Plant Breeding Technician

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Plant Breeding Technician


Plants and flowers not only provide aesthetic beauty to our gardens and freshen up our lives, but also act as important scientific materials for our basic needs and medicines. For one thing, without any greenery, humans would have a hard time getting the oxygen to breathe. Can you imagine a world without plants? Impossible!

Botany is the scientific study of plants, which includes a wide range of living organisms from the smallest bacteria to the largest living trees. Plant breeding technicians provide technical support and services to botanists and other professionals working in agricultural and plant biology. They research methods and ways of improving plant breeding. They produce new or improved plant and crop varieties better suited to environmental conditions and commercial needs both in the US and abroad.

Plants are chemical factories that produce all kinds of products useful to humans. Besides food, plants provide raw materials for paper, building materials, solvents and adhesives, fabrics, medicines, and many other products. For example, aloe vera plants are used in topical creams and healing solutions. Therefore, plant breeding technicians will work on growing specific plants for specific purposes. They also test the chemicals produced by different plants to help scientists find new uses for them. For example, we use some other plant chemicals to treat certain types of cancer.

Since the field is so broad, plant breeding technicians may specialize in various areas such as plant genetics, conservation work, environmental biology, limnology (the study of freshwater plants, animals and chemistry), mycology (the study of fungi), or taxonomy and systematics (the classification of plants and their relationships). Some focus their work on field studies, searching for new species to perform experiments, while others study the ecology of plants, which is the interactions of plants with other organisms and the environment.

Plant breeding technicians that perform conservation work use their botanical knowledge to help manage parks, forests, rangelands, wilderness areas and breed specific plants within an ecosystem. Public health and environmental protection professionals depend on their understanding of plant science to help solve pollution problems. Some plant breeding technicians organize and participate in field inventories, documenting species for various types of studies. Others work primarily in research and teaching. The results of plant breeding research has increased and improved our supply of medicines, foods, fibers, building materials, and other plant products.
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  Interests and Skills  
Plant breeding technicians must have an interest in nature and an appreciation for all forms of plant life. They are quick learners and have the ability to work outdoors for extended periods of time. Most have a serious concern for the environment, and are interested in protecting and breeding endangered plant species. Most plant breeding technicians have the ability to work both alone or in teams. They should have strong communication skills, both written and oral, and enjoy synthesizing biological information.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Set up, operate and maintain laboratories for botanical breeding and research
  • Care for plants and make sure they stay healthy
  • Assist in genetic research of plant breeding
  • Collect specimens and samples, and grow cultures of micro-organisms
  • Prepare specimens for examination and perform experiments
  • Write reports on results and findings
  • Check the quality of plants
  • Set up and maintain instruments and equipment
  • Some plant breeding technicians work primarily outdoors, collecting and identifying terrestrial and aquatic plants, taking samples, and surveying and documenting plant communities. Others work primarily indoors in offices, classrooms, laboratories and herbaria. Overtime work on evenings and weekends may be required, especially when plant breeding technicians have to meet deadlines. Yet, regular working hours are generally the norm for these technicians.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Plant breeding technicians work for governments, universities and colleges, research and development departments in large corporations, botanical gardens, herbaria and museums, biotechnology firms, and environmental, forestry and agricultural consulting firms.

  Long Term Career Potential  
With further education and experience, plant breeding technicians can become full fledged botanists. Then, potential for advancement as a botanist usually depends on the individual's university degree. They may find work as interpretative naturalists, environmental reclamation technicians, or laboratory technicians in research facilities. Many work as consultants in the environmental, horticultural and agricultural sectors, while others may decide to work in research and teaching. With additional training, plant breeding technicians can become scientific writers, computer programmers or botanical illustrators.

  Educational Paths  
Plant breeding technicians usually require completion of a one- or two-year college program in botanical technology or plant breeding technology. Certification in plant breeding/botanical technology or in a related field is available through associations of technologists and technicians and may be required by some employers. Usually, a two-year period of supervised work experience is required before certification as a plant breeding technician.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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