Genetics and biotechnology of no-food crops (2019/2020)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Antonella Furini
Antonella Furini
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
I semestre dal Oct 1, 2019 al Jan 31, 2020.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

Objective of the course is to provide students with the main knowledge concerning no-food crop species for industrial production. Industrial crops (e.g. cultures for oil production, starch and bioplastics production, biomass for energy) will be examined considering the genetic aspects of response to abiotic stresses and adaptability to environmental conditions. A significant part of the course will treat the techniques, traditional breeding or genetic engineering, to improve useful traits and develop a proper ideotype for the different cultural and production purposes. The course will help students to acquire knowledge in product development from renewable plant resources toward a model of eco-sustainable agriculture.


1. Introduction to the course
1.1 Introduction to the topics of sustainable economy and circular economy
1.2 Differentiation between food and no-food agriculture; importance of the no-food agriculture for the sustainable agriculture.
1.3 Issues related to the development of no-food cultures (environmental impact, use of agricultural resources, water resources, cultural management)
1.4 Situation in the different continents.

2. Genetic improvement
2.1 Targets of genetic improvement: resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses, plant fitness, plant nutrition and productivity.
2.2 Conventional plant breeding and applicable methods (varietal selection, biodiversity and gene pool availability).
2.3 Biotechnologies: use of biotechnological tools (genetic transformation, genome editing).

3. No-food crops
For each category, examples of crop species of economic interest will be considered, and information will be given regarding plant genetics, variety availability, main aspects of genetic improvement and progress on conventional breeding and biotechnological applications.
3.1 Crops for energy and biofuels: Jatropha, etc.
3.2 Oil crops: e.g. Brassicaeae
3.3 Fibre crops: e.g. cotton, flax, canvas, Arundo.
3.4 Short rotation forestry: poplar, eucalyptus, robinia, willow.
3.5 Carbohydrate crops: sugar cane, sugarbeet.
3.6 Speciality crops: production of dyes, biocide, molecules of pharmaceutical and food interest, etc.

4. Corollary
4.1 Considerations on multi-fate of a crop species.
4.2 Valorization of by-products of food crops in circular economy.

Assessment methods and criteria

Acquisition of subject cover by the whole course will be verified through oral examination. In addition, student will select and present a paper among those suggested by the lecturer.