PPH-31306 Seed Science and Technology


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work5
Excursion (one day)10
Course coordinator(s)dr. L Bentsink
Lecturer(s)dr. L Bentsink
prof. dr. ir. PC Struik
dr. HWM Hilhorst
dr. SPC Groot
Examiner(s)dr. L Bentsink

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Plant physiology, molecular biology and genetics. For example CLB-10803 Reproduction of Plants, GEN-11806 Fundamentals of Genetics and Molecular Biotechnology, GEN-20806 Plant Biotechnology or PPH-10806 Structure and Function of Plants

Continuation courses:

MSc thesis


Seeds are not only the world’s major source of human and animal nutrition but also provide the basis for improving agricultural practices and managing genetic resources. High-quality seeds are required for successful crop production, propagation and breeding. Seed quality comprises a multitude of processes and events that occur during the successive stages of seed development, of which dormancy, germination, longevity and desiccation tolerance are the most important. These seed traits represent key ecological and agronomical traits that determine plant establishment in both natural and agricultural ecosystems:

- seeds are both the start and end of the plant life cycle. they are ‘time capsules’ containing the full genetic information for the survival of a species. they are the only mobile phase and therefore determine when and where the plant exists;
- seed behaviour (dormancy and germination timing) are major determinants of plant fitness in natural populations;
- seeds are ‘extremophytes’ that can tolerate desiccation to 2% moisture content, enabling long-term storage for genetic conservation and the establishment of an agricultural seed industry;
- seeds are the major currency of the biotechnology revolution;
- seed quality for plant establishment is the cornerstone of agricultural production and the seed is often the key yield component;
- the seeds of just three crops, rice, maize and wheat, constitute 2/3 of the world’s food.
he course will focus on seeds as starting materials, therefore nutrition related aspects are not part of this course. The course topics are based on transitions during the seed life cycle, which include the switch from embryogenesis to seed maturation, from seed maturation to storage (including shelf life (longevity in controlled conditions; commercially and in gene banks), from dormancy to germination until seedling establishment.
The course focuses primarily on mechanisms and regulation of these phase transitions that are strongly affected by the environment, both in an ecological and agricultural context, but will also address seed technological aspects (including priming, storage, coating), such as seed quality and its enhancement.
Disciplines: genetics, physiology, environment (global change), systems biology

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- recognize and describe the phase transitions in the seed life cycle;
explain and discuss how the different seed stages are regulated, and how these are influenced by the environment
discuss the seed traits that represent (industrial) seed quality and give examples of the various methods to enhance seed quality;
identify and select relevant information (literature) on a given or chosen topic within the course framework.


- lectures;
- guest lectures;
- practicums (group work related to a scientific question that relates to one of the seed phase transitions; experiments will be related to expertise at pph on species including arabidopsis, tomato, lettuce, onion, brassica and soybean);
student presentations of practical work;
- apply disciplinary knowledge in a case study to elaborate on a relevant topic related to one of the guest lectures;
- excursion (visit to seed company (1 day) and cgn (2 hours);
- written exam.


Written exam (60% of final mark) and case study report (40% of final mark). Each component needs a minimum grade of 5.5 to pass.


Bewley JD, Bradford KJ, Hilhorst HW, Nonogaki H (2013) SEEDS  Ed 3rd Edition. New York, Springer, recent review and research papers on the topics of the course, lecture slides.

Restricted Optional for: MPSPlant SciencesMScD: Plant Breeding and Genetic Resources3WD
MPSPlant SciencesMScB: Greenhouse Horticulture3WD
MPBPlant BiotechnologyMScC: Molecular Plant Breeding and Pathology3WD
MPBPlant BiotechnologyMScA: Functional Plant Genomics3WD