies to variability characterization and crop breeding (marker/QTL analysis, genetic transformation, gene expression, mapping)
  • Study of quality traits
  • Pest/disease resistance
  • Physiological factors related to crop yield
  • Variety performance in particular environments