Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants


Programme fact file

Programme title: Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants
Qualification: 20 credits. Can be taken as a standalone module, or as part of the postgraduate programmes in Agrifood. 
Start date: TBC 
Duration: Introductory session (1 day), Online e-learning (6 months), Practical course (2 days), Seminar series (2 days). 
Maximum places available: Limited 
Fees: £2,800, however 50% bursaries are available for UK agrifood sector through AgriFood ATP. 
Available on weekends/evenings: No

School of Biosciences 

Programme overview

Course description

This 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.

Participants will gain practical experience of how ‘DNA markers’ are used to breed desirable characteristics into crops. They will 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.

Programme detail

Course details

The module will use lectures, case and literature studies, research plan presentations, external expert seminars and practical exposure to molecular techniques to provide a firm understanding of crop breeding.

The emphasis is on the application of Biotechnology to conventional breeding, but the place of genetic modification in the genetic improvement of crops is also considered.

Crops covered include temperate and tropical, annual and perennial, in-breeding and out-breeding with emphasis on how genetic improvement will be achieved in the near future, while recognising the potential of novel technologies and the existence of varying priorities, in the face of a changing climate and increasing world population.


The course delivery will consist of an e-learning module (online lectures with audio and associated reading list and/or self-tested revision quiz) with three visits to Sutton Bonington: an Introduction Session, a Practical Course and a Seminar Series.

  • Introduction session: This is an opportunity to learn about the overall module, meet some of the academic staff who deliver the online lectures, and network with fellow course participants.
  • 2-day practical course: This will consist of laboratory practical sessions and a computer practical to demonstrate how molecular markers can be used in genetic mapping and ‘marker assisted selection’ of desirable traits in crop improvement programmes.
  • 2-day seminar series: This will consist of a series of seminars given by crop researchers and industry experts to give course participants a deeper understanding of how fundamental and applied research and industrial breeding programmes are being used to improve a range of crop species and how the plant breeding industry in the UK is regulated. The emphasis is on the practical application of Biotechnology.

Topic List

The module consists of the following lecture topics which are delivered online:

  • Introduction to GICP ATP
  • Food Security – The Challenges Facing The World
  • Climate Change Challenges
  • Domestication Part I: Wheat
  • Breeding Systems
  • Self-incompatibility
  • Introduction to Plant Genetics
  • Mendelian & Non-Mendelian Genetics
  • Molecular Markers and Linkage Analysis
  • Tissue Culture - Basic Concepts
  • Plant Genetic Engineering Techniques
  • Water and Nitrogen Use: Ideotypes
  • Disease Resistance
  • Biofortification
  • Domestication Part II: Maize
  • Dynamic Genome
  • Genomics and Candidate Genes
  • Quantitative Traits
  • Microarrays
  • Next Generation Sequencing
  • Genetic Improvement of Wheat
  • Genetic Improvement of Oil Palm


About Sutton Bonington Campus

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The University of Nottingham,
Sutton Bonington Campus,
Sutton Bonington,
LE12 5RD


About Sutton Bonington


Related programmes


Other related courses

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AgriFood ATP
Sutton Bonington Campus
University of Nottingham
LE12 5RD 
t:   +44 (0)115 951 6285 

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