What is a Plant Breeder?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2019
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A plant breeder is someone who breeds plants. Plant breeding is done for a variety of purposes ranging from growing specialized plants for botanical and scientific research to developing new plant species for gardeners. It is usually done in controlled environments where all of the variables which surround the plants can be manipulated to increase the chances of achieving a desired breeding outcome. The pay for plant breeders varies depending on what kind of breeding they do.

One common vocation for a plant breeder is the development of plants for nurseries. This can include growing nursery stock, the plants maintained at a nursery for breeding to produce plants and seeds for sale. In addition, plant breeders can be contracted by nurseries to grow plants for sale when the nursery does not have room, does not want to breed those particular plants, or doesn't have the facilities needed to grow them. Orchid breeding, for example, is very tricky and as a result some nurseries which sell orchids buy them from an orchid breeder.

Plant breeders can also be involved in the development of new plant cultivars. This includes ornamental plants as well as functional ones. Breeders can fulfill specific orders, like the desire to have an ornamental of a particular color or to increase crop yields, and they can also play around with hybridizing to see what happens. The breeder's goal is usually genetic improvement.


It is also possible for a plant breeder to be involved in the production of seedlings and seeds for commercial agriculture. Breeders often work for agricultural companies developing plants for production and maintaining plant stocks to keep yields steady and reliable. This work can include the development of customized hybrids, a popular activity among companies which want to develop crops which make them stand out.

Researchers also have use for plant breeders. Many people work with plants, ranging from environmental toxicologists studying phytoremediation to researchers trying to learn more about phytoanatomy. These professionals often utilize the services of a plant breeder to get customized, highly reliable plants which they can use in research. Breeders can also work in labs assisting people with the development of plants which will meet their needs.

For some plant breeding applications, a college or university degree is required. Especially when people are dealing with advanced genetics and scientific research, such degrees can be crucial for someone who wants to be a plant breeder. Other breeders may learn through experience and apprenticeship.



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