Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research

Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research

The Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research carries out basic molecular biological research on plants. The goal of the Cologne-based scientists is to improve conventional breeding methods and to develop environmentally-friendly plant protection strategies for crops. They focus mainly on the evolution of plants, their genetic blueprint, their development and their interactions with the environment. How does a plant's immune system react to pests, for example? How does the time of flowering depend on the seasonally changing length of the day? How does the genetic variability of crops affect how they adapt to specific environmental influences? The botanists, geneticists and plant physiologists work both in the laboratory and in greenhouses, searching for the molecular basis of natural diversity, and thus make innovative contributions to plant breeding.


Carl-von-Linné-Weg 10
50829 Köln
Phone: +49 221 5062-0
Fax: +49 221 5062-674

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS on Understanding Complex Plant Traits using Computational and Evolutionary Approaches

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Plant Developmental Biology


Department Plant Microbe Interactions


Department Comparative Development and Genetics


Scientists have identified chemical strategies that bacteria use to keep competitors at bay

The image shows a tile with pictures of 10 Max Planck researchers who were successful in the 2022 ERC Consolidator Grant award process. They are Annalisa Pillepich, MPI for Astronomy, Philip J.W. Moll, MPI for Structure and Dynamics of Matter, Simone Kuehn, MPI for Education Research, Joshua Wilde, MPI for Demographic Research Meritxell Huch, MPI for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dora Tang, MPI for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Aljaz Godec, MPI for Multidisciplinary Natural Sciences, Stéphane Hacquard, MPI for Plant Breeding Research, Hiroshi Ito, MPI for Brain Research, and Daniel Schramek, MPI for Molecular Genetics.

This result puts Max Planck in second place in a Europe-wide comparison


New findings suggest an explanation for how chromosome recombination is regulated during sexual reproduction


Findings are an important tool in the battle for food security


Different EDS1 sub-complexes recognize particular TIR-produced molecules and promote immune responses

Show more

Lanceolate, ovate, elliptical, entire, serrated, and uni- or multi-pinnate – there are numerous names to describe the variety of leaf morphology. But how does this diversity come about? Miltos Tsiantis from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne and his team are looking for genes that control leaf growth. They have already found one central regulatory element.

Genes against Drought

MPR 3 /2010 Environment & Climate

In many regions of the world, agriculture is threatened by a lack of water. New plant varieties must thus be developed that are especially resistant to drought.

Group Leader (m/f/d) | Plant Development and Diversity

Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne September 15, 2023

Bioinformatician (m/f/d)

Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne August 16, 2023

Adapting to novel environments

2022 Hancock, Angela; Neto, Célia; Tergemina, Emmanuel 

Plant Research

Plants inhabit an enormous range of habitats. Studying how they adapted to their specific environments can provide fundamental biological insights as well as information that can help to reduce the impacts of climate change on natural and agricultural ecosystems. We investigate the mechanisms of adaptation in natural populations of the molecular and eco-evolutionary model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana. This system is ideal for connecting the biochemical and molecular bases of trait variation with its ecological and evolutionary context.


Modeling plant development and diversity 

2021 Hay, Angela; Tsiantis, Miltos 

Plant Research

In the current era of big data, why do we still lack a complete molecular and physical understanding of how cells form tissues and develop into organisms? A simple answer is complexity across scales. Morphology is determined by a cascade of processes that take place at different scales of biological organization, and yield the final form through complex feedback loops of gene action, tissue growth and mechanics. Computational techniques are valuable to organize such data into mechanistic explanations. We describe two predictive, multi-scale studies of plant development and diversity.


Clonal reproduction through seeds: from model system to crops

2020 Underwood, Charles; Mercier, Raphaël

Plant Research

Hybrid crops are favored in agriculture due to their increased vigor and yield. However, the offspring of hybrid plants is genetically variable due to sexual reproduction. Therefore, new hybrid seeds need to be generated by plant breeders year after year - a time consuming and costly process that is not amenable for all crops. Recent research has demonstrated that sexual reproduction can be avoided to produce clonal seeds maintaining the hybrid state. Here, we summarize novel approaches developed in hybrid Arabidopsis and rice promising a revolution in hybrid breeding and seed production.


Plants rely on their microbiome to protect themselves from pathogens

2019 Thiergart, Thorsten; Getzke, Felix; Hacquard, Stéphane

Plant Research

Fungi and other filamentous microbial eukaryotes, i.e. oomycetes, cause many devastating plant diseases worldwide and are responsible for up to 10% of crop losses. Over the last decade, pesticide application, breeding for plant disease resistance or genetic manipulation of plant immune components have been primarily used to control microbial diseases. However, recent findings indicate that bacterial commensals living benignly inside or at the surface of plant root tissues can confer extended immune functions to the plant host, thereby restricting infection by filamentous microbes.


Epigenetic information storage in plants

2018 Krause, Kristin; Coupland, George; Turck, Franziska

Genetics Plant Research

An epigenetic memory determines how strongly genes are expressed. Polycomb Group protein complexes stably shut down genes by compacting the packaging material of DNA. Recent studies in plants showed that two different and short DNA sequences, called teloboxes and RY motifs, are involved in this epigenetic process. Genes that are under epigenetic regulation are enriched in both motifs, often in combination. Specialized transcription factors, which recognize teloboxes and RY motifs, also directly bind to building blocks of the Polycomb Group and thus stabilize the memory of target genes.

Go to Editor View