The Biosciences and Global Food Security
How can you use science to help improve global food security? This module introduces you to the issues of global food security and the complexity existing in different parts of our food generation system. Looking across the food supply chain, you’ll cover the evolution of crops, crop and animal production, and the food industry. Importantly, you’ll also look at sustainable nutrition because food security isn’t just about supply – it’s important that people are getting the right kind of food. You’ll learn about these issues through a mix of lectures and practical laboratory sessions. You’ll also develop professional skills to work safely in laboratory situations.
Biochemistry - The Building Blocks of Life
Have you ever wondered how some crops can resist diseases? This module provides you with the fundamentals for understanding biochemical processes in living organisms. You’ll be introduced to the basic structure, properties and functions of the four key biological macromolecules: nucleic acids, proteins, carbohydrates and lipids. You’ll also look at the metabolic pathways occurring in cells, such as respiration, photosynthesis and the biosynthetic pathways for the key macromolecules. In addition to lectures, you’ll have practical laboratory sessions to learn how to use key biochemical techniques for the separation and analysis of macromolecules and measurement of the metabolic process.
Genes and Cells 1
The basic functional units of life are cells. In this module you’ll learn about the growth and development of cells, focusing on mitosis, meiosis, cell division and differentiation. You’ll get to explore the ultrastructure – the structure of a cell too small to be seen with an ordinary microscope – of animal, plant and bacterial cells and even viruses. Once you have this foundation understanding, the second part of the module covers fundamental genetic principles and you’ll be able to answer the questions: What are the Mendelian laws of inheritance? How are genes expressed? You’ll have lectures from current researchers in the field and the opportunity to apply your learning in the laboratory and in workshops.
A solid understanding of mathematics, physics and chemistry is essential for a scientist. This module will provide you with the foundation knowledge of mathematics and statistics, physics and chemistry needed for your future studies. It compensates for potential gaps in understanding resulting from different prior education. The mathematics and statistics element includes powers and logs, differentiation, significance and regression. The physics element includes energy and heat, light and the electromagnetic spectrum, attenuation/absorption, and radioactivity. The chemistry element includes elements and periodic table; atomic structure and bonding; intermolecular attractions, chemical equilibrium; acids and bases, oxidation and reduction; rates of reaction; and basic organic chemistry, isomerism, and rings. You’ll have lectures from experts in these fields and use computer-aided learning practicals to apply what you’ve learnt.
The Ecology of Natural and Managed Ecosystems
Pollinator species are hugely important for natural systems and for managed systems like agriculture, but there is concern that numbers are declining. What physical, chemical or biotic factors are limiting these species’ distribution? What other species are they in competition with? How diverse or stable is the ecological community overall? This module introduces you to the principles of ecology and looks at how organisms have evolved to interact with their environment. You’ll also cover population (such as competition and predation) and community ecology (such as the diversity and stability of communities, patterns of species richness). You’ll explore the various definitions of biodiversity and look at the loss of species and habitats, particularly in semi-natural and managed habitats such as woodland, hedgerows, meadows, and agricultural land. You’ll have lectures from current researchers in the field and the opportunity to apply your learning in the laboratory and through field visits.
There’s more to grass than meets the eye. Grasslands are used for forage in agricultural systems but are also important as habitat for wild animals, birds and beneficial insects. In this module you’ll learn about the latest developments in grassland management, both UK and globally, and the policy issues associated with these developments. You’ll examine the morphology and physiology of forage grass species to understand the mechanisms of grass growth, production and utilisation and how these are influenced by management practices. In addition to lectures, you’ll have farm visits and computer-based tutorials so you can develop your understanding of grassland management, identify grass plants and use the latest subject-specific software to calculate a pasture budget.
Contemporary Agricultural Systems
Modern agriculture is a dynamic, fast-paced and high-tech industry. In this module, you’ll explore practical agricultural systems used by commercial UK farms. Designed for students with a farm or non-farming background, you’ll get to understand the fundamental concepts of agricultural systems within the context of contemporary markets, policy and research. Exact topics covered in the module will vary according to the issues affecting the agricultural industry in any one year, but examples include: dairy production, arable production, soils, agri-environmental interactions, labour and machinery management and farm business systems. You’ll have lectures from academics currently researching these fields and will visit the University Farm and external farms to see what you’ve learnt in practice.
