Biology and crop production
Learning outcomes of the course unit
To provide the student with elementary knowledge relating to the nature of the living matter and plant organisms; the fondamental physiology, anatomy and morphology of the organisms, and their genetics, with special reference to those organisms that represent a source of food for man.
To provide the student with elementary knowledge relating to the process of plant production, with special reference to the processes of growth and development, maturation, harvest and storage of plant food productions for processing. Knowledge on the effects of agricultural practices on crop production (yield and quality) is also provided.
Course contents summary
Foundations of life. Characteristics of living beings. Unicellular and multicellular organisms. Growth and development. Metabolism. Movement and response to stimuli. Reproduction and evolution.
Water. Solvents and solutes. Inorganic and organic substances. The essential molecules for life: lipids, sugars, aminoacids, proteins, enzymes, nucleic acids. Organic acids. ATP and NAD(P). Secondary products of metabolism. Plants and human nutrition.
The main features of procariotic cells. Eucariots: nucleus and cytosol. The plasmalemma. Endomembrane systems. Tonoplast and vacuole. Plastids. Mitochondria and other organules. Cytoskeleton. Cell wall.
Cell cycle. Mitosis and meiosis. Structure and replication of DNA. Transcription and translation. Eucariot genome and its expression. Phenotype and genotype. Mendelian genetics. Plant breeding. Recombinant DNA and biotechnologies. GMOs. Origins of agriculture and biodiversity.
General characteristics of plants and their importance for man. Tissues and organs of higher plants. Anatomy of root, stem and leaf. Stomata. Primary and secondary meristems.
Structure and functions of the cloroplast. Radiant energy and photosynthetic pigments. The 2 phases of photosynthesis. The Calvin-Benson cycle. Photorespiration. C4 and CAM plants.
The seed: structure and chemical composition. The flower and sexual reproduction. Macro- and microsporogenesis, fecundation.
INTRODUCTION TO PLANT PRODUCTION: Factors of production. Origins of agriculture and of cultivated crops. Yield and quality.
GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT: Development and dry matter partitioning. Growth indexes (canopy).
SEED PROPAGATION: Seed characteristics and germination in field crops. Dormancy. Sowing and sowing machinery.
AGAMIC PROPAGATION: Apomixy. Layering and other traditional techniques. Cuttings and grafting. Nursery.
CLIMATIC VARIABLES: radiation, temperature, rainfall. Crop injury by high and low temperatures.
PLANTS AND WATER: crop needs. Soil available water. Field capacity and wilting point. Effects of drought and water flooding. Irrigation methods and their efficiency.
PLANT NUTRITION: Main mineral nutrients; excess and deficiency. Antagonisms. Interactions. Macronutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur. Micronutrients: iron, manganese, boron, zinc, copper, molybdenum, chloride.
FERTILISATION: The main available mineral fertilisers. Organic fertilisers. Fertirrigation. Crop needs.
WEEDS AND HERBICIDES. Agronomical and chemical weed control. Effects of herbicides on plants and their behaviour in the soil.
SOIL: physical, chemical and biological properties. Management of water flooding. Drainage.
ROOT SYSTEMS. Development of root systems in field and fruit crops. Methods of root investigations. Indexes of root growth.
SOIL TILLAGE. Preparatory and complementary tillage operations. Plough and ploughing. Other tillage tools. Alternative techniques.
AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS. Monoculture, polyculture; intercropping; crop rotation. Organic farming. Cover crops.
PLANT AND SOIL WATER. Hydrologic cycle. Goals of soil water management. Irrigated crop production.
INTRODUCTION TO CROP PRODUCTION: cereals and legumes. Wheat and soybean as examples. Recognition of seeds of the main field crops.
1) Campbell - Reece (2009). Biologia. Ed. Pearson.
2) Speranza A., Calzoni G.L. (2005). Struttura delle piante in immagini. Ed. Zanichelli.
3) Fabbri A., 2001 - Produzioni Vegetali. Edagricole.
4) Baldini E., 1990. Arboricoltura Generale. Cluep.
5) Bonciarelli F. 1995 - Fondamenti di Agronomia Generale. Edagricole.
6) Giardini L., 2002 - Agronomia generale : ambientale e aziendale. 5. ed. – Patron, Bologna.
7) Hartmann H.T., Kester D.E. - Propagazione delle piante. Edagricole.
8) Landi R., 1999 - Agronomia e ambiente. Edagricole, Bologna.
Lecture and practical lessons
Assessment methods and criteria
Oral and written exam