Plant Breeding

Plant Breeding is the genetic improvement of crop plants through the study and application of genetics, statistics, agronomy, plant pathology, entomology, and related sciences.

Management and operation of public and private plant breeding programs ~ Research on plant breeding methodologies, bio-technologies, and information technologies to improve breeding efficiency and effectiveness ~ Cultivar development

Germplasm evaluation and enhancement ~ Selection ~ Cultivar development ~ Quantitative genetics ~ Linkage mapping and marker-assisted selection ~ Biotechnology ~ Molecular genetics ~ Computational biology ~ Prediction and optimization

Maize ~ Soybean ~ Sorghum ~ Sunflower ~ other crops. Research on other crops is done in conjunction with the North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station.


  • Faculty: State, USDA-ARS
    A large number of faculty with diverse expertise are listed at the bottom of this webpage. Faculty who conduct field-oriented plant breeding programs, teach plant breeding courses, and mentor plant breeding students are part of the Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding.
  • Graduate students: Plant Breeding majors (~35) - Interdepartmental majors (~20) - Distance MS students (~50)
  • Staff: About 25 clerical and technical staff members.
  • Visiting scientists and postdocs: About 10 at any given time.

The program of study is determined by the student, major professor, Director of Graduate Education (DOGE), Program of Study Committee, Graduate College, and academic units to accommodate the unique features of each student's program. Please refer to the Graduate College for current information. Information on individual courses can be found in the University Course Catalog.
Graduate College:
University Catalog:

Although no courses are actually mandatory, virtually all plant breeding students take those listed below.

  • For Master of Science
    • Agron 521 (3 cr) Principles of Cultivar Development
    • Agron 522 (2 cr) Field Methods in Plant Breeding
    • Agron 523 (3 cr) Molecular Plant Breeding
    • Agron 524 (3 cr) Applied Molecular Genetics & Biotechnology
    • Agron 528 (3 cr) Introduction to Quantitative Genetics for Plant Breeding
    • Agron 600A (1 cr) Plant Breeding Seminar
    • Agron 698 (2 cr) Agronomy Teaching Practicum
    • Agron 699 (variable cr) Research-related activities each semester
    • Agron/AnSci 561 (4 cr) Population and Quantitative Genetics for Breeding
    • Gen 510 (3 cr) Transmission Genetics
    • Stat 401 (4 cr) Statistical Methods for Research Workers
    • Stat 402 (3 cr) Statistical Design and the Analysis of Experiments / Agron 526 (3 cr) Field Plot Technique
  • Distance Master of Science in Plant Breeding:
  • Additional courses for Ph.D.
    • Agron 621 (3 cr)-Advanced Plant Breeding
    • Agron 625 (3 cr)-Genetic Strategies in Plant Breeding

Ph.D. students must pass uniform written and oral preliminary examinations usually taken during the first two years of their program. Exams are based on the courses listed under the Master of Science section above.

More information on the uniform written examination: Uniform Written Exam

Most students receive a research assistantship from their major professor. Fellowships are available from the Raymond F. Baker Center for Plant Breeding , the Agronomy Department, and the University. Application information is available from each student's major professor.

Faculty in Plant Breeding
Click on Faculty Names for additional contact information.

Dr. J. Barb
Sunflower Breeding and Genetics

Dr. W.D. Beavis
Prediction and Optimization

Dr. P.W. Becraft

Dr. M.K. Bhattacharyya
Soybean Molecular Genetics

Dr. S. Cannon

Dr. S.R. Cianzio
Soybean Breeding

Dr. Jode Edwards
Quantitative Genetics and Maize Breeding

Dr. W.R. Fehr
Soybean Breeding

Dr. Shui-Zhang Fei
Turfgrass Breeding

Dr. C. Gardner
Plant Germplasm Conservation, Management, and Utilization

Dr. M. Graham

Dr. D.M. Grant

Dr. K.R. Lamkey

Dr. T.L. Lübberstedt
Plant Breeding & Genetics

Dr. C. Lawrence
Plant Genetics

Dr. M. Lee
Plant Breeding and Genetics

Dr. T.A. Peterson

Dr. M.G. Salas Fernandez
Sorghum Breeding

Dr. P.S. Schnable
Plant Molecular Genetics

Dr. M.P. Scott
Maize grain quality

Dr. R.C. Shoemaker
Soybean genomics and gene discovery

Dr. Asheesh Singh
Soybean Breeding and Genetics

Dr. Arti Singh
Soybean Disease Resistance Breeding

Dr. Kan Wang
Plant Genetics and Molecular Biology

Dr. M.P. Widrlechner
Plant germplasm conservation

Dr. J. Yu
Quantitative Genetics and Maize Breeding