12 Books on Plant Breeding: Classics, moderns and fun !

Chaïma C.


Agronomy engineer

April 11, 2024

10 min

Plant breeding literature abounds: Bernardo, Fehr, Acquaah, Falconer, Allard, BD Singh...  Hard choice for my summer's readings. Then a teammate has asked the LinkedIn community and Wow, more than 150 replies! Recommendations of plant breeding books from all over the world - If you have replied, thanks a lot!

Now I am thrilled to provide you with a list of the 12 most useful plant breeding books to ignite your understanding of this topic. Which one would you read/ One of the latest work in modern breeding? A reference work in the field? Or a less serious one?

📖🌾 No need to present Introduction to Quantitative Genetics by Falconer, classic of its kind but about animal breeding and difficult to apprehend…. In this post, I will highlight contributions of the most famous plant breeding authors, and detail the practical applications of their work. By sharing those sources, I wish to contribute to plant enthusiasts and breeders like you. If you found it useful, please share it on LinkedIn or Twitter 🌱📚

Top 4 classics in plant breeding

Breeding For Quantitative Traits In Plants - Bernardo, 2020

"Personally, a book that helped me a lot in understanding plant breeding concepts and methods.”
“Reading this book helped me understand essential concepts for breeding."

🌱😄 Hey there! So, there's this book called "Breeding for Quantitative Traits in Plants", by Bernardo and it's all about plant breeding and genetics. The author, who's been a scientist in a seed company and a professor, wanted to help students and plant breeders with three objectives:

-         Understand the basics of plant breeding and population genetics.

-         Learn how we can use quantitative genetics and modern tools for our breeding programs.

-         Get a grip on the theory,experiments, and evidence behind these breeding concepts.

In later editions, the author details molecular marker 🧬 applications all over the book, making it even more helpful. He has kept it updated and removed outdated breeding methods like microarrays and random mating designs.

To get the most out of the book, you should have some knowledge of plant breeding and stats 📊, but the author explains matrix algebra briefly for those who might be rusty 😅

So, if you want to level up your plant breeding game, "Breeding for Quantitative Traits in Plants" might just be the perfect book for you! 🌱😄

Principles of cultivar development - Walter Fehr, 1993

“Should be in every plant breeder's library. It has all the information for traditional breeding methods. Fehr presents most everything in a clear way,and it is as enjoyable as a plant breeding book can be”

🌱💪 In this book, the author takes you on a journey, guiding you step-by-step through the exciting process of developing cultivars 🌱 for different crop species. And guess what? He didn’t hold back! He discusses all the alternative strategies available at each stage of the plant breeding process and spilled tea on the ones that work like magic 🧙.

Oh, and did I mention that he covers all the major types of cultivars grown commercially? Yep! From asexually propagated cultivars to pure-line cultivars, and hybrids, he covers it all in one or more chapters. The author has gathered all the basic methods used by plant breeders for cultivar development. As he mentions “The purpose of the book is to provide some assistance in the decision-making process that every plant breeder encounters.” 🌱💪

For more, check further the classic plant breeding books below:

  • Introduction to Quantitative Genetics - DS Falconer and Trudy FC. Mackay, 1996
  • Principles of plant breeding - Robert W. Allard, 1999

TOP 3 Modern Plant Breeding Books

Principles of Plant Genetics and Breeding - George Acquaah, 2020

“The book offers some well written chapters of plant breeding in different breeding systems, but I must admit I have not used it that much 🤷"

🌱🧬 This book is a perfect blend of insights into fundamental principles and cutting-edge techniques of modern plant breeding. You know what's cool? The author brought together classical and molecular tools to give us a complete picture of how new crop varieties and plants are created.

He has given the molecular genetics and breeding sections a major makeover, diving into all the latest plant breeding techniques like zinc finger nuclease, reverse breeding, genome editing, and more! 🧬 It's like he has brought in all the cutting-edge methods to make our plant breeding game even more awesome.

