You can choose your final year research project to suit your interests. It can be carried out on the University Farm or as part of an industry placement year. You can also tailor your degree to your own interests by choosing optional modules. Some of our most popular options are listed below.
Agriculture Research Project
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), 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; 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:
- The effects of canopy architecture on the photosynthetic activities of wheat
- The effect of cultivation strategy on the establishment, growth and yield of winter triticale (Triticosecale spp)
- Understanding root growth responses of sugar beet under different water regimes, and the subsequent changes in plant morphology
- Methods for achieving differential advantage for the small scale mushroom producer
- Why do farmers farm?
- Post-Brexit profitability projections for UK arable farms 2019-20: Using actual farm data and an advanced projection calculator
- Assessing the use of a mobile NIR device to measure fresh grass quality in real-time
- The effect of feeding system and management practices on enteric methane emissions from dairy cows on commercial farms
- How can urban agriculture help meet the food security needs of a growing urban population by enhancing fruit, vegetable and poultry production?
- Farmers’ markets and supermarkets: food prices vs. the consumer benefits of ‘local’ food
- The effects of winter supplementary feeding on the relative abundance of farmland birds
- 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
- A comparison of literature to farming practice of zero tillage on case study farms in the UK
- The relationship between milk yields, variable costs and the overall profitability of dairy farms
Rural Business Research Unit (RBRU) and University Farm
Based at Sutton Bonington campus, the RBRU is the lead centre for the government-funded Farm Business Survey, collecting financial and environmental data from over 2000 farms; University Farm is a 450 hectare arable, dairy and sheep farm, also based at Sutton Bonington, with land and people dedicated to student teaching and research work. Both are available for your research project.
Molecular Plant Pathology
Covers the molecular techniques being used to develop an understanding of plant/pathogen interactions. You will consider the molecular biology of plant pathogens, how these cause disease, and the mechanisms used by plants to defend themselves against such pathogens. You will spend around three hours per week in lectures studying this module.
Coordinated Physiological Functions
How does the brain control physiology and behaviour? In this module you’ll build on your knowledge from previous modules to examine the detailed physiological basis of integrated behaviours in animals. You’ll cover; nervous system control of cardiovascular function, respiration, body temperature, emotion, motivation and their associated behaviours. You’ll have lectures on the above along with practical sessions on the integrative aspects of exercise physiology.
Companion Animal Science
Want to know more about the nutrition of your dog or horse, or maybe what an elephant needs to eat? In this module you’ll study the nutrition, health and welfare of major companion species, including dogs, cats, horses, rabbits and some zoo/exotic species. You’ll learn about the interactions between nutrition, health and longevity within the broad area of ‘clinical nutrition’. Bringing in current research, you’ll look at the problems arising from keeping animals in captivity, and how social interactions between humans and companion animals can impact upon animal health and welfare. You’ll have lectures from current researchers and have a field trip to put what you’ve learnt into practice.
Applied Bioethics 1: Animals, Biotechnology and Society
Animal-human interactions raise some prominent ethical issues. In this module, you’ll examine the ethical dimensions concerning animal agriculture, modern biotechnologies and research in the biosciences, in relation to both humans and non-human species. You’ll learn about the ethical frameworks used to analyse specific dilemmas raised by the human use of animals. Using specific animal and biotechnology case studies, you’ll interpret the main ethical theories and principles and apply them to the case studies to inform professional decision-making. You’ll have a mix of lectures and seminars to explore these concepts.
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.
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.
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 case study of your choice based on a real-life commercial 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.
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.
Plant Disease Control
Discusses applied aspects of plant disease control, comprising transmission, epidemiology, detection and diagnosis, and control options. You will cover control strategies based on application of fungicides, biological control, deployment of disease resistant varieties and biotechnological approaches. You will also consider the relative strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches. This module consists of a four-hour lecture once per week.
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 importance of plant structure and function (for example, the importance of the 'flag leaf' in wheat) of 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.
How does the central nervous system sense the environment and react to it? In this module, you’ll learn about central nervous control of sensory and motor pathways and how these systems interact. In particular, you’ll examine the anatomy, physiology and pharmacology of sensory and motor systems and their integration in posture, coordinated movement and protective reflex responses. A strong emphasis will be on the physiology and pharmacology of acute and chronic pain and you’ll study the use of analgesics to treat these conditions. You’ll also gain understanding of the methodology behind a number of neuroscientific techniques and their application in novel research. You’ll have a mix of lectures, computer-based learning and practical laboratory sessions to reinforce and apply your knowledge.
Agronomy Field Course
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.
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 and explore different forms of farm business organisation. 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, practical classes and farm visits, as well as guest lectures from invited speakers to give you insights into the management and finance of rural businesses.
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 development and ultimately plant yield. 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.
Agronomy Case Study
Act as an agronomist and apply your understanding of crop and soil management to a real life situation. You will be asked to develop a long term crop management plan for a specific scenario, taking into account, soil management, rotational design, crop protection, environmental management and policy constraints. You will have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a research agronomist to discuss your plan as it develops and receive feedback for further development.
You will discuss your plan as it develops with the module convenor, who will provide feedback for further development. Assessment is through the submission of a 10 year crop management plan for the farm scenario allocated at the start of the module.
This module will further develop your specialised knowledge of animal nutrition. At an advanced level, you’ll learn about the role of micronutrient and trace minerals and organic micronutrients (including vitamins B, choline and essential fatty acids) in the nutritional requirements for animal health and growth in both ruminant and non-ruminant species. You’ll also examine the various factors involved in the regulation of animal growth and product quality and look at selected examples of metabolic disorders. Using the most up-to-date scientific research, you’ll explore specialist aspects of ruminant nutrition and produce scientific work of your own.
Livestock Production Science
How can production systems be adapted to meet demands for animal products in contrasting global markets? In this module, you’ll use your knowledge of physiology, nutrition, genetics, health, welfare and management to study the production of meat, milk and eggs, and the wellbeing of the animals in these production systems. You’ll undertake a detailed study of the integration of the production, nutrition, product quality, management and health of beef and dairy cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry at UK and global scales. You’ll be able to critically analyse key performance indicators and provide solutions to problems encountered in livestock production enterprises. You’ll have a mix of lectures, group work and farm visits to develop and apply your knowledge.
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.
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.
Within this module you will develop an understanding of how agri-businesses operate in the international arena.