MS Plant Breeding-Distance Option Curriculum

Below are course descriptions for all the recommended courses within the online MS Plant Breeding program at Iowa State. If you have questions about individual courses email us at

AGRON 501-Crop Growth & Development-  Offered in the fall and spring. Physiological processes in crop growth, development and yield: photosynthesis, respiration, water relations, mineral nutrition, assimilate partitioning, seedling vigor, light interception and canopy growth, root growth, reproduction and yield.

AGRON 513-Quantitative Methods- Offered in the fall and spring. Quantitative methods for analyzing and interpreting agronomic information. Principles of experimental design, hypothesis testing, analysis of variance, regression, correlation, and graphical representation of data. Use of SAS and Excel for organization, analyzing, and presenting data.

AGRON 544-Host-Pest Interactions- Offered in the fall. AGRON 501 Suggested Prerequisite.  Incorporation of the principles of integrated pest management and crop protection. Management systems (biological, cultural, chemical) and strategies which practice principles of weed science, plant pathology, and entomology.

AGRON 506-Crop Genetics- Offered in the fall. Fundamental genetic and cytogenetic concepts from plant perspective including reproductive systems, recombination, segregation, linkage analysis, inbreeding, quantitative inheritance, fertility regulation, and polyploidy.

AGRON 520-Plant Breeding Methods- Offered in the spring. AGRON 506 Suggested Prerequisite. Breeding methods used in the genetic improvement of agronomic and horticultural crops.  The topics include types of cultivars and modes of plant reproduction, sources of parental germplasm, population formation by hybridization, techniques for artificial hybridization, mutation breeding, molecular markers and genetic engineering, backcrossing, inbreeding, and recurrent selection.

AGRON 521-Principles of Cultivar Development- Offered in the summer. AGRON 506 and AGRON 520 Suggested Prerequisite. Strategies for the development of clonal, pure-line, synthetic, and hybrid cultivars.  The topics include variables involved in maximizing genetic improvement, alternative strategies for the development of the four cultivar types, commercial use of multilines and seed blends, intellectual property protection, and release and distribution of cultivars.

AGRON 524-Applied Plant Molecular Genetics & Biotechnology- Offered in the fall. AGRON 506 Suggested Prerequisite. Basic principles and applied techniques used in the genetic improvement of crop plants. Discussion of structure and function of genes that control traits of value. Types of molecular markers, analysis of quantitatively inherited traits, genome mapping, analyses of databases.

AGRON 528X-Quantitative Genetics for Plant Breeding- Offered in the spring. AGRON 506 and AGRON 513 Suggested Prerequisites.  An introduction to the application of quantitative genetics to plant breeding programs.

AGRON 523-Molecular Plant Breeding- Offered in the spring. AGRON 506, AGRON 520 and AGRON 521 Suggested Prerequisites.  Plant breeding in the era of sequenced genomes and transformation. High throughput genomic technologies will be presented in relation to various applications in plant breeding.

AGRON 599-Creative Component- Last course to be taken in the semester that students will conduct final oral examination and graduate.  A written report based on research, library readings, or topics related to the student's area of specialization and approved by the student's advisory committee.