NIAB course plugs vital skills gap in training for plant breeders

The National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) is repeating an intensive training course in plant breeding after the first one was heavily over-subscribed.

The plant research organisation is targeting the two-week course, titled Quantitative Genetics in Plant Breeding, at existing and prospective plant breeders.

The course is taught at post graduate level and will 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.  

"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 course covers practical trial design and analysis through to the role of modern computer software in marker-assisted selection and association genetics.

It will be held at NIAB in Cambridge between 16 and 27 March 2009.  Places are limited to 20.

For further information contact Chris Dixon on 01223 42269 or email

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