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Plant Breeder

Position Overview

Plant breeders analyze seed characteristics and look to improve plant features. Typically, their goal is to develop a top performing plant, often production or appearance related, to outrank the competition. This could be for field or vegetable crops, such as corn, lettuce, wheat, or carrots. Best traits in a plant could include quality, size, maturity, or its resistant to environmental forces such as frost or drought. Plant breeders may also look to develop a plant that is unaffected by pests or harmful diseases. As such, a plant breeder should have a widespread knowledge of plant growth, genetics, and molecular technologies to ensure the plants they breed will be successful in the environment of relevance. Plant breeders may develop crop plans, create breeding programs, and set objectives for the plant breeding team. They usually have timelines and budgets to follow.

Plant Breeder Duties

  • Develop and carry out a breeding program, taking into consideration many different variables
  • Create objectives for the breeding program
  • Identify traits that could be improved for certain plant types
  • Create a realistic budget and follow this closely
  • Brainstorm new ideas and techniques, implementing when possible
  • Record all observations and relevant information in an accurate manner
  • Work in a lab and office setting, as well as outdoors to make plant observations during the testing phase
  • Supervise a team of plant breeders
  • Pay attention to competitor's actions and new or forecasted industry trends
  • Interact with potential end-users, or marketers of the product

Typical Employers

  • Seed companies
  • Biotechnology companies
  • Universities
  • Colleges
  • Government
  • Cooperatives
  • Crop consultancies

Required Education and Training

At minimum, crop breeders are required to have a bachelor's degree in plant genetics, agronomy, biotechnology, biology, horticulture, or crop science. However, most companies will only hire a crop breeder with a master's or doctorate degree related to plant science. Previous experience working with field or vegetable crops, or lab experience would give candidates a competitive advantage.

Key Skills and Qualities

  • Genuine interest in plant breeding and / or agriculture
  • Strong communication skills
  • Ability to work in a team environment as well as independently
  • Ability to set and meet exceptional, but realistic goals
  • Good at relationship building
  • Excellent time management skills
  • Ability to work in different environments throughout their employment
  • Excellent follow-through
  • Attention-to-detail
  • Exercise extreme patience, while knowing the long-term results will be worthwhile

Average Salary

  • Entry level plant breeders with minimal experience will make approximately £20,000
  • Plant breeders with about 5 years' experience can earn £25,000
  • A highly experienced plant breeder can make over £40,000