of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biometrics
University of Zagreb, Faculty of Agriculture
Svetošimunska cesta 25, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
Pavilion 4, 3rd Floor
The organization of classes in the field of genetics and plant breeding at the Department has a long tradition and has undergone numerous developmental phases. The first course was titled Genetics and Plant Breeding, which in the academic year 1929/30 is divided into two separate courses: Genetics and Plant Breeding. Over a period of 100 years in undergraduate studies, classes were conducted within faculty programs in different study programs. At present, there are several courses adapted to various study programs and they cover fields of genetics, plant breeding, biometrics, and recently biotechnology.
The postgraduate master's study "Genetics and Plant Breeding" was organized at the Department since 1964. The postgraduate study "Genetics and Plant Breeding" was renewed in 2002 and already respected the principles of the Bologna Declaration, but was performed only until 2005, when it was integrated into the newly established and today current PhD program "Agricultural Sciences".
Over the last twenty years, the employees of the Department have significantly improved the teaching process and today participate in the teaching of the Faculty of Agriculture with a larger number of modules in undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate studies. The quality of teaching, especially in graduate and postgraduate studies, is significantly contributed by demonstration and research experiments performed at the Department’s experiment station Maksimir and the Biotechnology Lab.
Scientific and research activities
Employees of the Department are traditionally involved in numerous domestic and international scientific projects and contribute significantly to the overall scientific activity and excellence of the Faculty. In the last 20 years, numerous projects have been carried out aimed at collecting and analyzing germplasm of various agricultural species (maize, wheat, grapevine, clover, tobacco, grass, buckwheat). The aim was to collect, describe and analyze the genetic variability of agronomically important traits of various species and to assess the possibility of applying interesting germplasm into plant breeding programs. Through several projects and research, methods of breeding grapevine and fruit species have been developed, with a special focus on methods of clonal selection of autochthonous varieties. In all these studies, the design of field experiments and the application of biotechnological methods (analysis of genetic divergence of populations using DNA markers and methods of regeneration from tissue culture) has been developed in parallel.
Since 2016, the employees of the Department begin cooperation with an international team of researchers in the field of genetics and game ecology, primarily through experiment design and data analysis. This cooperation resulted in collaborations and leaders of scientific projects in this field, with the aim of better getting to know the main drivers of the genetic structure of wild ungulis.
In 2017, the Department launched a major national project aimed at developing methods and identification of germplasm related to drought tolerance in maize and soybean (ada.agr.hr). Since 2018, a larger number of employees of the Department participate within the Scientific Center of Excellence for Biodiversity and Molecular Plant Breeding (CroP-BioDiv) in the field of molecular breeding of soybean and wheat and the development of advanced biometric and bioinformatic methods of genomic data analysis. Research is focused on mapping gene loci responsible for important agronomic traits and potential of application of genomic selection methods.
Since 2019, the interdisciplinary Agrobioclim project is being implemented. The aim of the research is the development of genetic variability for drought in Allium species on a selective medium under plant tissue culture conditions, genetic and epigenetic analysis of regenerants by molecular markers and phenotypic analysis on the phenotyping platform. From 2020. PotatoSignalHub is also in implementation, in which research focuses on the analysis of the dynamics of the response of potato plants (multiplied by micropropagation) to viroid infection of spindle potato tubers (PSTVd) in order to explain the role of phytohormones in the development of symptoms.
In a series of new projects that have started this year 2020 is also the ERDF project Tolvin where germplasm and genetic background of traits related to drought tolerance in grapevines are investigated. Finally, Horizon 2020 project: RESBIOS - RESponsible research and innovation grounding practices in BIOSciencies aims to introduce and maintain the practice of responsible science and innovation (RRI) in biosciences through the implementation actions.
A detailed insight into all active and recently completed projects is possible by viewing the personal pages of employees of the Department.
Experiment station and laboratories
Biotechnology laboratory of 180 m2 is located on the second floor of the sixth pavilion of the Faculty of Agriculture. The laboratory is equipped with modern laboratory furniture and equipment for plant tissue culture and molecular-genetic analysis using various types of DNA markers.
