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Master Plant Breeding
Help meet the world's growing agricultural production needs!

Become a field breeder or plant developer with the ability to grasp and manage the scientific and technical interdisciplinarity between biotechnology, agronomy, plant biology, genetics, regulatory issues and markets.

In Brief

The Master’s program in Plant Breeding is focused on crop improvement and the creation of new crop varieties. The aim is to train you in new technologies in molecular and cell biology which can then be used to help increase agricultural yield

The program covers the entire scope of a modern-day plant breeder’s work. There are very few programs dedicated to this field in higher education. UniLaSalle offers this rare discipline and demand is on the rise.

The program was designed in partnership with seed companies and the food industry, and with Ghent University in Belgium. It therefore combines the excellence of one of Europe’s best universities with the added « field » experience that characterizes UniLaSalle engineers.

Key Figures
60%the increase in world agricultural production needed to meet our needs in 2050
4months' training in an international setting
The curriculum

The first year of the Master’s program is in 2 parts: 8 months of taught modules on the UniLaSalle campus, followed by a paid, 5-month internship.

Introductory lectures: Propagation systems and introduction to seed business – 2 credits

This module introduces the Master’s program. There is a global demand for higher yield and higher quality varieties as well as resistance to biotic and abiotic stress. Professionals from seed companies, nurseries and processing industries will use examples to justify a market-based approach in defining breeding needs. Emphasis will be placed on the importance of an integrated approach in terms of production.

Module 1: Plant reproduction systems – 2 credits

The different reproductive systems will be reviewed in courses 1-3 with a special focus on both creation and seed or vegetative propagation.

Module 2: Plant genetics – 2 credits

This module will review the fundamentals of plant genetics.

Module 3: Genetic resources and diversity – 5 credits

As a prerequisite to any breeding project, genetic diversity should be evaluated properly using the most suitable tools and core collections should be developed. These concepts will be defined using examples.

 

Module 4: Breeding strategies and methods – 7 credits

Based on the specific characteristics of species, available germplasm and objectives, we will present the design and development of a suitable strategy for breeding and methods. Practical examples of breeding projects for yield, quality, and resistance to biotic and abiotic stress will be outlined by professionals.

Module 5: Phenotyping theory and practice – 5 credits

Phenotyping is often a time-consuming and expensive bottleneck in breeding. Transfer from controlled environments to the field can be complex. We will also present new non-destructive techniques that have recently been developed. The module closes with an introduction to databases and data analysis.

Module 6: Population and Quantitative genetics – 6 credits

After introducing basic quantitative genetics and statistics, we will introduce markers and applications for breeding and selection from crop samples with professionals. The specific issue of polyploid species will be presented using examples (auto vs. allopolyploids, aneupoloids).

Module 7: Intellectual property principles and rationale – 2 credits

Module 8: Regulation guidelines – 2 credits

 

The entire 2nd year of the Master’s program will take place at the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University (Belgium), and finish with a paid 5-month internship.

Module 1: Cell biology based tools – 7 credits

The module will describe and analyze the different tools/opportunities derived from cell biology. In addition to lectures, emphasis will be placed on the various laboratory techniques through hands-on practicals. On module completion students should be able to select strategies and biotech tools adapted to a specific need. In particular, they will implement their pilot case project and evaluate savings in time and benefits derived. Breakthrough developments will also be presented.
After outlining the history and technical behavior of each technology, we will analyze its risks/benefits for the breeder and how it may be of use in different crops.

Module 2: Molecular biology based tools – 7 credits

The aim of this module is to describe the different marker types, help students understand and compare the benefits and limits of the different markers (from isozymes to Genotyping by Sequencing) used from the 1980’s, and to stress the importance of both feasibility and cost in breeding applications. We will present some practical uses of microsatellite SSRs and the breakthrough of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) with their new applications.

Various laboratory techniques will be taught during hands-on practicals. On module completion, students should be able to perform laboratory techniques and gel and sequencing interpretation. Additionally they will have knowledge of new sequencing technologies and potential applications. They should be able to choose which type of markers to use, at which step of the selection process and for what practical goal after an accurate cost/benefit analysis. Students will also understand lab safety procedures.

Module 3: Bioinformatics in genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and phenomics – 6 credits

The aim of this module is to introduce some of the bioinformatics tools available. On module completion, students should be able to identify and seek existing data, characterize sequences through comparative and functional approaches, know how major programs work and how to select the best tools for a given purpose in order to interact efficiently with experts. In particular, they will be able to design sets of markers. The module will combine lectures and structured computer-based tutorials with practical and interactive work.

