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Unit information: Plants and Planet in 2021/22

Unit name Plants and Planet
Unit code BIOL20021
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Franklin
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Biological Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will illustrate the exciting array of developmental adaptations displayed by plants, how plants interact with beneficial and pathogenic organisms and the importance of plants to life on earth. Teaching will progress through cellular, whole plant and ecosystem scales. The unit will start at the genetic level by explaining the molecular signalling processes through which plants acquire their basic needs of light, CO2, water and nutrients, highlighting threats to these resources from global change. This section will conclude with discussion of the root rhizosphere, thereby introducing the beneficial interactions between plants and microorganisms. The second section will explore harmful interactions between plants and microorganisms. Students will be introduced to the different types of crop disease and associated pathogen biology. The molecular mechanisms through which plants detect and resist pathogens will then be explored, before cultural, chemical and GM approaches to disease mitigation. The final section of the course considers the importance of plants within ecosystems. This starts with plant interactions with animals, exploring plant-herbivore interactions, plant-pollinator interactions and seed dispersal strategies. We next explore the impacts of crop production on biodiversity and the importance of and challenges faced by specific ecosystems such as forests. The course concludes with topical examples of how plant science research is addressing global challenges and future research directions.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, students should be able to:

  • Explain the processes by which plants regulate their development to obtain light (photomorphogenesis), CO2 (stomatal development and opening), water (transpiration and root development) and nutrients (carnivory, root foraging and rhizosphere interactions).
  • Identify the key signalling components involved in photomorphogenesis and stomatal development and determine the identity of Arabidopsis genetic mutants based on seedling phenotypes.
  • Identify the key pathogens affecting crop production and describe their biology.
  • Explain the mechanisms used by plants to recognise pathogens and resist disease.
  • Discuss mitigation strategies to reduce crop disease and the impact of crop production on ecosystems.
  • Explain the mechanisms used by plants to deter herbivores, attract pollinators and disperse seeds.
  • Explain the importance of specific ecosystems and the threats presented by global change.
  • Discuss the importance of plants to life on earth and the importance of plant science research.

Teaching Information

Lectures, directed reading, research and/or problem-solving activities, practical exercises and independent study. There will be 1 formative piece of CA and 2 summative.

Assessment Information

A practical report (20%) and a poster (20%) (40% coursework in total) plus summative written assessment (60%) with one essay question to be selected from a choice of three. The ILOs are assessed in both the CA and summative written assessment.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. BIOL20021).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.