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Plant Biotechnology


Admission requirements

The course is open for all students that are enrolled in the minor Molecular Biotechnology.

Contact information

Coordinator: Kiki Spaninks, Dr. Y.H. Choi


Plants are photosynthetic eukaryotes belonging to the kingdom Plantae or green plants, which includes more than 300.000 species. Apart from being an important source of healthy food, fodder, building and other biomaterials, food additives or medicinal compounds, plants contribute significantly to our healthy environment as they purify the air and fix CO2, thus reducing global warming.
This course consists of two parts. The first part introduces students into the genetic, molecular and cell biology aspects of plant biotechnology. This includes an overview of important uses of plants and methods to improve plant/crop traits for more sustainable production or specific applications, either by genetic modification, directed genome editing or modern breeding. Methods in crop propagation with also be presented. As part of the course, students will visit a Dutch breeding company, and will be informed how intellectual property in plant biotechnology is protected either by a patent application or by plant breeder’s right. The second part of the course will focus on plant metabolites and their identification, purification, and applications. Like all organisms, plants synthesize small molecules (metabolites) that play important roles in functioning of the organism in its physiology and interacting with other organisms and environments. In the 2nd part of the course, chemistry, and biology as well as their applications to life sciences like pharmaceuticals will be covered.

Learning goals

Course objectives:
During this course, the students will learn to:
1) Describe and explain GM and nonGM methods for (genome editing in) crop breeding.
2) Describe and explain trait discovery and breeding for stress or disease resilience in crop plants, apply this knowledge in a research proposal (presentation)
3) Describe and explain breeding targets for propagation and more sustainable production of crop plants.
4) Describe and explain breeding targets for healthy food and plant-based medicines or products.
5) Describe the crop breeding business and the difference between a patent and breeder's rights.
6) Recognize the major groups of plant primary metabolites.
7) Explain separation and purification methods for plant natural products.
8) Explain separation and purification methods for plant natural products.
9) Understand spectroscopical methods for plant natural product identification.
10) Explain how bioactivity of plant natural products can be tested.

Final qualifications:
Students are able to describe and explain state-of-the art methods for (molecular) crop breeding, crop propagation and trait and breeding target discovery. They have gained knowledge about the crop breeding/plant biotechnology business and know the difference between a patent and breeder’s right. In addition, students have gained knowledge about several aspects of important metabolites from different sources including their synthesis, methods for their isolation and characterization, ecological function, and specific applications. Students have gained experience in preparing their presentations about specific natural products and their related applications, and in giving an oral presentation in English language.


A detailed timetable will be published on Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

Staff lectures, student presentations, company visit, practical, self-study

Assessment method

Evaluation of individual oral presentations and participation and two written exams. The final grade will be calculated from the following partial grades:

  • Written exam for part 1 (breeding/trait discovery): 40%, minimum grade: 5

  • Summary of company visit: pass/fail

  • Research proposal and presentation part 1: 20%, minimum grade: 5

  • Written exam for part 2 (natural products): 40%, minimum grade: 5

  • Attendance/impression: round off grade
    The minimum final grade is 6.

Inspection and feedback on the examination

Date: To be announced on Brightspace


Announcements, course information and course material will be communicated via Brightspace.

Reading list

Course material will be supplied by the lecturers.


Register for this course via Usis and enroll in Brightspace.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.