Overview & Curriculum

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The Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis has pioneered the Plant Breeding Academy, a program designed and tailored for seed industry personnel. It provides a rare opportunity to develop talents within the Seed Industry. This Academy offers a unique curriculum that matches and exceeds the depth and breadth of a traditional Ph.D., as it is solely dedicated to the field of Plant Breeding and is taught by experienced plant breeders. This program specifically addresses the limited availability of trained plant breeders emerging from academic programs. Through initiatives like the UC Davis Plant Breeding Academy, seed associations such as ASTA, Euroseeds, and their member companies actively support a dynamic ecosystem that promotes ongoing learning, collaboration, and the relentless pursuit of excellence in the field of plant breeding. Since 2006, the UC Davis Plant Breeding Academy has graduated more than 400 students, making a significant contribution to driving innovation and meeting the evolving challenges of plant breeding. Over two years, participants engage in six immersive sessions in either Davis, California (USA) at UC Davis campus or around European countries with exterior visits of seed companies, research centers and collaborative programs.

Course goal: This course develops the skills and abilities of current industry personnel to enable them to become independent breeders or more valuable contributors to larger breeding programs.

Who should attend? The course is targeted toward personnel currently involved in plant breeding programs who lack the academic background in genetics theory and practice to advance as independent breeders. Current breeders who desire a refresher course or would like to broaden their expertise would also be potential participants.


The curriculum is developed by instructors with input from industry leaders. The following topics will be covered:

Introduction to plant breeding

  • Plant breeding objectives
  • Germplasm resources and pools
  • Crop evolution
  • Reproductive systems


  • Distributions and Probabilities
  • Mean separation, t-tests
  • Sources of variation
  • Analysis of variance
  • Multiple mean separations
  • Advanced designs: unbalanced, non-replicated and augmented


  • Transmission genetics
  • Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium
  • Inbreeding coefficients
  • Quantitative genetics model
  • Inbreeding depression and hybrid vigor

Selection theory

  • Principles of selection and the gain equation
  • Heritability and extensions to relevant selection models
  • Use of block corrections in selection

Recombination and population development

  • Selection limits
  • Linkage drag
  • Recombination in inbred lines and populations
  • Polyploidy
  • Interspecific hybridization
  • Population size

Establishing and monitoring goals and priorities

  • Population improvement vs cultivar development
  • Minimum standards, intermediate optima, and directional response

Breeding methods 1

  • Line Breeding: bulk, pedigree, backcross

Selection methods 1

  • Single trait selection: mass selection, line selection, multiple stage selection

Breeding methods 2

  • Population improvement
  • Inbred line development
  • Evaluating hybrids and combining ability

Selection methods 2

  • Multiple trait selection: independent culling, tandem selection,  selection indices
  • Indirect selection methods: theory
  • Linkage disequilibrium
  • Indirect selection methods: conventional breeding

Breeding with Molecular Markers

  • Bases and availability of markers
  • Population structure
  • Parental selection
  • QTL
  • Bioinformatics/Databases
  • Marker assisted selection and backcrossing
  • Genome assisted breeding

Genotype by environment interactions

  • GxE and decisions in population development
  • Genetic correlation: treatment of GxE
  • Selection environment: single vs multiple environments
  • Designs to control GxE
  • Variance component analysis

Breeding systems

  • Breeding for hybrids
  • Genetic control of pollination: sex expression, self-incompatibility, male sterility
  • Breeding cultivars
  • Breeding clones
  • Breeding populations (synthetics)

Resistance breeding

  • Diseases
  • Insects
  • Abiotic stress

Special topics

  • Mutation breeding
  • Biotechnology (transgenic)
  • Mechanization
  • Off season nurseries
  • Data management

Finishing varieties

  • Cultivars vs hybrids
  • Protecting varieties and intellectual property.


If you have specific questions about the PBA curriculum, please reach out to Education Director, Jovan Djordjevic at jdjordjevic@ucdavis.edu 

If you have further questions about PBA in Davis or if you have trouble with your application, contact Whitney Lowe at wlowe@ucdavis.edu


To learn more about PBA in Davis, Europe or Africa, click the links below:

PBA in Davis

PBA in Europe

PBA in Africa