NIAB course plugs vital skills gap in training for plant breeders

1 Nov 2008


The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) is to repeat its two-week intensive training course in ‘Quantitative Genetics in Plant Breeding’, after the first session held earlier this year was heavily over-subscribed.

Targeted at both existing and prospective plant breeders, the post-graduate level course aims to update practitioners on the role and application of statistical and quantitative genetics in practical plant breeding programmes.

Course tutor Dr Ian Mackay believes these skills are too often overlooked by universities and research institutes with the expansion of molecular genetics and genomics.  Yet the genetic knowledge gained through these newer disciplines can be integrated into improved crop varieties most effectively through the application of quantitative genetics.

“The loss of training for plant breeders is particularly apparent in the field of statistics and quantitative genetics – never popular subjects among biologists,” said Dr Mackay.

“Yet at the heart of all breeding remains the need to design and analyse trials to rank varieties in order of merit, while developments in computing power and advanced software have opened up more sophisticated methods of analysis to improve the chances of breeding a successful variety.

“The future trend in plant breeding will be to combine the recent explosion in our understanding of plant genetics with increased use of the latest mathematical, quantitative and statistical methods.  By focusing on the practical application of these methods in plant breeding programmes, the popularity of this course shows you can’t have one without the other,” he said.

This NIAB course is the only intensive training programme of its kind to provide the statistical and genetic background to such a wide spectrum of quantitative methods, traditional and new, which are relevant to plant breeding - from practical trial design and analysis through to the role of modern computer software in marker-assisted selection and association genetics.

Limited to 20 participants, the two-week course will take place at NIAB, Cambridge, from 16 to 27 March 2009.  Further details available from Chris Dixon on +44 (0)1223 42269 or e-mail courses [at] ()

Now fully booked. If you wish to be informed of dates for the next course, please email courses [at] ()

Issued by:
Daniel Pearsall, Front Foot Communications            
T: 01487 831425     
E: daniel.pearsall [at] ()