Plant breeders cross-breed plants to create hybrid plants that are genetically formulated to carry superior traits. Breeders may work with forest crops, field crops or with flowers, fruits and vegetables. A plant breeder can do much in contributing to the world’s food supply as well as improving the health of humans, animals and entire ecosystems. Those who are seeking to become a plant breeder may begin working as a plant breeding technician and eventually work their way up to a breeder with education and on-the-job training. To become a plant breeder, it is generally required to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in science, and preferably a Ph.D. or master’s degree in a biotechnical field.
Those who begin as plant breeding technicians typically get their start by acquiring an associate’s degree in botanical technology or plant breeding technology. Technicians work directly with breeders to assist in operating laboratories, collecting specimens and samples as well as graphing and charting data. Once a technician has gained relevant work experience, they may go on to finish two more years of school and complete a bachelor’s degree in science and plant breeding. Completion of a degree will often make an employee eligible for promotion within their lab.
To become a plant breeder, a bachelor’s degree in agriculture or plant pathology can be helpful. To become a plant breeder, it is generally necessary to receive training in horticultural science, cultivated pastures and crop science. Breeders are educated to develop new plant life that has higher disease resistance, better adaptation and improved quality.
Plant breeders that hold a Ph.D. or master’s degree in biotechnology will have the opportunity to lead grant-funded research projects as well as develop new techniques for genetic manipulation in plants. Skills learned during biotechnical training will help breeders develop safer methods of genetic manipulation. Crops that are modified for public consumption must undergo years of testing before they are available for sale or use, and the research conducted on these plants effects generally require much cooperation on the part of the plant breeder.
Those who have received the appropriate training and education may often find employment with research universities or at national research facilities. Independent corporations may also seek out plant breeders in addition to botanical gardens and biotechnology firms. Consulting firms will frequently employ plant breeders as well. Breeders are highly desirable to those firms involved in forestry, agriculture and environmental consulting.