Plant Breeding

Learn Plant Breeding. Know the strategies and techniques for developing commercially viable new plant cultivars.

Course Code: BHT236
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn to Develop New Plant Cultivars

  • 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
    • What is Plant Breeding
    • Scope of the Modern Industry
    • Sources of Genetic Material
    • Germplasm Preservation
    • Botanic Gardens, Plant Breeding Organisations, Research Bodies
  2. Introduction to Genetics
    • Review of Plant Genetics Linkage and Crossing Over
    • DNA
    • Homologous Chromosomes
    • Cell Biology -cell components, cell wall, nucleus
    • Protein Synthesis
    • Plant Anatomy
    • Plant Genetics, Mendel's Principles and Experiment
    • Genetic Terminology
    • Gene Linkages
  3. Gamete Production, Pollination and Fertilisation in Plants
    • Phases of Plant Reproduction
    • Gamete Production
    • Gene Mutation
    • Sources of Genetic Variation: Polyploidy, Bud Sports and Chimeras
    • Male Sterility
    • Effect of Environment
    • Terminology
    • Use of Pollination Biology in Plant Breeding: Pollination Process, Pollination Requirements, Cross pollination, Fertilisation, Male/Female Recognition, Overcoming incompatibility, Post Fertilisation, Pollen Selection, Floral Introduction etc.
    • Mitosis and Meiosis
    • Genes
    • Sexual Structures in Plants: Flowers, Fruit, Seed
    • Mono Hybrid and Dihybrid Inheritance in Plants
  4. Mono hybrid Crosses
    • Dihybrid Crosses
    • Gene Linkages
    • Crossing Over
    • Recombination
    • Quantitative Traits
    • Terminology
  5. Systematic Botany and Floral Structures
    • Systematic Botany
    • Plant Morphology
    • Type Specimens
    • Floral Diagrams
    • International Botanical Code
    • Binomial System; Genus and species
    • Hybrids, Varieties, Cultivars
    • Name Changes
    • Nomenclature of hybrids
    • Using Botanical Keys
  6. Practical Plant Breeding Techniques
    • Plant Breeding Programs
    • Breeding Self Pollinated Crops
    • Pure Line Breeding
    • Mass Selection
    • Pedigree Breeding
    • Bulk Population Breeding
    • Breeding Cross Pollinated Crops
    • Single Plant Selection
    • Mass Selection
    • Progeny Selection
    • Line Breeding
    • Recurrent Selection
    • Backcross Breeding
    • Induced Polyploidy
    • Hybrid Seed Production
    • Dormancy Factors Affecting Germination (eg. hard seeds, impermeability to water, Chemical inhibitors, Undeveloped embryos, etc)
  7. Current Developments in Plant Genetics
    • Plant Biotechnology
    • Genetic Engineering
    • DNA Markers
    • Somatic Hybridisation
    • Micro Propagation
    • Plant Breeders Rights
    • Trade Marks, Patents

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

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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

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
registration. Recommencement fees may apply.

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What do I need to know before I enrol?

There are no entry requirements that you need to meet to enrol in our courses, our courses are for everyone.
If you are under 18, we need written permission from your parent/ guardian for your enrolment to continue, we can arrange that after you have enrolled.

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You sure can. We are here to help you learn whatever your abilities.

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If you have limited computer skills, we can make special arrangements for you.

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Our courses are written in English and we only have English speaking academic staff. If you can read and complete your assignments in English, our courses are ideal for you.

Our courses are designed to build knowledge, hands on skills and industry connections to help prepare you to work in the area, running your own business, professional development or as a base for further study.

This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

Our courses are designed for adults to gain professional development and skills to further their careers and start businesses.

Our custom online learning portal allows you to conduct your learning online. There may be practical tasks that you can do offline. You have the option of downloading your course notes or print them to read later.

There is also the option to pay an additional fee for printed course notes and or USB (availability limited to location and deliverability).

Yes, if you don’t have access to the internet, you can receive the course as paper notes or on a USB stick for an additional fee. We can also make alternative arrangements for you to send your assignments to us.

We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

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We are more learning focussed, rather than assessment focussed. You have online quizzes to test your learning, written assignments and can complete an exam at the end of the course (if you want to receive your certificate). You will not receive a pass/ fail on your course work. If you need to add more details on your assignment, we will ask you to resubmit and direct you where you need to focus. If you need help, you can ask your tutor for advice in the student room.

Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

Exams are optional, however you must sit an exam if you would like to receive a formal award. You will need to find someone who can supervise that you are sitting the exams under exams conditions. There is an additional cost of $60 incl. GST for each exam.
More information is here

There are practical components built into the course that have been designed to be achieved by anyone, anywhere. If you are unable to complete a task for any reason, you can ask your tutor for an alternative.

When you complete the course work and the exam and you will be able receive your course certificate- a Statement of Attainment. Otherwise, you can receive a Letter of Completion.

You can bundle the short courses to create your own customised learning bundle, Certificates or Advanced Certificates. More information is on this page.

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Who are ACS Distance Education?

ACS Distance Education have been educating people for over 40 years.

We are established and safe- we have been in education for over 40 years.
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Our courses are not accredited by the Australian Government. However many of our courses are recognised and held in high regard by many industry bodies.

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

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.

John Mason (Horticulturist)

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.

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.

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