emPLANT+, European Master Program in Plant Breeding has been designed and is organized by a consortium of six European universities from six different countries: UniLaSalle Polytechnic Institute (France), Szent István University (Hungary), Universitat Politècnica de València (Spain), Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Sweden), University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (Austria) and University of Milano (Italy).
emPLANT+ is the continuation of the emPLANT program (2017-2022) which is composed of 5 universities from five different countries: UniLaSalle Polytechnic Institute (France), University of Helsinki (Finland), Universitat Politècnica de València (Spain), Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Sweden) and Ege University (Turkey). The program has trained 3 intakes of students: 2018, 2019 & 2020 and will end in 2022.
The complementarity of the consortium members in terms of specializations, working methods, climatic specificities and collaboration partners produces a program that could not be offered by one organization alone. The wealth of knowledge and expertise in the fields of plant breeding, plant biology, seed technology, biotechnology of emPLANT+ is unique in the world.
emPLANT+ aims at providing students interested in Plant Breeding with excellent training in science, management, law, languages and soft skills that are needed in this field by the Seed Industry and Research Institutes.
Importance of Plant Breeding
A recent report (Noleppa 2016) shows that innovation in plant breeding over the last 15 years increased productivity in EU arable farming by 74%. In addition, the study reveals that in the field of arable crops 3,4 billion tons of direct CO2 emissions have been avoided, 55 billion m3 of water have been saved and approximately 70 000 jobs have been created. This shows the significant contribution of plant breeding to achieve food/nutrition security and climate change goals in Europe and the world.
It is also noteworthy that the development and growth of this sector does not only occur in Europe and other developed countries, but there is a significant growth of the sector in developing countries, where the use of improved seeds is becoming a common practice.
As a reminder, in less than 25 years the world population is expected to rise to 9 billion people and agricultural production will need to increase by 70% to secure food supplied (FAO). That is why, at the global level, the Plant Breeding sector needs specialists with a high degree of training who know and are able to combine and apply the methodologies derived from conventional techniques with those of the new biotechnologies (molecular markers, In vitro cultivation, genetic transformation, etc.) for the development of new varieties.
High demand for Plant Breeders
The development and release of new varieties, along with associated activities, is one of the fields of technology with greater projection and foreseeable demand in the future. The market for seeds and other propagating materials is one of the most dynamic ones, the annual value of worldwide commercial seed production reaches €30 billion (Ragonnaud, 2013). It is estimated that plant breeding has generated 60% of crop plant productivity increases (Bradshaw, 2016), now with the integration of new tools of biotechnology the potential of this discipline has multiplied.
The plant breeder of today (and of tomorrow) needs to master concepts of traditional breeding and modern molecular breeding. In addition to having hands on expertise on growing plants, understanding their reproductive biology and knowing the possibilities and limitations of crossing-selection breeding, he/she needs to have skills in molecular biology, bioinformatics, advanced statistics and project management.
emPLANT+ consortium members aims to attract excellent students from all over the world by joining their forces to provide a multidisciplinary approach of traditional and biotechnology techniques, links with management and new technologies (bioinformatics, data management etc.) that is required for future MSc/PhD graduates to obtain a comprehensive and strategic understanding of complex breeding projects in an international dimension.
After graduation, students will work as technical and scientific managers of commercial or public breeding programs, on methodology, technology or cultivar development, in seed production and crop improvement, in R&D, in charge of legal questions linked to seeds in the seed/agro/food industry or pursue a PhD linked to breeding, crop production and plant biology.