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What is plant breeding?

Plant Breeding is the art and the science of manipulating heritability in plants for human benefit. Manipulation can be done by conventional breeding techniques or on DNA level with genetic engineering.

What is a plant breeder?

A plant breeder is a scientist with a love for plants who:

  • improves plants genetically by conventional breeding,
  • uses biochemical and DNA markers to improve various characteristics in plants,
  • uses DNA technology such as genetic engineering to improve plants.
What does a plant breeder do?

The plant breeder has a busy daily routine that includes greenhouse work, field activities, laboratory research, and office tasks. Breeding programmes exist for crops, fruits, nuts, herbs, ornamentals, trees, and flowers of every description that creates a wide scope of exciting possibilities for the breeder. With genetic engineering, an entire field in breeding has opened up, with endless possibilities. The plant breeder has ample opportunities to travel to international conferences and workshops, which are presented regularly.  

Where do plant breeders work?

In South Africa, plant breeders are employed by private seed companies such as Monsanto and Pannar, as well as other private and public institutions relating to agriculture, horticulture, and forestry.

How do I become a plant breeder?

By studying specific Plant Breeding curricula offered in the Department of Plant Sciences, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the UFS. Plant Breeding can also be combined as major with Agronomy, Genetics, Plant Pathology, and Grassland Science. Excellent research facilities are available. Students can also take part in exchange agreements with overseas universities and acquire credit for courses completed at these universities.

What qualifications are available in Plant Breeding at the UFS?
  • BScAgric (4 years)
  • Honours (1 year – optional)
  • MScAgric
  • PhD
More Information?


Department of Plant Sciences (Plant Breeding)
Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences
University of the Free State
PO Box 339

Dr A Minnaar-Ontong

T: +27 51 401 9100 or 401 2378
F: +27 51 401 2980


Elfrieda van den Berg (Marketing Manager)
T: +27 51 401 2531

Dilahlwane Mohono (Faculty Officer)
T: +27 58 718 5284

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