How can mutant plants be used to improve crop yield? In this module you’ll be introduced to plant evolution and the cellular structure of plants, in particular seeds, leaves, flowers and roots, and how these multicellular tissues are constructed. You’ll become familiar with the techniques used to study plant science, including genetics and the use of mutants. Using model plants, such as Arabidopsis, you’ll look at the development of modern plant biology and genetics and then explore the applications of biotechnology in plant science. You’ll also examine the importance of plant nutrition and how the interaction with pathogens is crucial to plant growth and production. You’ll have a mix of lectures and practical laboratory sessions to apply your learning.
Plant Science Research Tutorials
Want to know more about what is happening in plant science research right now? In this exciting module, you’ll get to learn all about the latest research. Each week a different member of academic staff from Plant and Crop Sciences will explain and demonstrate the research being carried out by their group. You’ll be able to explore how each group’s research is contributing to not only to the understanding of plant function, but also to society’s needs. You’ll also get to discover what area of plant science you find most interesting, which will help you when choosing your future study options.
Academic Development and Employability
In this module you will develop the academic and professional skills you need for your further studies and future career. Through small group work within tutor groups, you’ll become well-equipped in areas such as essay-writing, presentational skills (oral and written), critical interpretation of published materials, and other universal skills that will benefit you throughout your degree and into the future.
Optional - there are no optional modules in year one
Agricultural and Food Marketing
Marketing is a lot bigger than just advertising. In this module, you’ll learn about the importance of a marketing-orientated approach to successful rural and food businesses. A hands-on module, you’ll use an agricultural or food company of your choice as a case study and, in small teams, analyse its market and create your own marketing plan. Guest lectures will be invited so you can learn more about how marketing theory is applied in practice and there will be a field visit to a local farm to see their marketing strategy in action.
Economic Analysis for Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Economic analysis can help you answer important management questions: how much fertiliser should I apply to my wheat? If demand for beer is going up, how will that affect the price I receive for my barley? Through this module you’ll gain an understanding of economic ideas and principles and be able to apply them to a range of problems of interest to agricultural and environmental scientists and managers. You’ll also examine the arguments for government intervention to correct ‘market failures’ with reference to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and look at CAP support mechanisms and their impact on arable and animal production. In addition to lectures and farm visits, you’ll have computer-aided learning sessions to teach you planning techniques that will enable you to use your economic skills to analyse the impact of the market and policy environment on business performance and stability.
An understanding of soil is critical for agricultural scientists and managers. Through this introductory module, you’ll learn about the biological, physical and chemicals properties of soils and how to use this information for agricultural and environmental land management. You’ll examine how soil can affect plant growth – including through soil biota, nutrients, trace elements and compaction. You’ll look at how water moves through the soil, how soil can be eroded and ways of using soil bioremediation and reclamation.
Plant Physiology and Applied Crop Science
Crops use solar energy, water and nutrients to grow, but how do scientists and managers overcome the limits to this growth? In this module you’ll gain a comprehensive understanding of plant physiology with an applied context – right the way from the molecular level to the field. You’ll cover major crop species in the UK and worldwide and examine the physiological basis of resource capture and utilisation in crop growth and development. You’ll explore limitations to resource capture by crops and how growers overcome these, in relation to integrated crop management. You’ll also learn about the physical aspects of the plant environment incorporating the key processes of photosynthesis, respiration, uptake and transpiration of water, and the uptake of mineral nutrients. You’ll have a mix of lectures and practical laboratory sessions to apply your learning.
Crop Management Challenge
Want to exercise your crop management skills? One of the most popular modules, you’ll use all the scientific and management knowledge you’ve gained to date to put your crop management decision-making skills into practice. In small teams, you’ll make all the decisions relating to the production of a commercial crop of bread making wheat. Does your wheat plot need extra nutrients? When and how should they be applied? How much will it cost? When should your crop be harvested? How will you sell your wheat? Can you get the best price? You’ll be acting in the roles of both professional agronomist and farm manager. You’ll be supported by teaching staff but the decisions are your own. There will be lectures as well as field site visits to your plots.
