Introduction to Developing Climate-Resilient Crops


About this course

Plant breeding has been enormously successful in increasing the yield, variety and quality of crops we consume on a daily basis. However, we face a major challenge to meet the growing global demand for affordable agricultural products while adapting to climate change (leading to heat waves, droughts, floods, diseases, pests and poor soil) and increasing sustainability-driven constraints on agriculture – challenges exacerbated by growing populations, dietary changes, and declining farmlands. A key element in addressing this challenge is the development of climate-resilient crops that, thanks to new genomic makeups and cultivation methods, thrive even under more variable, more unpredictable, and more often extreme abiotic and biotic stresses.
Plant scientists usually refer to ‘resilience’ as an ability of plants to sustain growth, development and show an overall high performance after undergoing various stresses. Resilience is, however, a highly complex trait with multiple genes and processes interacting simultaneously and/or over time, involving many trade-offs. Even the most advanced current plant breeding techniques lack the ability to efficiently select for such traits. To breed a generation of more resilient crops, we therefore first need to develop new methodology that can help us do so effectively and efficiently. These methods will support a systems biology approach to plant breeding, modelling the most important processes underlying plant performance and development, their interactions and their relation to the environment, thereby providing insights that can help translate the approach from model plants to crops. Such models need to be developed by generating large quantities of experimental plant science data at multiple size and time scales, analysing these with novel bioinformatics and artificial intelligence methods, and creating functional plant models that predict and guide rational, targeted breeding and cultivation strategies. Whether resilient crops contribute to sustainable agriculture does not only depend on efficiently breeding resilient varieties, but also on the wider food system. Resilient crops will only be successfully grown by farmers if these crops address farmers’ needs, meet regulatory requirements, and fit with market structures. Success of resilient crops is only sustainable if the food systems they are part of do not create new types of social and economic inequalities that undermine public support. Developing climate-resilient crops hence also requires sociological insights into the wider systems that these crops will be part of.
Overall, successful deployment of climate-resilient crops thus requires an interdisciplinary approach, combining recent developments in plant biology (PB), computer science and modelling (CS) and social sciences (SS). In this course, students will receive a basic overview of all three areas and learn how to integrate concepts, by developing projects based on specific cases related to the development of climate-change resilient and future proof crops.

Learning outcomes

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:

  • List basic elements of plant biology, computer science and social sciences related to the development of climate-resilient crops, and discuss their joint relevance
  • Explain the value of interdisciplinarity and collaboration across disciplines to improve the development of climate-resilient crops
  • Describe the latest developments at the intersection/forefront of these fields
  • Identify their knowledge gaps and learning opportunities in these fields

Required prior knowledge

Assumed Knowledge:
Basic biology (high school level)

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of Wageningen University.


  • Start date

    12 May 2025

    • Ends
      4 July 2025
    • Term *
      Period 6
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      1 Jun, 00:00 - 6 Apr 2025
These offerings are valid for students of Utrecht University