Crop productivity and stress physiology (2017/2018)

Course code
Name of lecturers
Roberto Bassi, Tiziana Pandolfini
Roberto Bassi
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
I sem. dal Oct 2, 2017 al Jan 31, 2018.

Lesson timetable

Go to lesson schedule

Learning outcomes


The course is intended as an integration point between the contributions of biochemistry, biophysics, molecular and genetic biology and physiology in understanding abiotic stress response, one of the fundamental problems of plant biology: cold, drought, warmth, excess light, mineral deficiencies, toxicity . The course includes a general section addressing the common features of environmental stresses and the methods for identifying phenotypes and genes involved in resistance. The role of oxidative stress I central: its origins, characteristics and molecular species involved will be discussed in detail. Cellular and molecular structures involved in stress response will be described and their interactions will be highlighted. A case study will be dealt with on the biotechnological use of the knowledge acquired from the study of stress biology.

Key words: ecofisiology, physiology of plant production, biophysics, molecular genetics.

The objective of the course is to provide a link between physiological and molecular processes responsible for plant growth and development and more applied aspects of yield production by crops and to describe the strategies used to improve agricultural productivity and sustainability through genetic engineering. At the end of the course the student will be able to describe the biotechnological approaches used for crop improvement and show the capacity to critically analysed the scientific literature.


Module: biotechnology of abiotic stress

program of the course:

1) Introduction to abiotic stress: definitions and limitations of the problem.
2) Methods for the identification of stress-induced genes and products.
3) Salt and drought stress.
4) Stress freezing
5) Stress by lack of oxygen and submersion.
6) Thermal Stress.
7) Toxic Compounds.
8) Stress from cold (above 0) and light + cold. The molecular mechanisms of acclimation.
9) Oxidative stress: origins, structures and molecules involved.
10) Biophysical and biochemical analysis of oxidative stress.
11) Thermal Dissipation Mechanisms and Variation in ATP / NADPH Synthesis
12) Lack of nutrients.
13) Effect of Fe deficiency in the photosynthetic apparatus.
14) Synthesis of ATP in the absence of O2 and CO2 and hydrogen evolution in algae
15) Genetics and epigenetics of resistance to environmental stress.

Modulo: fisiologia della produzione

programma del corso:

1) Introduzione agli stress abiotici: definizioni e limiti del problema.
2) Metodi per l’identificazione di geni e prodotti genici indotti da stress.
3) Stress salino e da siccità.
4) Stress da congelamento
5) Stress da mancanza di ossigeno e sommersione.
6) Stress termico.
7) Composti tossici.
8) Stress da freddo (above 0) e luce + freddo. I meccanismi molecolari di acclimatazione.
9) Lo stress ossidativo: origini, strutture e molecole coinvolte.
10) Analisi biofisica e biochimica dello stress ossidativo.
11) Meccanismi di dissipazione termica e variazione nella sintesi di ATP/NADPH
12) Mancanza di nutrienti.
13) Effetto della carenza di Fe nell’apparato fotosintetico.
14) Sintesi di ATP in mancanza di O2 e CO2 ed evoluzione di idrogeno nelle alghe
15) Genetica ed epigenetica della resistenza agli stress ambientali.

1) Basic concepts of the analysis of plant growth, biomass production, interception of solar radiation and photosynthetic efficiency;
2) Strategies for increasing photosynthetic efficiency: improvement of RUBISCO activity and RUBISCO activase performance, photorespiration bypass, carbon accumulation mechanisms;
3) Effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide increase on crop productivity ;
4) The partitioning of dry matter: assimilate allocation, phloem transport and distribution to harvesting organs, sugar signalling. Genetic engineering strategies for modification of photosynthate partitioning .
5) Biological nitrogen fixation, interaction between legumes and N fixing bacteria; biotechnological applications for N-fixation improvement, mycorrhiza and phosphorus absorption.
6) Reproductive growth: fruit set and development, hormonal regulation. Biotechnological strategies to improve fruit set and ripening.
For each topic, examples of genetic engineering applications are discussed.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
B.B. Buchanan, W. Gruissem & R.L. Jones Biochemistry & Molecular Biology of Plants American Society of Plant Physiology 2000 0-943088
Taiz L. Zeiger E. Elementi di Fisiologia Vegetale Piccin 2013

Assessment methods and criteria

Module: Biootechnoly of abiotic stress

The exam will be organized in two parts.
(A) At the beginning of each call, candidates will receive a request to reply in writing within 45 minutes. It will cover one of the preparatory aspects of the course and may include the presentation of general schemes and the compilation of the metabolic pathways involved.
B) Among the choice of articles provided by the teacher each candidate must choose one of his / her own interests and give a brief presentation on the basis of slides prepared for the purpose. During the presentation, general questions will be asked about the program

Didactic Material: The topics discussed in the course are hardly found in a textbook. Many parts of interest are discussed in:

Buchanan et al. : Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Plants, Zanichelli. Basic text for the study of Plant biology.

Salisbury and Ross: Plant Physiology. Blackwell. A text of Classical Physiology, particularly suitable for the study of phenotypes.

Nobel: Biophysical Plant Ecology. It illustrates the basic phenomena of plant biology with formal and methodological rigor.

The Teacher will make available the pdf of the lessons and a series of complementary articles that will make the basis for a more detailed preparation.


For both attending and non-attending students, the oral examination will concern the topics of the scientific articles presented during the lessons. The exam will ascertain the students’ ability to understand and evaluate the genetic engineering applications to crop improvements.