George Acquaah also got this neat description that lets us compare a whole bunch of molecular markers like RFLPs, RAPD, ISSR and SNPs. The updates don't stop there! The new "Industry Highlights" sections give us real-world examples of how these breeding methods are being practically applied on varied species of plants. Talk about useful 🚀

To make things even better, there are plenty of illustrations and self-assessment questions at the end of each chapter and relevant websites. It's like the author wanted us to have all the tools we need to succeed! So, get ready with this book to level up your plant breeding game and create some amazing cultivars! 🌱🧬

Plant Breeding Book by George Acquaah principles of plant genetics and breeding

For more, check further the modern plant breeding books below:

  • Linear Selection Indices in Modern Plant Breeding - JJC.Rojas and José Crossa, 2018
  • Seed Science and Technology - Malavika Dadlani and DK. Yadava, 2023

Top 5 "less serious" plant breeding books

Alice in the Land of Plants: Biology of Plants andTheir Importance for Planet Earth – Yiannis Manetas, 2012

“One can enjoy it simply for intellectual pleasure.”

🌿🌎 Get ready to have your mind blown with this book! The author takes on some mind-boggling questions about plants that challenge our perception of them. We often wonder why plants don't move like animals🐾, right? But guess what, they've got some clever ways to do things without moving! They can have sex and defend themselves, even though they're non motile.

Plants also communicate with each other, like a hidden world of whispers and signals!

The author brilliantly highlights that plants are far from simple creatures. They've got specific behaviors and intelligence 💡 we might have overlooked. It's like taking a trip down the rabbit hole with Alice, discovering a whole new world of plant wonders! And the best part? The author explains all this fascinating biology in a way that even your grandma could understand.

So, get ready for an eye-opening journey into the captivating world of plants! 🌿🌎

 The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov – Peter Pringle, 2011

 “Incredible and heartbreaking story”

📚😮 Embark on a thrilling journey through the life of Nikolai Vavilov. This extraordinary scientist had a big dream – to conquer world hunger using the power of genetics to create super plants 🌱💪 that could grow anywhere! Supported by none other than Lenin himself, Vavilov set up the world's first seed bank, a magnificent living museum of plant diversity that amazed scientists all over the world.

But, when Stalin came into the picture, things took a dark turn. Vavilov's vision clashed with political forces. He faced persecution and false accusations. A real-life drama, filled with love, revolution, and war.

So, get ready for an adventure filled with intrigue, passion, struggle for knowledge and truth. The Murder of Nikolai Vavilov will keep you on the edge of your seat, and you won't be able to put it down! 📚😮

The Seed Detective - Adam Alexander, 2022

Good read for people who studied plant breeding mostly at university, where local traditional breeding is not always highlighted.

🌱✈ Travel book like no other, this autobiography by the "Indiana Jones of Seeds" takes you to a worldwide journey in the quest of ancient varieties. Discover local traditional plant breeding methods, and follow the guide to unveil the breeding targets of farmers across the centuries: sell or eat their production. Traits like taste and yield are very high on the priority list!

Garlic from Oman, Peppers from Morocco, Blue maize from Arizona... as the subtitle puts it, you are about to uncover the secret histories of remarkable vegetables. An example? In Europe we are used to flavor gherkin jars and other pickles with tiny onions 🧅. These are called Pearl Onions (Allium ampeloprasum) and actually it's not an onion but a close relative to Leeks.

Oh and did you know Asparagus has been a delicacy for thousands of years? Appreciated for its medicinal properties (diuretic and supposedly aphrosisiac 😍🤣), it's been gathered for pharaohs in Egypt, Ancient Greeks, in Mesopotamia and even India ! Asparagus plant breeding has started in the Roman Empire. They were so keen on it that they conveyed carts of it up the Alps to keep them frozen and savour some any time of the year!

Seeds “are a visceral connection that I have with my most distant ancestors. It takes me back way beyond civilization,” says Alexander. 🌱✈

For more, check further the "less serious" plant breeding books below:

  • The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins, 2006
  • Crops and Man: People, Plants and Their Domestication - Jack R. Harlan, 2021

Did you find this article useful? Share it!

twitter iconlinkedin iconfacebook icon

Discover our related webinar

Do not miss this webinar

Metrics Every Plant Breeder Should Track
July 27, 2023 4:00 PM
Learn more

Related content


Essential KPIs to Unveil Product Development Success in Seed Industry

See more


New genomic techniques approved in EU

See more

Go futher with this Ebook