In addition to research within national and international scientific projects, the laboratory is also used for educational purposes. Undergraduate, graduate and especially postgraduate students of the Faculty in the framework of various projects with the guidance of professional staff acquire basic and newest knowledge and experience in the application of modern biotechnological methods. Students use the results of research from this laboratory with mentorship of scientists and teachers in the preparation of final and graduate papers and doctoral dissertations.
It is located on the third floor of the sixth pavilion of the Faculty of Agriculture. It is equipped with six personal computers on which several statistical analysis programs (R, SAS), population genetics, molecular diversity, and phylogeny (Structure, Arlequin, etc.) are installed. In addition to teachers, the laboratory is used by graduate and postgraduate students, as well as visiting scientists. In addition to various teaching activities, statistical analyses are carried out in the laboratory for the purpose of preparation of graduate papers, doctoral dissertations, i.e. scientific projects in general.
The Department of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biometrics at the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb, played a historical role in the development of plant genetics, plant breeding and applied statistics in Croatia. From its establishment in 1920 until today, it has been and remains a scientific-educational core for implementation of modern breeding techniques and development of young plant breeders in Croatia. In the continuity of 100 years, employees of the Department, aware of their scientifically rich and fertile past, conduct scientific research in the field of plant genetics experiments and practical plant breeding, starting with classical methods of selection for qualitative and quantitative traits to the application of modern biotechnological methods and biometric models. In their teaching and experimental work, the employees of the Department have always focused on the interests of the industry and farmers, and put their experiments and research methods into the function of developing cultivars of agricultural species of the greatest economic interest.
Fran Jesenko was the first head of the Department from 1920 to 1922 and carried out the procedure of personnel organization and initial teaching and research activities. During the 100 years of its history, the Institute had 11 heads (heads of department).
Academician Alois Tavčar (1895 - 1979) who succeeded Jesenko, was the real founder of scientific and teaching activities in the Department and acted as its head for more than 50 years. Together with his associates, he made a huge contribution to the development of plant genetics and plant breeding in Croatia and the wider region and was a very respected geneticist in Europe of his time. In a publication published in Folia Mendeliana 50 (2) from 2014, dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the publication of the historical results of Gregor J. Mendel, photographs of key geneticists for the early development of genetics have been presented, collected personally in 1931 by Viennese professor Erich von Tschermak-Seysenegg. On the 56th page of this publication is also a photograph of Alois Tavčar (Fig. 118). Prof. Tchermak became famous due to rediscovery of forgotten Mendel’s results, but also gave a significant contribution to early development of genetics by own research.
During the first 50 years of the Department, Tavčar and collaborators studied the inheritance of qualitative and quantitative traits, spontaneous and induced mutations, heterosis effects and genetic variability of germplasms of different plant species. At that time, the Department worked on practical breeding of maize, wheat, soybean, barley, rye, alfalfa and buckwheat, and as a result of this work it was created and introduced into the production of several cultivars (see monography Breeding of Agricultural Plants in Croatia, 2012).
In the second half of its history, the Department expands research and education into several scientific branches. Plant breeding, Genetics and Biometrics begin to develop separately with multiple scientists specializing in each subject. During the last 30 - 40 years numerous projects and breeding programs have been implemented that have resulted in valuable publications and many new cultivars of crop species.
During the 100 years of the Department, its employees significantly enriched and improved the teaching process of the Faculty of Agriculture. Genetics and plant breeding have been part of regular curriculum of the Faculty of Agriculture since 1922, and for a short time at the Faculty of Science. Tavčar, with the help of his associates, launched in 1964 the postgraduate study program "Genetics and Plant Breeding" for achieving the academic degree of master's degree in science.
Over the past 100 years, the Institute has gained a respected position in the field of genetics and plant breeding and has become a renowned institution where many well-known plant geneticists and plant breeders in Croatia and the region have been educated.
More details and data on the history and present of the Department can be found in:
- Monography Breeding of Agricultural Plants in Croatia, 2012
- Our ex professors
- Main international collaborators