Plant Biology for Sustainable Production

Published: 16 March 2020

Plant products are of great importance. This means that knowledge about how plants work, their genetics and interaction with the environment is essential for durable plant production and sustainable development.

Have you ever thought about the basis of our food production, and how we are going to produce enough food to feed the world's population, which is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050? How we are going to reduce our use of plastic materials and create a circular bio-based economy where nothing goes to waste? Plants are the answer to many of our pressing societal problems, but in order to make full use of their potential we need a better understanding of how plants work, how they adapt to climate change and what determines how much they can produce.


Programme scope: 2 years, 120 credits

  • Forest Biotechnology (in Umeå)
  • Plant Protection and Breeding for Mitigating Climate Change (in Alnarp)
  • Abiotic and Biotic Interactions of Cultivated Plants (in Uppsala)

A fourth possibility is to follow a separate two-year specialisation called Genetic and Molecular Plant Biology given jointly by SLU, Uppsala University and Stockholm University.

This SLU Programme is part of an European ERASMUS Mundus Plant Breeding Masters programme, which provides scholarships for students who follow the Erasmus Mundus specialisation:

UN's sustainable development goals in the education

SLU's educations creates knowledge which contributes to the goals for sustainable development, both in Sweden and internationally. 



Modern biology provides tools so that we can conduct detailed studies of the genetics and physiology of plants. Combined with new technical methods of analysis, production of crops and trees can be studied from molecular level to farm and forest level. This new MSc programme is designed to educate the next generation of plant biologists, enabling them to develop plant-based solutions to complex problems within agriculture and forestry.


The courses are taught by internationally renowned experts in plant biology and sustainable agriculture and forestry. The programme utilises resources on three campuses of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), located in Alnarp, Ultuna and Umeå. During the first year, all lectures are streamed live so that you can follow the courses from any of the three locations. During the second year you will choose to specialise in one of the following fields:

  • Plant breeding and protection
  • Abiotic and biotic interactions of cultivated plants
  • Forest biotechnology

Students who complete the programme are awarded a Master’s (120 credits) degree which can be used for third-cycle studies as well as for work in the industry or in public authorities, with a focus on sustainable solutions for our future society. The programme starts with introductory courses where students obtain basic knowledge of plant biology and molecular genetics as a foundation for other courses. As the programme targets students with different backgrounds, it is important that everyone acquires the basic knowledge that is needed. The introduction also covers general skills such as referencing and sustainable development.

In three courses during the first year, the students gain deepened knowledge of subjects that are of importance to sustainable crop production, providing a progression in the subject. The elective specialisation courses give students the opportunity to deepen their knowledge in an area of plant biology of their choice, e.g. plant protection and plant breeding to handle climate change, plants’ interaction with their surroundings and how they are affected by abiotic and biotic factors, or forestry and how biotechnology and breeding can be used to produce renewable biomaterials from forests. The programme is taught in English.

The programme has four specialisation tracks, described below.

The specialisations 1-3 are coordinated during the first academic year, and students take basic courses that give a solid foundation in plant biology for continued studies during year 2, as well as providing training in general competences. The students can take these courses in Alnarp, Umeå or Uppsala.

In year 2, students choose one of the specialisations:

  • - Forest Biotechnology (in Umeå)
  • - Plant Protection and Breeding for Mitigating Climate Change (in Alnarp)
  • - Abiotic and Biotic Interactions of Cultivated Plants (in Uppsala)

The specialisations build on the world-leading competence at SLU and supplement one another.

The fourth specialisation, Genetic and Molecular Plant Biology, is a cooperation between SLU, Uppsala University and Stockholm University. The specialisation starts with three basic courses, where each of the three universities is responsible for one course. This means that students take these courses in Uppsala (campuses of SLU and Uppsala University) and Stockholm. The specialisation Genetic and Molecular Plant Biology cannot be combined with the other specialisations.

The students are expected to acquire knowledge of important research, development and methods with respect to plants used for sustainable crop production and thereby be able to work independently with related questions in agriculture and forestry, horticulture, industry, biotechnology and the environment. The skills acquired on the programme include demonstrating the ability to independently, critically and creatively identify and formulate issues that concern the life processes of plants. All qualitative targets are covered during the year 1 basic courses as well as the independent project.


Upon completion of the programme, the degree of Master of Science (120 credits) with a major in biology is awarded. Other general qualifications may be awarded, provided that the requirements are fulfilled. More information can be found in SLU’s degree regulations.

Students who fulfil the qualification requirements for a degree will be issued a degree certificate upon request. The degree certificate will specify the qualification as Degree of Master of Science (120 credits) with a Major in Biology (masterexamen med huvudområdet biologi).

The applicant must further have a level of English equivalent to upper secondary school English. An applicant with a first-cycle qualification from SLU comprising 120 credits, or a first-cycle degree from another Swedish university comprising 180 credits, automatically fulfils this requirement. The equivalent qualification may also be obtained in other ways, for more information see

Specific requirements apply for admission to the individual courses included in the programme. 


Student life

Welcome to #greenstudies where you get glimpses of student life as a master student at SLU! 


The programme is aimed at preparing the students for research and all of the specialisations included in the programme are connected to strong res- earch environments, which provides a good basis for future research studies. The degree will also enable the students to work within several green sectors related to modern crop and tree breeding and plant protection.

Qualification Awarded

Degree of Master (120 credits) with a major in Biology.

Programme scope: 2 years, 120 credits

Specialisation: Erasmus Mundus Plant Biology
Next start: Uppsala, 31 August 2020
Number of admission places: 15
Scholarships: Scholarships are available for a number of students at the Erasmus Mundus Specialisation,

Specialisation: Genetics and molecular plant biology
Next start: Uppsala, 31 August 2020
Number of admission places: 15

Specialisation: Cultivated plant's abiotic and biotic interactions
Next start: Uppsala, 31 August 2020
Number of admission places: 15

Specialisation: Forest biotechnology
Next start: Umeå, 31 August 2020
Number of admission places: 15

Specialisation: Plant protection and plant breeding
Next start: Alnarp, 31 August 2020
Number of admission places: 15

Application period 16 Oct 2019 - 15 jan 2020: All international students
Application period 16 March 2020-15 April 2020: Swedish students and students within EU/EEA

Erasmus mundus specialisation: Students only applies at  Application period is 1 oct 2019 - 15 jan 2020. 

Tuition fee for non-EU/EEA/Switzerland citizens:
First instalment:  72 500 SEK 
Total programme: 290 000 SEK


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