The second mandatory course of the master’s program is taught by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and it is called Genetic Diversity and Plant Breeding (Read more about the program here and about the previous course here).
This course was more lecture-intensive than the previous one, which makes learning outcome different. One of the problems with an intensive course in plant genetics or plant breeding is that laboratory work cannot be performed in such a short time, because usually there are needed at least two generations of plants to evaluate genetic features and this cannot be achieved in two months, even using Arabidopsis thaliana. However, it was possible during the course to locate one plant gene in using molecular and bioinformatic techniques.
The first part of the course covered topics related to population genetics and domestication of plants, whilst the second part was focused on plant breeding and QTL mapping. Even though I was not 100% satisfied with this course and find that some of the suggested literature was inaccurate for the proposed objectives (for instance Principles of Plant Genetics and Breeding by Acquaah George), I have to admit that I learned many new and cool things. One of the aspects I liked about this course is that there were many invited lecturers from breeding companies, Swedish governmental agencies, and international organizations. One of my favorite lectures was given by Matti Leino, who does plant-based research for the Swedish Museum of Cultural History. In one of his articles published in Heredity he and his colleagues analyzed pea populations cultivated traditionally by Swedish farmers. They used extant pea samples collected recently in Swedish farms, but also analyzed pea seeds that belong to the seed collection of the Swedish Museum of Cultural History. These seeds have been stored for more than 100 years in sealed glass containers, and believe it or not DNA in those peas is still in good condition.
According to their results, pea populations from the nineteenth century are very homogeneous, probably because of seed exchange between farmers. Contrastingly, extant pea populations are different from each other and tend to form groups according to its geographical origin. This is apparently due to the modernization of Swedish agricultural practices and the usage of new commercial varieties in the twentieth century, that led to a less frequent seed exchange.
I found this article very interesting. You can find it here.
More about the course can be found here.
Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post? Then comment below 😀