Personal work: each student will use this module to analyze how plant biotechnologies could benefit their project, including regulatory and public acceptance issues, and risk analysis.

The first year program is taught from September to May on the UniLaSalle campus. It includes group meetings with producers and covers market analysis, seed production systems, analysis of the diversity of genetic material, issues and methods involved in plant breeding, quantitative genetics, principles of intellectual property, and the most important aspects of the regulatory framework.

Throughout the first semester, you will attend French language classes in addition to your regular study program. Your internship must take place between May and September at a company or research institute.

The second-year program covers the fields of cell biology, genomics and bioinformatics. The program is taught at Ghent University and runs from October to March. The university offers a scientific environment of the highest standard and a major biotechnology facility. The third semester concludes with a project module and your final internship is scheduled from March to August.

Each teaching module earns you ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) credits that are awarded when your semester average is 10/20 or above and the grade for each module is above 7/20. A retake session is scheduled at the end of each semester.

Terms of admission

You must hold a bachelor’s degree or equivalent or have completed a 1st year Master’s degree or equivalent in one of the following disciplines

  • agronomy;
  • biology;
  • genetics.

As all teaching is in English, students must have achieved a minimum B2 level of English (according to the CEFR, Common European Framework for Languages).

If you recently graduated or are working in the above fields you may also apply for the Master’s in Plant Breeding program.

 

Admission criteria

Admission will be based on your application and an interview.

The admissions panel comprises representatives from UniLaSalle.

  • If your country is in the Campus France area:
    You MUST register on the Campus France website.
    You are also required to download the application form for the Spring Semester and complete and send it to UniLaSalle.
  • If your country is not in the Campus France area:
    You are required to download the application form for the Spring Semester and complete and send it directly to UniLaSalle.

 

Admission Schedule

Three admission sessions are scheduled in the course of the year.

1st session:

Application deadline: December 15
Admission decision notification: January 15

2nd session:

Application deadline: February 15
Admission decision notification: March 15

3rd session:

Application deadline: April 15
Admission decision notification: May 15

Fees and funding

The program fee is €12,500 per student per year.

 

Living expenses

Single or shared rooms are available on campus for a monthly rent of between €260 and €483.

The university restaurant is open daily. Meals cost €3.25.

 

Financing options

Financial assistance is available (in the form of grants) to cover all or part of your tuition fees and/or living expenses.

French companies may sponsor students who wish to work for them on program completion. Once you have been accepted, we can put you in touch with contacts in partner companies.

You should take the necessary steps when you submit your application for the program.

Visas

Depending on your country of origin, the time required to obtain your visa may vary. You should take this into account when you submit your application.

Please make the relevant inquiries with Campus France or the French Embassy in your country.

Testimonials
Pamela Afokpe

Student on the Master's in Plant Breeding program

« This program is perfect for future plant breeders. It is designed to help students build the knowledge and experience they need through a combination of conventional breeding and new crop biotechnology tools. Students have the opportunity to directly interact with breeding professionals. This program is very rewarding. »

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Eric Devron

President of the French seed association for seed companies & plant breeders

« Due to its multidisciplinary approach and close cooperation with businesses, the Master’s in Plant Breeding at UniLaSalle produces well-trained researchers who are able to make optimum use of all the tools available for developing innovative and more efficient crop varieties. »

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Orlando de Ponti

Past President of the International Seed Federation

« I am happy to witness the right balance between plant reproduction by conventional breeding (semesters 1 and 2) and biotechnologies for plant breeding (semesters 3 & 4). This combination is unfortunately quite rare in breeding programs nowadays as they mostly tend to focus on the latter methods. »

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Career opportunities
Plant Breeding

Experiment Manager

Plant Breeder

R&D Manager/Director

Seed Production Manager

Storage and primary processing

R&D Partnership Manager

Experiment Manager

Integrated services (agronomy)

Agro-industry

R&D Manager/Director

Plant breeder working in association with agricultural partners

Public, semi-public or non-profit sectors

Experiment Manager

Plant Breeder

R&D Manager/Director

Manager of country-specific regulatory issues

The Master’s in Plant Breeding program is accredited by two competitive clusters: Industries and agro-resources and Cereal Valley. It has also won the support of Orlando de Ponti, Past President of the International Seed Federation (ISF) and the International Community of Breeders of Asexually Reproduced Ornamental and Fruit Varieties (CIOPORA), and Marc Van Montagu, 2013 laureate of the World Food Prize.