The programme requires 180 credits for completion and is based on two semesters of taught modules (120 credits) and a Research Project (60 credits) which spans both semesters and the summer period.
All modules are compulsory. (Modules subject to change)
- Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants
Introduces students to the origins of crop plants, basic breeding methods and examines how biotechnology may be able to contribute. Crops covered include temperate and tropical, annual and perennial, inbreeding and out-breeding, with an emphasis on how genetic improvement will be achieved in the near future, while recognising the potential of novel techniques and varying priorities in the face of a changing climate. In particular, the value of molecular markers, genomic approaches, genetic modification and the development of physiological ideotypes to produce progress in commercial breeding programmes will be examined. These different strands are drawn together at the end of the module to examine how genetics, breeding and physiology can all play a part in a modern crop breeding programme.
- Resource Capture by Crops
Introduces the key processes by which crops capture and use physical resources, principally solar radiation, water and nutrients. Emphasis is first placed on the underlying physical and biological mechanisms of capture and utilisation by both individuals and communities of plants. For example: an appreciation of crop canopy structure, plant physiology (photosynthesis and respiration) and the physical nature of light is required to understand the limitations to crop radiation use efficiency. Case studies are used throughout. Secondly, strategies for crop improvement and management to improve resource use efficiency are discussed.
- Principles of Crop Science
This module considers the characteristics and management of the major soil groups and how cropping is affected by soil type. The principles of crop nutrition are introduced alongside the principles of cultural and chemical control of pests, weeds and diseases in arable crops, and the potential impact on the environment of these practices. The module concludes by considering how rotations, nutrition and crop protection can be considered together in an Integrated crop management system.
- Fundamental and Applied Aspects of Plant Genetic Manipulation
Innovative techniques for genetic manipulation of plants are presented against a background of a continuing need for plant improvement in agriculture, horticulture and forestry. Other topics include cell fusion technology for novel hybrid production, the development of plant transformation systems including Agrobacterium-mediated gene delivery, direct DNA uptake and biolistics; vector design; molecular methods in crop improvement are discussed alongside the value of gene mapping and genetic fingerprinting for germplasm evaluation.
- Plant Genetic Manipulation: Practical Techniques
Laboratory-based instruction in conventional and non-conventional techniques of plant hybridisation, including in vitro pollination, Agrobacterium-induced transformation using wild-type and engineered strains, tissue culture and micropropagation, fusion of protoplasts, plasmid isolation for DNA uptake studies, RAPD and microsatellite analyses for confirmation of hybridity/DNA fingerprinting, biolistics, analyses of transgenic plants (PCR and RT-PCR), Southern analyses, chromosome preparations and physiological analyses of transgenic plants.
- Statistics and Experimental Design for Bioscientists
This module explains the major principles and techniques of statistical analysis of research data without becoming too involved in the underlying mathematics. Now that computer software is very well established for data analysis, it is more important to understand WHAT a statistical test is doing (and thus whether or not it is appropriate) than to be able to perform the underlying calculations by hand. It is equally important to collect data in an appropriate and planned manner for later analysis. At the end of the course, participants should have an overall grasp of the major analytical techniques available, and how they relate to each other, and have developed abilities in experimental design, data analysis using appropriate software and presentation of results.
This module covers the application of the latest biotechnology options for crop improvement and production, including plant products for non-food uses, toxicology of natural pharmacologically active constituents and the use of transgenic plant technology for medical purposes. A series of linked practical sessions involve comparisons of mutant with wild-type Arabidopsis lines, since their different morphologies may have commercial and research applications, particularly in crop species. On-line bioinformatics analysis of the genes involved in these phenotypes is undertaken.
Students also probe transcriptomic databases to determine how gene expression influences plant development. Off-site visits (IACR-Rothamsted, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, National Institute of Agricultural Botany and biotechnology and seed companies) provide students with first-hand knowledge of how biotechnology is being utilised by agro-industry. Areas include plant breeders rights, the impact of genetically modified organisms and environmental monitoring, molecular approaches to varietal profiling, seed quality testing, transformation technology for modifying plant metabolism and modern breeding perspectives and strategies in a commercial context.
This module provides students with the opportunity to familiarise themselves with techniques for crop research with emphasis on resource capture and utilisation by plant communities. The principles of measurement, data acquisition and interpretation, meteorological measurements and soil and plant analysis are all considered in this module.A central (and popular) part of this module is the ‘crop monitoring exercise’ in which students design and conduct their own field experimentation by monitoring growth and development in a crop of their own choice. Modern equipment is used for measuring plants and the environment.
- Current Issues in Crop Science
This integrative module considers future options and possible strategies for crop production in UK and world agriculture. Students are introduced to a number of issues that have current or possible future impacts on crop production systems and the environment. Examples of issues that will be addressed include: the future of genetically modified crops, impact of crop production on biodiversity and prospects for organic crop production. The content will change every year to reflect current issues in crop science.
- Integrated Disease Management
This module introduces the concept of integrated disease management in sustainable crop production. Successful disease management strategies are based on specific information regarding the socioeconomics of the farming system, associated environment, crop and pathogen population dynamics and availability of multiple integrated measures to control important diseases below economically damaging levels. This module will cover: (1) the principles of plant disease epidemiology and crop loss including the use of epidemiological studies to devise effective control strategies against crop diseases, and (2) the use and formulation of integrated control methods to successfully manage important diseases below economically damaging levels in temperate and tropical crops.
As part of their course, all students are required to do a major research project throughout which they have the help and specialist advice of an academic supervisor. A wide range of topics is available within the research interests of members of the school, and students can also choose to carry out their research project at the University’s Malaysia Campus. Students receiving industrial sponsorship will normally be required to do a project in a subject area specified by the sponsor. Throughout the project, particular emphasis is placed on the analysis, interpretation, and presentation of results.
The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. This list is an example of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.