Course CodeBSC207
Fee CodeS1
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

If you want to be a Successful Plant Breeder or Horticultural Scientist -START HERE
Genetics is set to change the way we go about horticulture over the coming decades; and an understanding of this area of science may well be critical to being able to take advantage of developments in the industry and get the jump on your competitors in the future.
When you understand genetics, you have a foundation for understanding how new plant cultivars are created.  It is the genetic processes that cause desired characteristics to emerge in a plant.
If you want plants that resist disease, produce better flowers; bear larger crops; produce tastier fruit or grow in harsher climates; you need to understand genetics. This is the first step toward achieving such outcomes. 

Lesson Structure

  1. Introduction to Genetics
  2. The Cell and Organelles
  3. Interaction between Chromosomes
  4. Interaction between Genes
  5. Genetic Chemistry (DNA and Chromosomes)
  6. Mutations (Genomes and Mutations)
  7. Developmental Genetics
  8. Population Genetics
  9. Applied Genetics


  • Discuss the history of genetics
  • Explain terminology used in genetics, particularly relevant to study of plant and animal sciences, conservation of plant and animal species, agriculture, horticulture, veterinary medicine and human health sciences.
  • Understand the structures (organelles) of cells and comprehend their basic functions specifically relating to cell division.
  • Discuss the main ways features are inherited.
  • Discuss biological interactions and the significance of gene expression in heritability.
  • Describe chemical reactions involved in genetics.
  • Explain the nature and management of genetic mutations.
  • Explain DNA repair mechanisms, and recombination to understand the significance of DNA cleaving and re-joining.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of genetics to explain how variations occur in living organisms both within and beyond species.
  • Explain both the significance and dynamics of genetic variation within populations of different living organisms.
  • Describe how genetic knowledge is applied to a variety of human endeavors.

Plant breeding has been practiced for thousands of years, since near the beginning of human civilization. It is essentially the manipulation of plant species in order to create desired genotypes and phenotypes for specific purposes. These days, this manipulation involves either controlled pollination, genetic engineering, or both, followed by artificial selection of progeny.
Classical plant breeding uses the planned crossing of closely or distantly related individuals to produce new crop varieties or lines with desirable properties. These may include colour, shape, disease resistance or potential yield in crop producing plants. Plants are crossbred to introduce traits/genes from one variety or line into a new genetic background.
It is now practiced worldwide by government institutions and commercial enterprises as it is believed that breeding new crops is important for ensuring food security through the development of crops suitable for their environment such as drought conditions or warmer climates.
Cloning is the creation of an organism that is an exact genetic copy of another. This means that every single bit of DNA is the same in each organism. It is also possible to clone a single gene by isolating an exact copy of that gene from the genome of an organism. Usually this involves copying the DNA sequence of that gene into a smaller, more accessible piece of DNA, such as a plasmid. This makes it easier to study the function of the individual gene in the laboratory. There are a two ways to clone an organism namely by artificial embryo twinning or somatic cell nuclear transfer.
Some new plants emerge as mutations -and are selected and then propagated commercially after desirable characteristics have been recognised. 
Mutations are changes in the genetic material of an organism. Mutations can cause changes to a single gene (a gene mutation) or initiate changes in the whole chromosome (a chromosomal mutation). Specifically a mutation will cause a change in the arrangement of bases in a gene or in the structure of a chromosome which changes the arrangement of the genes.
Mutations can occur in gametes (eggs and sperm) and in somatic cells (cells of the body that are not passed on to offspring). Mutations may be repaired by the body through the action of enzymes or may remain in a cell and affect the way new proteins are synthesized. Although mutations occurring in cells can affect the organism in which they are found, mutations are only passed on to successive generations when they occur in gametes- eggs and sperm. It is estimated that human beings have around 6 mutations in each cell in their body. Very often mutations are not detected and the affected gene can still function. In other instances mutations can be harmful to an organism or even beneficial.
Mutations can be spontaneous or induced. A spontaneous mutation is mostly caused during DNA replication when the DNA sequence can be changed e.g. by the insertion of an incorrect nucleotide into the growing chain of DNA. Induced mutations are generally caused by environmental factors such as X-rays, UV light, chemicals and ionizing radiation. These factors are known as mutagens – some of them are described below.

THE FUTURE - How will a knowledge of genetics aid your career?

Genetics is set to be of huge significant in all areas of agriculture, horticulture, health and animal sciences over the coming decades.

If you want a career or business in any of these industries, a knowledge of fundamental genetics is likely to be at the very least important, and more likely, absolutely essential: 

  • Farmers who understand genetics will understand how to better manage crops and livestock.
  • Health practitioners who understand genetics will better understand how to care for their patients 
  • Environmental managers who better understand genetics will better understand the environments and the species they are working with.

The next step

This is a solid foundation course covering the basic principles and applications of genetics. It is sure to provide you with a sound knowledge of basic genetics applicable to a variety of disciplines and underpinning many biological processes. 

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