BIOSCI 326 : Plant Biotechnology for Crops and Health


2022 Semester Two (1225) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Plants are vital sources of food, health compounds and shelter. Students will learn how biotechnology is used to understand plant biology and discuss strategies for crop improvement. Topics include plant genomics, molecular breeding, genome editing, gene transfer, the regulatory framework and examples of applications in the food, health, environment and crop sectors.

Course Overview

The course is well suited for students interested in the approaches and methodologies used to study key plant processes and how these results are then applied  to generate crops with desired traits for use in agriculture and horticulture. Students with a background in  molecular biology  and/or plant molecular science will be well prepared for this course. This course is required for the  Biotechnology and the Plant Biology Pathways in the BSc Biological Sciences. It is an option for the Biochemistry and Cell biology pathway and Genetics pathway. It is a good preparation for anyone wanting to do Postgraduate study in Biotechnology such as BioSci752 and BioSci 754 together with BSc Honours and MSc.  The New Zealand economy is largely based on primary industries and the skills developed in this course are particularly useful for those wishing to have a career linked to this sector (i.e Crown Research Institutes, Ministry of Primary Industry, Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment, Environmental Protection Agency, Plant Biotechnology companies). 

The lectures are presented by staff who are actively researching Plant Biotechnology  from the University (School of Biological Sciences) and from Plant and Food Research (a nearby Crown Research Institute which is industry facing). The information presented comes from use of a range of approaches  (plant molecular biology, genetics, genomics, phylogenetics, cell biology, biochemistry, and physiology) to study fundamental plant processes and their biotechnological applications for crops and health. Students will gain an appreciation of the methodology used to address specific challenges  and how to select the best approaches.  They will assess  their own results and critically discuss them.

Course Requirements

Prerequisite: 15 points from BIOSCI 202, 203, 205 Restriction: BIOSCI 340

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 5: Independence and Integrity
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Explain how biotechnology has been used to develop knowledge of complex processes that occur in plants (Capability 1 and 2)
  2. Describe current research advances in crop improvement in relation to food security, environmental conditions and health (Capability 1 and 6)
  3. Describe, evaluate and give examples of the different key methodologies currently available in crop breeding (Capability 1)
  4. Give examples of current commercial crops generated using these methods (Capability 1)
  5. Choose the appropriate strategy/methodology to improve plants for a specific trait (Capability 2 and 3)
  6. Design independently or within a group, basic experiments in plant biotechnology. Perform those experiments and critically analyse the results (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 4)
  7. Communicate findings through lab write ups (Capability 2 and 4)
  8. Identify and describe the key findings in a scientific paper and clearly explain and discuss these with their peers (Capability 2 and 4)
  9. Discuss the regulatory framework and ethical implications of the use of plant biotechnology (Capability 5 and 6)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Laboratories 25% Individual Coursework
Test 25% Individual Coursework
Final Exam 40% Individual Examination
Coursework 10% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Final Exam
 Students must pass the practical (LABORATORIES - compulsory attendance and lab assignment ) and the theory (test, coursework and exam) independently to pass the course overall. 

Key Topics

Topics are:

 Plant genomics, molecular breeding, genome editing, gene transfer,  examples of applications in the food, health, environment and crop sectors and the  regulatory framework.

Engineering for improved plant colour and human health components, plant yield, flowering time, fruit ripening and post-harvest quality, plant organelles and photosynthesis. 

Special Requirements

Must complete practical work / compulsory participation. Weekend block lab attendance in person is compulsory. In order to be able to pass the practical component of the course, attendance in person is compulsory at the labs including the block weekend lab. Please make arrangements to attend well in advance. This  may require you planning/reorganising your weekend schedules eg. including work commitments work or sports  at least 1-2 months beforehand,  to enable you to attend the compulsory   weekend block lab (15 h) and a preparation lab (3h)  on the preceding week, during  your allocated lab stream. All students should bring and wear their lab coat.  

Teaching outside standard hours or off campus e.g. evening tests or field trips. As above: Weekend block lab is compulsory. Please make arrangements well in advance to enable you to attend the compulsory weekend block lab (15 h).

There is an evening in course test.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in.
For this course, you can expect 28 hours of lectures, 18 hours of labs, 4 hours of tutorials, 35 hours of reading and thinking about the content and 35 hours of work on assignments and/or test preparation.
In order to be able to pass the practical component of the course, attendance in person is compulsory at the labs including the block weekend lab. 

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

Attendance is compulsory at scheduled activities including the block weekend lab to receive credit for components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. Other learning activities including labs will not be available as recordings.
Attendance on campus is required for the test/exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable and a lab block delivery. 

A remote version of the course can be made available to students located overseas because of border restrictions, or those with an exemption to study remotely.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Recommended Textbook: Plant physiology and development 6th Edition (2015) Taiz, L., Zeiger, E., Møller, I. M., & Murphy, A. S., Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, CT

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

Running for the first time in 2021- BioSci326  received positive comments from students in the OLE assessment with 100% GA for "Overall, I was satisfied with the learning experience in this course." In terms of improvements, we will provide more instructor led teaching instruction during the block weekend lab and more feedback to students on what was required for the lab assignment and in course test.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 08/11/2021 10:07 p.m.