In this module you will develop and consolidate your professional competencies and abilities as a bioscientist. You’ll improve your core professional skills in the scientific method, experimentation, data analysis and measurement techniques that enable you carry out scientifically-sound research in animal, crop or management science. You’ll also cover discipline-specific topics. There will be a mix of lectures, workshops and group activity sessions for you to work on your skills.
Plant Pests and Diseases
Sugarbeet root aphids feed on the sap in the roots, causing damage and production losses. But how does this pest work and what can be done? In this module, you’ll explore how microbes and insects cause disease in plants and the effect of interactions between plants, microbes and insects. Looking globally, you’ll be able to explain the importance and the nature of the organisms that are pests and diseases of plants, including population dynamics and epidemiology. You’ll also assess the main approaches for control and management of pests and diseases, including chemical interventions, resistance breeding in plants and biological control. You’ll have lectures complemented by practical laboratory sessions, videos and demonstrations.
Climate Change Science
Climate change is in the news nearly every day. This module is your opportunity to go beyond the headlines and investigate the science behind climate change and its effects. You’ll look at historical climatic change, the principles of climate forcing, and how aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems are responding to climate change – and what this means for humans. You’ll learn about how climate change is being studied and examine the role of modelling. You’ll also explore the political environment and how the climate change issue is framed by different players, and what the options are for climate stabilization. You’ll have a mix of lectures as well as computer-based learning to see climate models in action.
Computer Modelling in Science: Introduction
Modern biological and environmental science is often the study of complex systems and large data sets, and relies on computer models and analyses to understand these systems and data. This module introduces you to the computer programming and modelling techniques that are used in the biological and environmental sciences. Using relevant examples and applications, you’ll become familiar with computer programming and algorithms using the Python programming language, and explore how to analyse image data. You’ll also learn how to construct mathematical models for biological and environmental systems using difference and differential equations, with a particular emphasis on population dynamics, and how to simulate, analyse these models and fit these models to data. In computer laboratory sessions, you’ll apply your learning to specific problems, such as environmental pollution, growth of microbial populations, disease epidemics, or computer manipulation of images of plants, animals or the natural environment.
The course will focus on the processes that govern terrestrial ecosystem function. We will identify key ecosystem drivers and processes and explore how these have shaped the biosphere. Students will gain an understanding of the mechanisms that control changes in the physiochemical environment and their impact upon communities. Particular topics will include primary productivity, decomposition, herbivory, biodiversity and human impact on ecosystems. Classes comprise a mix of lectures, laboratory practicals, a computer practical, a seminar and fieldwork.
Other modules by approval of the course manager.
The project gives you an opportunity to use your initiative and knowledge to undertake original research under the supervision of an individual member of academic staff. You will design the study, gain familiarity with relevant analysis techniques, undertake data collection, and where appropriate safety procedures relevant to the topic. You’ll undertake appropriate quantitative analysis and prepare a report of approximately 5000 words.
This important part of your degree, gives you the opportunity to participate in the work of one of the country's top agricultural research centres. Our research at Nottingham is funded by the UK and international organisations, including the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), Home-Grown Cereals Authority, DairyCo, the UK research councils and agricultural businesses and governments from around the world. This funding enables us to teach the most modern and exciting aspects of agriculture.
If you are interested in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from dairy cows, managing farms under the new agricultural policy environment (how would you ensure that University Farm meets the ‘greening’ requirements?); if you want to be involved in research into the influence of diet on reproductive performance in pigs or cows; if you want to know how seed rate and fertiliser application influences winter wheat production or how climate change will affect crop production in Africa and Asia, Nottingham is the place to be.
Recent Research Projects have included:
- An investigation into the likely effects of a reduction in direct payments on farm profitability
- Energy and protein retention in growing and finishing pigs
- Farmers’ markets and supermarkets: food prices vs. the consumer benefits of ‘local’ food
- A life cycle assessment of milk production at The University of Nottingham Farm
- A novel benchmarking tool for farm businesses
- Are plant density recommendations for sugar beet (Beta vulgaris) suitable for modern varieties?
- How does future climate change affect crop yield and yield variability of maize (Zea mays) in Nigeria?
