You will undertake a research project in plant science which may be either laboratory, field-based or data driven. The research project encourages critical thinking and involves independent study and teamwork. You'll work on a literature survey, data handling, analysis and interpretation.
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.
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.
Basic Introduction to Omic Technologies
Over the past few years major developments have been made regarding the study of genomes. Sequencing programmes now mean that the complete DNA sequence is now known for many species. Such information is revealing the high degree of similarity and conservation between different species and organisms, revolutionising the way in which gene function analysis is carried out. This module will provide a basic overview of recent research in the field of post-genomic technologies known as “omics” with emphasis on genomics, proteomics and metabolomics. Case studies will show how different approaches have been used to study genomes and how such developments are influencing the way genetic analysis and biotechnological improvement can be made. You will study by hands-on experience with problem-based lab and computer training sessions.
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.
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.
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.