Training Scientists for the Plant Breeding Industry

One of the ways in which we can develop the plant breeders of the future is through our MSc in Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement, which we run in collaboration with the University of East Anglia and was introduced in 1989.

Over the last ten years, 98 students have undertaken the course with between 10-15 new students taken on each year, receiving a mixture of taught and hands-on training in plant breeding including research techniques and methodology.

Of the 98, 27% have gone on to work in the plant breeding industry, improving a broad range of crops including cereals such as wheat and rice, Brassicas such as oilseed rape, other arable crops such as sugar beet, forage crops, fruit and vegetables. Meanwhile another 20% have gone into related industries such as agricultural or crop research and pest management.

Chris Burt completed the MSc course in 2002 and went on to work for Floranova, breeding ornamentals. Four years later, Chris returned to the John Innes Centre as a PhD studentship, part sponsored by the Home-Grown Cereals Authority and RAGT.

He went on to work as a Postdoctoral Scientist, before moving back into industry in 2014, joining RAGT as a Cereal Molecular Geneticist. “The John Innes Centre has been key to my career progression, developing my research skills in a supportive environment and wider crop genetics perspective. The collaborative projects I worked on allowed me to get to know people within the plant breeding industry”.

Lia Arraiano explains; “Coming from the John Innes Centre opens a lot of doors, the scientific knowledge provides a very useful mindset for finding the solutions to problems, which is important for industry and the valuable network that you develop allows you to propose research questions that can be addressed collaboratively between industry and the John Innes Centre.”

Lia completed a PhD in Plant Pathology here in 2001 and went on to continue working in research for a further eight years before moving into the Plant Breeding Industry. She now works as Global Head of Research Laboratories at Vilmorin Mikado, a leading vegetable breeding company based in France and maintains a strong relationship with the John Innes Centre.