Molecular breeding and plant genetics

A.Y. 2021/2022
Overall hours
AGR/07 BIO/18
Learning objectives
Genetic improvement of cultivated plants is the most viable approach to fostering sustainable agriculture in the future. The main goal of the course is to supply the students with knowledge about tools and strategies used in breeding programs, combining quantitative genetics and biotechnology to identify the genomic regions containing genes of interest. The effects of domestication and breeding on the genome of crops will be presented to have a wider overview about the challenges that modern breeding has to face.
The course is ideally linked to those dealing with Advanced molecular and cellular biotechnology and Functional genomics and bioinformatics.
Expected learning outcomes
After following this course, the students will have basic knowledge of the most recent molecular breeding approaches. They will be familiar with the available technologies to produce molecular markers and their application to linkage map construction, QTL mapping and in general to plant breeding. They will be familiar with the pros and cons of alternative strategies available to identify the genetic determinant controlling agronomic traits. Students will be able to evaluate the advantages and limitations of the different breeding strategies and select the most appropriate for specific goals.
Course syllabus and organization

Single session

Lesson period
Second semester
More specific information on the delivery modes of the training activities for academic year 2021/22 will be provided over the coming months, based on the evolution of the public health situation.
Course syllabus
· Challenges of modern plant breeding and how the molecular tools could be used to improve and speed up breeding (Gianfranceschi L.)
· Origin of plant domestication and breeding. Consequences on the available genetic variability (Gianfranceschi L.)
· Overview of plant reproduction systems (Gregis V.)
· RNAi mechanisms related to plant improvement (Gregis V.)
· Epigenetics concepts for plant improvement (Gregis V.)
· Principles of population genetics selection, inbreeding and genetic drift (Gianfranceschi L.)
· Modern breeder's molecular tools: the evolution of molecular markers in the light of new high-throughput sequencing technologies (Gianfranceschi L.)
· Strategies and methods to construct high density linkage maps (Gianfranceschi L.)
· Modern approaches to QTL mapping (Gianfranceschi L.)
· Genome-Wide Association Studies to complement and integrate QTL mapping (Gianfranceschi L.)
· Crossing schemes to obtain breeding populations and discussion of their characteristics (Gianfranceschi L.)
· Experimental design used in breeding programs for the improvement and selection of crop species (Gianfranceschi L.)
Prerequisites for admission
A basic knowledge of genetics, molecular biology, botany and statistics is highly recommended
Teaching methods
Teaching mode: Traditional lectures with powerpoint presentations, available to the students after the lecture through the Ariel platform. Seminars from scientists working in plant breeding. Attendance is highly recommended.
Teaching Resources
Scientific papers and reviews will be indicated during the course and made available through the course website on the ARIEL platform ( The material is made available only to registered students of the Degree Course in Molecular Biotechnology and Bioinformatics and should not be distributed to others.
Assessment methods and Criteria
There is a single final exam consisting in a discussion on topics presented during the course. Usually, the discussion starts with the presentation of a scientific paper on topics of the course. Examples of the examination test will be discussed during classes.
AGR/07 - AGRICULTURAL GENETICS - University credits: 0
BIO/18 - GENETICS - University credits: 0
Lectures: 48 hours
Educational website(s)
Upon email request
5th floor, A building, Biosciences Dept.