Focusing on the understanding of plant to crop systems, with an emphasis on research training, the course is ideally suited to those wishing to pursue careers in research institutes, plant breeding, agro-industry and advance to higher research degree study.
You will have the opportunity to see practical aspects of agriculture in other parts of the UK through visits to growers, farms, research stations and other academic institutions.
The course is based at the School of Biosciences on Sutton Bonington Campus. The University has one of the largest plant and crop sciences divisions in the UK with 20 permanent academic staff.
You will have an exciting opportunity to study with world renowned researchers in this important and rapidly advancing field. There are career opportunities in agro-industry, academia and research institutes.
- The school is ranked the number 1 research environment in the UK for agriculture, veterinary and food science in the Research Excellence Framework 2014. Where 97% of our work in the Schools of Biosciences and Veterinary Medicine and Science was judged to be of international quality
- Specialist facilities include
- modern glasshouses
- controlled environment growth rooms in which plants and tissue cultures can be raised
- excellent facilities for fieldwork
- The school also has a Tropical Crops Research Unit in which computer controlled glasshouses are available for research on a range of tropical species
Plant and Crop Research Group
We have a large multi-national team of scientists covering a wide range of research areas. We investigate molecular mechanisms in plant cells and tissues that control important developmental processes. We investigate the performance of crop plants in the field.
We undertake extensive fundamental research on mechanisms controlling plant growth and development using the model plants including Arabidopsis.
Research using model plants provides insights into gene networks that govern important agronomic traits such as seed germination, plant growth and morphology, plant response to environmental stresses, seed filling and fruit ripening. Our research in model plants forms part of a pipeline for translation of plant characteristics into crops.
The programme requires 180 credits for completion and is based on two semesters of taught modules (120 credits).
For the MSc, a research project worth 60 credits is completed, which spans both semesters and the summer period. All modules are compulsory.
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. It explains the importance to collect data in an appropriate and planned manner for later analysis. There are two routes through the module; one focusing on crop improvement and one focusing on more general issues. You will gain an understanding 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.
Crop Monitoring and Phenotyping
This module will provide you training on 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 popular part of this module is the ‘crop monitoring exercise’ in which you design and conduct your own field experimentation by monitoring growth and development in a crop of your choice. It will cover contemporary approaches such as field and laboratory crop phenotyping.
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.
Resource Capture by Crops
This module 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.
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.
Advanced Molecular Methods in Biotechnology
You will be introduced to modern molecular methods in biotechnology. Particular focus will be on transgenic methods and the use and application of bioinformatics in understanding the functional roles of genes, metabolites and proteins and how they can be analysed using a variety of new technologies, including deep sequencing, proteomics, mass spectrometry and transcriptomics. You will gain knowledge in applying, analysing and manipulating cells using current molecular methods and high-throughput technologies.
Plant Biotechnology Industrial Visits
The module will cover the application of the latest and emergent biotechnology options for crop improvement. In relation to crop production, this will involve consideration of the genetic engineering of plant species to introduce new traits and new genetic mapping techniques as an aid to conventional plant breeding programmes. You will visit research institutes and Agri-Biotech companies to see the latest technologies in action. The visits will include days spent at Rothamsted Research, NIAB, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and several plant breeding companies. Instruction will be in the form of lectures and practical demonstrations including cereal transformation, molecular approaches to varietal analysis and image analysis for varietal profiling. A visit to Elsoms Seeds will enableyou to see seed quality testing, breeding strategies for vegetable crops, trialling and tissue culture for homozygous plant production.
Integrated Disease Management
The objective of this module is to introduce 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. (2) The use and formulation of integrated control methods- regulatory, cultural, biological, genetic and chemical to successfully manage important diseases below economically damaging levels in temperate and tropical crops.
Literature Review, Experimental Plan and Research Project
Project areas reflect the current research expertise within the Plant and Crop Sciences Division. Recent examples include: Response to drought in Bambara Groundnut (Vigna subterranea); Identifying hyperspectral radiometry and chlorophyll signatures for biomass productivity and disease in wheat cultivars; Analysis of genes associated with anther and pollen development and self-incompatibility in barley; All projects involve laboratory and/or field work and many involve the introduction and expression of agronomically important genes into crop species using molecular techniques. Prior to commencement of their project students are required to write a comprehensive research proposal inclusive of literature review and experimental plan for assessment in spring semester.
The above is a sample of the typical modules that we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. This course page may be updated over the duration of the course, as modules may change due to developments in the curriculum or in the research interests of staff.
The reputation of the School of Biosciences as a centre of excellence means that a large proportion of our graduates continue with studies leading to a PhD either at Nottingham or elsewhere. The course is also ideal for those wishing to pursue careers in research institutes, plant breeding and agro-industry. Many graduates obtain employment in the agricultural industry as advisors or practitioners, or at research institutes in the UK or overseas.
Some example careers include:
- Crop Scientist within the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) – Africa
- Crop Trials Research Manager
- Research posts in Government Agriculture Departments
- Technical and Sales positions in the Agro-Food Industry
Average starting salary and career progression
100% of postgraduates in the School of Biosciences secured work or further study within six months of graduation. £28,000 was the average starting salary, with the highest being £65,000.*
* Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates who were available for employment, 2016/17. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.
Careers support and advice
We offer individual careers support for all postgraduate students whatever your course, mode of study or future career plans.
You can access our Careers and Employability Service during your studies and after you graduate. Expert staff will help you research career options and job vacancies, build your CV or résumé, develop your interview skills and meet employers.
More than 1,500 employers advertise graduate jobs and internships through our online vacancy service. We host regular careers fairs, including specialist fairs for different sectors.