- An investigation into English and Welsh sheep farmer opinions on Schmallenberg virus
- The value and roles of animal manures and slurries in arable production
- A comparative Life Cycle Analysis of the production of biofuels from Jatropha Curcus and palm oil
- The relationship between milk yields, variable costs and the overall profitability of dairy farms
- A historical analysis of grain production and its export in Russian territories (1870-2013)
Read BURN the Biosciences Undergraduate Research at Nottingham web pages to find out more about undergraduate research projects. BURN is a freely accessible e-journal which showcases final-year research projects undertaken by biosciences students.
Field Crops Cereals
A highly applied module, you’ll learn how to optimise the management of different cereal crops to meet the requirements of specific environments and end-uses. To do this, you’ll learn about the production strategies for the major grain cereals, with particular emphasis on factors controlling yield and quality. You’ll also examine the structure and function of the Gramineae and the influence of the environment and management practices on crop growth and development. You’ll have a mix of lectures, seminars, in-class exercises and field work to develop and apply your understanding.
Rural Business Management
How do you apply management principles to modern rural businesses? This module will develop your knowledge of business management principles and provide you with an opportunity to apply these principles to the type of problems facing rural businesses at the present time. You’ll construct and interpret business accounts, use investment appraisal techniques, learn about labour and machinery management, explore the different forms of business organisation, and consider taxation. Using a ‘real-life’ case study, you’ll also learn and practice teamwork, time management and data analysis skills, which are vital when working in business. You’ll have a mix of lectures and practical classes, as well as guest lectures from invited speakers to give you insights into the management and finance of rural businesses.
Current Issues in Crop Science
In this integrative module you’ll consider the future options and possible strategies for maintaining or increasing crop production in the UK and world agriculture. You’ll learn about the latest trends and developments within crop science, and the philosophical, ethical and policy issues associated with them. The topics covered will vary to reflect the most recent issues, but have included: the future of genetically modified crops, impact of crop production on biodiversity and prospects for organic crop production. Using your subject knowledge and research skills, you’ll be in a position to critically analyse the advantages and disadvantages of developments in crop science, both for the module and in your future career.
In this popular module, you’ll attend a five day field course to study selected field-grown crop species that have been chosen as models to illustrate major systems of production. You’ll examine the scientific principles that govern the management of field-grown crops through production to final end use, with particular emphasis being given to their physiology and ecology. Through field visits, you’ll observe and critically appraise the efficiency of current commercial production strategies and assess the scope to exploit plant responses to the environment at specific growth stages for optimal control of quality and yield. You’ll learn about the optimisation of quality and yield of crops through the manipulation of leaf, stem and root development, and the impact of post-harvest physiology on handling and storage. The field course is typically primarily based at the Sutton Bonington Campus with day-long trips to industry, farms and research organisations, and one overnight stay in an arable region.
Soil and Water Science
In this module you’ll have advanced study of the physical and chemical processes that govern the behaviour and interaction of soil and fresh water systems. You’ll learn about the hydrologic cycle and the mechanisms controlling the movement and storage of water, into, through and within soils including infiltration and runoff. You’ll also develop specialist knowledge of the chemical processes that occur within soil and water systems, including an understanding of the major physico-chemical processes that generate waters of different chemistries at or near the Earth’s surface. Applying this knowledge, you’ll examine the key principles concerning the sustainable management of soil and water systems. To encompass the many aspects of this field, you’ll have lectures, tutorials, computer-aided learning sessions, practical laboratory sessions, field measurements and demonstrations.
Plants and the Light Environment
How does light cause variation in crop yields? In this module, you’ll study the influence of the light environment on the physiology of native and crop species, extending from the cellular to community level. You’ll learn how to differentiate between different light signalling pathways in plants and demonstrate how these pathways function in plants. You’ll be able to explain how light is absorbed by plants to initiate energy transfer systems and to stimulate developmental pathways of photomorphogenesis. You’ll then be able to apply your knowledge in understanding the causes of variations in crop yields and how these may be used to assist in the search for improved varieties and increased productivity in agricultural systems. You’ll have a mix of lectures, demonstrations and field trips to see what you’ve learnt in practice.
Plant Cell Signalling
How does a plant know when it is being attacked? In this module you’ll learn about plant signalling molecules and the ways in which these signals are integrated to ensure appropriate responses to environmental conditions or plant pathogen attack. You’ll gain a detailed knowledge of how plants use intercellular and intracellular signalling strategies to provide information about their environment, with particular emphasis on the use of molecular genetics in enabling us to determine the nature of the signals and the cross-talk that takes place between them. You’ll have lectures and demonstrations, as well as laboratory sessions to gain practical experience of the techniques for studying plant hormone signalling.
