BSc Microbiology with a Modern Language

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Plants for the Future

Course unit fact file
Unit code BIOL21202
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


Each lecture addresses an aspect of plant biology and how this is related to a future challenge faced by humanity. You will learn: how plants capture the resources they require from the environment, how plants can maximise productivity and fitness in their environment and how they are adapted to tolerate extreme conditions. You will find out how this knowledge is being used to address major societal and environmental challenges such as sustaining our food supply, providing renewable energy, and protecting the environment.



Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Biodiversity BIOL10511 Pre-Requisite Recommended


To provide a knowledge and understanding of: • The role of plant research to promote our food security in the near future • The role of plant research in adapting to climate change • The role of GM approaches to understand and modify plant responses • The sophistication of plant responses to environmental parameters

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of this unit, students will have knowledge and understanding of:

  • The contribution of plant sciences to solving major societal and environmental challenges: examples of links between basic plant sciences, sustaining our food supply and improving the environment.
  • How plants continuously monitor and respond to environmental stimuli such as plant neighbours, seasons, temperature and the availability of nutrients
  • The physiology behind the predicted impact of climate change on crop production
  • Ethical and practical aspects of using GM crops.
  • The knowledge base for the third year unit: Green Biotechnology.


Lectures address various aspects of plant biology and how these are important to address challenges faced by humanity within the next 50 years. The course will give an overview of the regulation of plant growth, the biology of flowering, seeds and plant nutrition. Lectures will illustrate how understanding each of these principles allows to meet some of the challenges caused by climate change and increased world population. These challenges include flood tolerance; better climate change models; adapting crop flowering time to climate change; tailoring plant architecture to increased yield; enhancing wood formation in trees for biofuel, improving drought, cold and salt tolerance of crops; allowing bioremediation of contaminated soils using plants; developing biofuel using algae. Some solutions involve GM approaches, and some don’t.

Employability skills

Project management
Management to meet the deadline of continuous assessment.
Researching online and presenting scientific literature in writing
Written communication
Abstract writing. Essay writing.
Information gathering

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 20%
Written exam 80%
1. Coursework: Assessed mini-exam on one example of plant domestication or on GM approaches (15%), 2. Coursework: e-learning assessment (5%) 3. Online written examination (80%).: Section A: One short essay out of 2 questions and Section B: one figure analysis out of 2 questions.

Feedback methods

Written feedback via Blackboard on the mini-exam with advice to help with the written examination. Instantaneous feedback on the performance in eLearning knowledge assessment.


Recommended reading

Background reading

  • Taiz, L. Zeiger E. Møller I.M. and Murphy A. (2018) Plant Physiology and Development  (6th edition). Sinauer Associates In. with online ressources

Further reading

  • Slater, A, Scott, N, Fowler, M (2008) Plant Biotechnology: The Genetic manipulation of plants (2nd edition). Oxford University Press
  • Smith, A. et al (2009) Plant Biology. Garland Science.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 76

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Patrick Gallois Unit coordinator

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