Biotechnology for Crop Production

Module summary

Module code: BOTA1018
Level: 6
Credits: 15
School: Engineering and Science
Department: Natural Resources Institute
Module Coordinator(s): Susan Seal

Specification

Pre and co requisites

Evolution and Biodiversity,
Microbiology and Environments

Introduction and rationale

Crop plants improved through biotechnology offer potential benefits to producers and consumers that include enhanced agronomic, nutritional and marketing qualities. In particular, transgenic crops have been proposed to offer benefits to agriculture in both the developed and developing world, but they have also raised important concerns for the farming community and society at large, in relation to the impacts genetically modified crops may have on trade, human health and on biodiversity. The purpose of this course is to focus on how genetic manipulation of plants differs from conventional methods of crop improvements, and the impacts this has on the applicability of this technique to sustainably increase crop production and food security globally. The use of molecular markers and tissue culture to assist conventional plant breeding and germplasm multiplication will also be covered.

Aims

• To teach the molecular biology principles underlying GM technology.
• To provide an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of GM technology versus more traditional techniques used for crop improvement.
• To teach participants to be able to evaluate the potential biosafety risks posed by the introduction of a GM crop.
• To provide practical experience of DNA manipulation, cloning and transformation, and micropropagation as well as detection of GM plants.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit, students will be able to:
• Critically evaluate the factors that need to be considered in assessing the biosafety risks associated with the introduction of GM crops;
• show critical understanding of the science underlying GM technology
• critically evaluate the value of cell and tissue culture to crop improvement and germplasm conservation
• critically review the scientific principles and methodology underlying the genetic modification of a plant’s DNA;
• analyse containment requirements for GM crops according to associated risks.
understand and evaluate current research in applied bioscience and biotechnology through reading published papers
Skills Learning Outcomes
2. integrate and evaluate information from a variety of sources
3. formulate and test hypotheses
4. critically discuss the solution of problems and in the development of hypotheses

Indicative content

• Principles of cell structure and replication
• Structure and diversity of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) structure
• Protein synthesis and gene regulation
• Gene amplification, manipulation and cloning
• Transformation technologies
• Evaluation of transgenic plants for desired characteristics
• Containment requirement for GM plants in relation to risks
• Elements of regulatory requirements for containment and testing of GM plants
• Principles of plant micropropagation in relation transformation technologies
• Case studies
• What is agronomy and why it’s important.
• Manipulation of the crop environment to maximise crop yields.
• Development of ideas and approaches in sustainable cropping.
• Routes to intensification of food production.

Teaching and learning activity

Material will be delivered in lectures, supplemented by workshop sessions and discussions. Students will be expected to give a short presentation during the course. A series of lectures will constitute 50% of course activity. Laboratory practicals will occupy 25% of the course activity to illustrate the main molecular diagnostic and micropropagation methods available. Case study investigations to complete written assignments will occupy the remaining time.

Specific Entry Requirements
Students will be expected to have microbiology or biochemistry experience.
Regulation of and risk analysis for GMOs will be covered by the course Risk Analysis for Agriculture and Environment which will complement the teaching on biotechnology covered by this course.
Applicants without formal entry qualifications may be admitted according to their work experience and responsibilities.

Learning and Teaching Activities

• What is agronomy and why it’s important.
• Manipulation of the crop environment to maximise crop yields.
• Development of ideas and approaches in sustainable cropping.
• Routes to intensification of food production.

Learning Time (1 credit = 10 hours)
Day trip x 2 of EBI, Plant Breeding Institute, Kew

Contact Hours
Lectures 28
seminars 9
practical sessions 16
Tutorials
Other
Private Study 44
Assignments: course work and other forms of assessment
coursework 50
laboratory work
examinations 3
Other


Assessment

Material will be delivered in lectures, supplemented by workshop sessions and discussions. Students will be expected to give a short presentation during the course.

Seminar - 40%
Pass mark - 40%
20 minute presentation
Assessment of sustainability characteristics of an agroforestry system not examined in the course
(LO - 1, 2, 5, 6)


Examination - 60%
Pass mark - 40%
3 hour exam to test understanding of the course content
(LO - 1 ,2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
1-2 items of coursework