Plant Breeding

Learn Plant Breeding and become a plant breeder by studying Horticulture and plant breeding by distance education or through an online course with Australian Horticultural Correspondence Schools.

Course CodeBHT236
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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Home Study Course in Breeding Plants

  • For Nurserymen, Horticulturists, Plant Enthusiasts or anyone aspiring to be a Plant Breeder.
  • Study genetics and plant breeding techniques
  • Self paced, 100 hour course
  • Learn from our team of professional horticulturists and plant scientists, located across both Australia and the UK.


"I am very pleased and impressed with the way that ACS recently handled my submission. This included acknowledgement of receipt of my answers, finding a specialist to answer a specific subject enquiry, ....  All three (tutors) were both professional and helpful, contributing to my enjoyment and acquisition of interesting, useful knowledge from the Plant Breeding course".    (Student -Malcolm Quigley, U.K.)

This course provides a foundation for breeding any type of plant; an opportunity to be mentored by highly trained and experienced horticulturists and an avenue for building your networking within relevant sectors of industry.

Lesson Structure

There are 7 lessons in this course:

  1. The Scope and Nature of the Plant Breeding Industry
  2. Introduction to Genetics
  3. Gamete Production, Pollination and Fertilisation in Plants
  4. Mono Hybrid and Dihybrid Inheritance in Plants
  5. Systematic Botany and Floral Structures
  6. Practical Plant Breeding Techniques
  7. Current Developments in Plant Genetics

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Describe the commercial and scientific nature of the modern plant breeding industry, on a global basis
  • Describe the structure and function of genetic material
  • Describe gamete production in plants.
  • Explain the results of mono hybrid and dihybrid inheritance in plants.
  • Investigate the role of systematic botany in horticulture.
  • Explain a variety of different plant breeding techniques.
  • Review current developments in plant breeding.

How is Plant Breeding Used Commercially?

Plant breeding can create plants with preferred characteristics; such as improved flower colour, shape and size for the ornamental plant industry, to crops with superior yields and improved environmental tolerances.

Several choices need to be made by the plant breeder such as:

  • Choice of parental plants
  • Choice of breeding methods
  • Choice of selection criteria
  • Testing procedures
  • The final choice of cultivars for commercial use

Various methods of selection can be used, and the method chosen will depend upon:

  • Objectives of the breeder program.
  • The inheritance patterns of traits to be improved.
  • The parental population and their mode of reproduction.

The conventional method of plant breeding involves hybridising plants by transferring pollen from one plant to another, usually of the same species. The resulting progeny are grown under test conditions to identify their characteristics. In most cases, many crosses and back crosses must be made before desirable varieties can be selected, tested and released for commercial use.

New technologies including micropropagation and genetic engineering have facilitated and revolutionised the techniques of plant breeding.


Taking Plant Breeding to another Level with Genetic Engineering

Genetic engineering is the insertion of a foreign synthetic gene (DNA) into a plant, with subsequent expression of the gene to produce a new phenotype. The source of the gene may, in theory, be from any organism.

Genetic engineering has been made possible by the development of gene cloning (also known as recombinant DNA) and associated molecular biology techniques. A gene isolated from one species can be inserted into a bacterial or yeast ‘vector’ DNA molecule to make a recombinant molecule. Vectors include plasmids and bacteriophage.


Many copies of vectors (with gene inserts) can be produced and purified, allowing subsequent manipulation of the clonal gene(s). Identification and validation of gene function must be carried out to ensure the correct gene has been cloned for before subsequent insertion into the recipient plant’s genome.


Four methods have been successfully used to produce transgenic (genetically modified/genetically engineered plants. These are:

  1. Agrobacterium - mediated gene transfer 
  2. Biolistics - micro-projectile bombardment
  3. Protoplast-based direct gene transfer
  4. Micro injection

The two main methods, Agrobacterium–mediated transformation and biolistics, are described below.


Agrobacterium-mediated Gene Transfer

This technique makes use of a naturally occurring gene transfer system that evolved in a genus of bacteria to aid the colonisation of plant tissues. The gene to be transferred to plants is transferred into an Agrobacterium plasmid, and plant tissue inoculated with Agrobacterium bacterial culture carrying the transferred gene. Entire plants can be regenerated from ‘transformed’ cells using tissue culture or, in some cases, reproductive cells may be transformed in the flower.


Limitations of this technique include a) the requirement of successful plant tissue culture regeneration systems for most species, and b) Agrobacterium does not readily infect the cell of monocots such as cereals and some important dicot species such as soya beans.


Biolistics – Particle or Gene Gun

With this system, tiny heavy metal (eg. gold) micro particles are coated with the DNA to be inserted and integrated into the plant genome. The micro particles are fired into the target plant tissue. Genes can thus be ‘shot’ into almost any type of cell of tissue. Whole plants are then regenerated from isolated tissues or, in some cases, biolistic treatment of plant meristems can yield transgenic plants.


Over recent decades, plant breeding has emerged to become one of the most profitable sectors in the horticulture industry.

Today, there are industry leaders who have bred and secured intellectual property rights over particular varieties of plants, which have earned them millions of dollars in royalties. That's right - if you can develop a plant that will sell globally in the millions; you have the potential for that plant to earn you millions!

This course is a great starting point. It educates you in all of the fundamentals that you need to understand; and raises your awareness of what is possible.  Building upon what you learn here, your future can only be limited by hard work, imagination and a dose of good luck

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Dr. Lynette Morgan

Broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. She travels widely as a partner in Suntec Horticultural Consultants, and has clients in central America, the USA, Caribbean, South East Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.
Marie Beermann

Marie has more than 10 years experience in horticulture and education in both Australia and Germany. Marie's qualifications include B. Sc., M. Sc. Hort., Dip. Bus., Cert. Ldscp.
John Mason

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.
Robert James

B.App. Sc. (Horticulture), Dip.Ag., M.Sc., Grad Dip.Mgt. Over 50 years experience that includes, Nursery Manager Brisbane City Councoil, Grounds Manager (University of Qld), Lecturer Qld Agricultural College, Propagator/Nurseryman at Aspley Nursery, Hort
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