School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Programme Overview


The MSc degree will be 24-30 months and will integrate the research and internships with the taught courses.  The students will be trained hands-on in the plant breeding program at the UKZN and the public and private partner institutions in Southern African Development Community (SADC). This will provide students with the practical knowledge of applying modern technologies, such as production of doubled haploids to reduce the breeding cycles, managing spatial and temporal variation in trial fields, and advanced trial designs. Above all the students will learn hands-on how to use the Integrated Breeding Patform (IBP) to manage plant breeding information systems. The IBP has been developed by the Generation Challenge Programme (GCP) and will be made available to the UKZN for use in training MSc students. 

The project outcome will be 30 industry-ready, modern plant breeders from at least 6 Southern African countries. The new breeders will impact positively on delivering the technology needs of the smallholder farming sector, which dominates agricultural production in Africa.


The Objectives

The objectives of the program are as follows:

To train 30 plant breeders at the MSc level, emphasizing the use of modern plant breeding tools and data management systems that will enhance genetic gain and ultimately deliver quality crop varieties. The students will be recruited from at least 6 SADC countries, namely Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

To continue and enhance the maize breeding research program at UKZN to serve as the world-class training platform for MSc students, emphasizing management of plant breeding pipelines from designing the new breeding crosses  to variety release.To establish an internship program for the MSc students to train inside established seed companies and elite public breeding programs in South Africa and the SADC region.

The Main Activities

The objectives will be achieved through the following activities:

Application of modern teaching technologies. The program will combine intensive postgraduate modules with soft-skills training, hands-on field and laboratory activities, e-learning courses in collaboration with ISU, as well as a research dissertation that will address the industry based problems, and smallholder farming requirements in Africa. 

Applied plant breeding research program. The maize breeding program running at the University of KwaZulu-Natal will be further developed to be in line with breeding pipeline with the use of modern equipment resulting in improved varieties being released

Plant breeding internship program. The UKZN MSc plant breeding program will include a 6-month internship program for students to obtain experience from successful private seed companies (e.g. Monsanto, Pioneer, Pannar, Capston Seeds and United Seeds) and/or elite public sector breeding programs in South Africa (e.g., Agricultural Research Council, South African Sugar Research Institute), Zimbabwe (mainly CIMMYT, SeedCo, Pannar and DuPont-Pioneer) and Zambia.