Molecular Plant Pathology
Crops can defend themselves from disease, but how do they do it? In this module, you’ll learn about the molecular biology of plant pathogens, how these cause disease, and the mechanisms used by plants to defend themselves against such pathogens. You’ll examine the specific molecular techniques being used to develop an understanding of these plant/pathogen interactions. Bringing in current research, you’ll be able to evaluate and critically assess recent research in plant pathogen interactions.
Consultancy is a strong growth area for jobs in agriculture. In this module you’ll be introduced to the practicalities of management consultancy and have the opportunity to integrate your knowledge of management principles to a real-life case study of your choice and based on the University Farm. You’ll learn how to appraise individual enterprises and whole firms with a view to improving the respective financial and technical performance of the business. With a strong focus on working productively as an individual, you’ll assess problems and opportunities, analyse information and data, and identify and meet objectives in order to aid managerial decision-making. To find out more about how consultancy works in practice, you’ll have guest lectures from invited speakers from industry in addition to your lectures and workshops.
Genetic Improvement of Crop Plants
The genetic improvement of crop plants is critical to address issues of food security for a growing world population and in the face of a changing climate. It is also the key to tackling environmental degradation and to meeting the increasing strict regulations on agricultural pollution which are coming into force in many Western countries. While these issues are not identical, they are linked and efficient plant breeding can be part of the solution to both. In this module, you’ll develop an understanding of crop genetic improvement through lectures, case and literature studies, research plan presentations, external expert seminars and practical exposure to crop breeding and molecular techniques. You’ll examine how modern and technological approaches can enhance crop breeding programmes and be able to assess the limitations of these approaches. The emphasis is on the application of biotechnology to conventional breeding, but you’ll also learn about genetic modification in the genetic improvement of crops. You’ll cover temperate and tropical, annual and perennial, and in-breeding and out-breeding crops.
Plants and the Soil Environment
What happens below the ground that affects the water and nutrient uptake by plants? In this module, you’ll examine the acquisition of water and nutrients by plants in both agricultural and natural systems, and how plants interact with the soil environment. You’ll learn about the evolution of root adaptations which enable plants to thrive in environments with limited or excess water and nutrients. In an agricultural setting, you’ll explore how water and nutrient uptake by plants can be used to improve crop productivity and resource management, and use the practical study component to investigate new methods and technologies for below-ground phenotyping of roots. You’ll have a mix of lectures and computer-based practicals to gain a fundamental understanding of how water and nutrients are acquired by plants from the soil environment, and their influence on plant growth and development.
Plant Disease Control
As an agricultural or crop scientist, you need to know not only how to deal with a disease in a crop but also potential methods to prevent it in the first place. In this module, you’ll gain an understanding of the applied aspects of plant disease control, in particular transmission, epidemiology, detection and diagnosis and control strategies. You’ll analyse the problems of plant diseases and be able to describe the options available to control losses due to disease and the strengths and weaknesses of these options. You’ll examine control strategies based on a range of approaches – including application of fungicides, biological control, deployment of disease resistant varieties and biotechnological approaches. Importantly, you’ll learn about the strategies used by plant pathogens to spread between plants and cause disease epidemics. You’ll have lectures and a field visit, as well as practical laboratory sessions to develop laboratory skills associated with disease diagnosis.
Sex, Flowers and Biotechnology
The processes of floral development and reproduction are some of the most critical stages occurring during plant growth and development. They are fundamental for plant breeding, crop productivity and horticulture. The significance of plant reproduction is particularly pertinent to issues of food security and the future development of high yielding crops. In this module, you’ll focus on recent developments that have been made in the understanding of floral development, reproduction and seed production, including the current goals, methods and achievements in the genetic engineering of crop and horticultural plants. With an emphasis on reproductive biology or fruit production, you’ll learn how such processes can be manipulated for commercial exploitation and to facilitate crop improvement. Through a mix of lectures and seminars, you’ll gain a detailed knowledge on the developmental and molecular processes associated with flowering, seed production and fruit development.
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. The above list is a sample of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.