Current Issue 13thFebruary 2016 - 19 February 2016, i.e. No. 45


- Mamta Singh

Plants and flowers not only provide aesthetic beauty to our gardens and freshen up our lives, but also act as important scientific material for our basic needs and medicines. Plant breeding technicians provide technical support and services to botanists and other professionals working in agricultural and plant biology. They research, methods and ways of improving plant breeding. They produce new or improved plant and crop varieties better suited to environmental conditions and commercial needs.

            Plants are chemical factories that produce all kinds of products useful to humans. Besides food, plants provide raw materials for paper, building materials, solvents and adhesives, fabrics, medicines, and many other products. For example, aloe vera plants are used in creams and healing solutions. Therefore, plant breeding technicians will work on growing specific plants for specific purposes. They also test the chemicals produced by different plants to help scientists find new uses for them. For example, we use some other plant chemicals to treat certain types of cancer.


            Since the field is so broad, plant breeding technicians may specialize in various areas such as plant genetics, conservation work, environmental biology, limnology (the study of freshwater plants, animals and chemistry), mycology (the study of fungi), or taxonomy and systematic (the classification of plants and their relationships). Some focus their work on field studies, searching for new species to perform experi-ments, while others study the ecology of plants, which is the interaction of plants with other organisms and the environment.

            Plant breeding technicians that perform conservation work use their botanical knowledge to help manage parks, forests, rangelands, wilderness areas and breed specific plants within an ecosystem. Public health and environmental protection professionals depend on their understanding of plant science to help solve pollution problems. Some plant breeding technicians organize and participate in field inventories, documenting species for various types of studies. Others work primarily in research and teaching. The results of plant breeding research has increased and improved our supply of medicines, foods, fibers, building materials, and other plant products.


            Plant breeding technicians must have an interest in nature and an appreciation for all forms of plant life. They should be quick learners and should have the ability to work outdoors for extended periods of time. They should also have a serious concern for the environment, and interest in protecting and breeding endangered plant species. Most plant breeding technicians have  the ability to work both alone or in teams. They should have strong communication skills, both written and oral, and enjoy synthesizing biological information.


            Plant breeding technicians usually require completion of a one or two-year college programme in botanical techno-logy or plant breeding technology. Certification in plant breeding/botanical technology or in a related field is available through associations of technologists and technicians and may be required by some employers. Usually, a two-year period of supervised work experience is required before certification as a plant breeding technician.        

            A post graduation in Genetics and Plant Breeding or a Ph.D in Genetics and Plant Breeding is preferred. These courses are offered exclusively in the Agricultural Colleges. A graduate degree in Agriculture is essential to pursue post graduate course. The field is also open for post graduates in Botany. Botany students have to study basic courses of Agriculture in addition to the courses in Plant Breeding.


•   Set up, operate and maintain laboratories for botanical breeding and research
•   Care for plants and make sure they stay healthy
•   Assist in genetic research of plant breeding
•   Collect specimens and samples, and grow cultures of micro-organisms
•   Prepare specimens for examination and perform experiments
•   Write reports on results and findings
•   Check the quality of plants
•   Set up and maintain instruments and equipment

            Some plant breeding technicians work primarily outdoors, collecting and identifying terrestrial and aquatic plants, taking samples, and surveying and documenting plant communities. Others work primarily indoors in offices, classrooms, laboratories and herbaria. Overtime work on evenings and weekends may be required, especially when plant breeding technicians have to meet deadlines. Yet, regular working hours are generally the norm for these technicians.


            With further education and experience, plant breeding technicians can become full  fledged botanists. Then, potential for advancement as a botanist usually depends on the individual’s university degree. They may find work as interpretative naturalists, environmental reclamation technicians, or laboratory technicians in research facilities. Many work as consultants in the environmental, horticultural and agricultural sectors, while others may decide to work in research and teaching. With additional training, plant breeding technicians can become scientific writers, computer programmers or botanical illustrators.


            A plant breeder utilizes a variety of methods for the production of improved plants. Plant breeding is often considered an absolute necessity in society today because of a requirement for new varieties of plants that are capable of adapting to changing conditions and also to satisfy the demand of consumers. Plant Breeding is a science-based on principles of genetics and cytogenetics. It aims at meeting the evergrowing needs of food grains and other plant based raw materials of the world by improving the genetic makeup of the crop. Improved varieties are developed through plant breeding. Its objectives are to improve yield, quality, disease resistance, drought and frost - resistance and other desirable characteristics of the crop. Plant Breeding has been crucial in increasing Agricultural Production. It is now practiced worldwide by government institutions and commercial enterprises.

            Plant Breeders can make a career in education and research in 31 Agriculture Universities in the country, 40 ICAR Institutes; seed production Agencies of the government (National Seed Corporation, State Seed Corporations, SFCI etc). International crop research institutes under CGIAR system also offer jobs to plant breeders. Indian seed industry, also offers large number of jobs. There are more than 200 seed companies operating in India. Now opportunities are opening up in international seed industry.

            There are a variety of jobs awaiting students graduating in the field of Plant Breeding from university/college, as well as opportunities for existing breeding related workers in the industry. As within all fields, there will always be opportunities in entry-level positions and management/research positions for the more experienced. The following example provides an insight in what qualifications could be necessary for positions in general.

•    As a breeder
•    Park Ranger
•    Plant Pathologist
•    Ecologist
•    Professor/Teacher
•    Farming Consultant
•    Researcher
•    Horticulturist
•    Nursery Manager

(To be concluded)

The author is Research Associate, PIU-NAIP, Room No. 519, Krishi Anusandhan Bhawan-II, (ICAR), Pusa Campus, New Delhi- 110012

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