PBIO*3110 Crop Physiology

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The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2022 and is subject to change. It is provided for information only. The course outline distributed to the class at the beginning of the semester describes the course content and delivery, and defines the methods and criteria to be used in establishing the final grades for the course.

This course examines the physiological basis of crop yield determination, with emphasis on phenomena that express themselves at the whole canopy (rather than single plant) level of organization. It covers canopy scale measurements of crop growth, development, and solar radiation capture; photosynthesis, beginning at the level of biochemistry and working up to the whole canopy scale; how photoassimilates are used in the processes of respiration, growth and yield formation; and crop - environment interactions, including water stress, nutrient uptake and utilization, and light quality effects on photomorphogenesis.



Teaching Assistant:

Alex Cichello, acichell@uoguelph.ca, by appointment only

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

Please refer to WebAdvisor for class schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this course, students should be able to:
  1. Describe the physiological processes that determine rates of dry matter accumulation in agronomic species, at levels of organization ranging from sub-cellular structures to whole crop canopies.

  2. Solve quantitative problems using SI units, in the areas of crop growth analysis, canopy absorption of radiation, leaf energy balance, diffusion theory, and leaf and whole-canopy carbon fluxes.

  3. Explain the physiological basis of crop yield reduction caused by various environmental stresses, including high and low temperatures, soil and atmospheric water deficits, and interplant competition effects.

  4. Apply principles of Crop Physiology to evaluate various management options for production of field crops.

  5. Demonstrate familiarity with a range of instrumentation used in studies of crop – environment interactions.

  6. Organize, analyze and present data from a controlled environment simulation of a crop canopy, and use it to evaluate hypotheses about crop growth and development.

Lecture Content:

As listed below, there are 22 lecture topics, normally with two presented per week.  This order may change, and in some years a few topics may be omitted or substituted to accommodate time constraints or guest lectures.


  1. Levels of Organization – What is Crop Physiology?

  2. Crop Phenology and Rate of Development

  3. The Yield Equation

  4. The Crop Growth Curve

  5. Crop Growth Analysis

  6. Solar Radiation and Light Quality

  7. Leaf and Canopy Spectral Reflectance

  8. Reactions of Photosynthesis

  9. Leaf Photosynthetic Efficiency

  10. Diffusive Processes

  11. Distribution of PAR within the Crop Canopy

  12. Whole Canopy CO2 Assimilation

  13. Whole Canopy Photosynthetic Efficiency

  14. Molecular Basis of Respiration

  15. Functional Components of Respiration

  16. Whole Crop Respiration

  17. Assimilate Partitioning and Yield Components

  18. Water 1 – Crop Water Use

  19. Water 2 – Stomatal Regulation and the Leaf Energy Balance

  20. Water 3 – Drought Stress

  21. Water 4 – Water Use Efficiency

  22. Nitrogen Use Efficiency

Labs & Seminars:

The lab focusses on an experiment carried out in one of the Growth Rooms in the Crop Science Building.  Two canola "crops" will be grown, established at two different plant populations, so that canopy-scale processes can be investigated.  Students will be required to make predictions about the outcome of this experiment (Lab Assignment #1).  Data collected over the course of the experiment will be provided near the end of the semester, and then students will be required to analyze and interpret the data in order to test the predictions they made at the beginning of the semester (Lab Assignment #2).  Students will also need to be familiar with the principles of the different measurements made, since these will be tested on the final exam. 

For most of the lab periods, you will only need to be present for the first 45 - 60 minutes.  However, during one lab period it will be your group's turn to assist with data collection, and on that day you should plan on being present for the entire 3-h scheduled period.  Data collection is the only graded component of the course for which the grade is assigned to a group - all other components are graded individually.

Lab Schedule

Week Week of Activity
1 10-Jan No lab
2 17-Jan Lab introduction
3 24-Jan Measurement 1 (TA)
4 31-Jan Measurement 2 (TA)
5 7-Feb Measurement 3 (Group 1)
6 14-Feb Measurement 4 (Group 2)
  21-Feb NO LAB (Break)  Measurement 5 (TA)
7 28-Feb Measurement 6 (Group 3)
8 7-Mar Measurement 7 (Group 4)
9 14-Mar Measurement 8 (Group 5)
10 21-Mar Dataset review
11 28-Mar No lab
12 4-Apr

Results review

Course Assignments and Tests:

Assignment or Test Contribution to Final Grade Learning Outcomes Assessed

In-class quizzes (6)


1, 2, 3, 4

Prediction Statement Lab Assignment



Data Collection

5% 5, 6

Final Lab Report


1, 5, 6

Final Exam


1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Final examination:

Please refer to WebAdvisor for exam schedule and location.

Course Resources:

Required Texts:


Recommended Texts:


Lab Manual:


Other Resources:

All course materials will be posted on the course website in CourseLink. 

Lecture notes in .pdf format will generally be posted during the week prior to the scheduled lecture.  Students are strongly encouraged to review each set of notes prior to the lecture period.  This will allow us to use the scheduled lecture time for more interactive discussion.

For lectures delivered remotely, after each lecture, high resolution images of any whiteboards used during the lecture will be posted to the course website.  This means you should not normally need to write down or capture images of the freehand boardwork presented during lectures.

Field Trips:


Additional Costs:


Course Policies:

Grading Policies

Any assignment submitted late is assessed a late penalty of 10% of the value of the assignment for each day or part of a day that the assignment is overdue.  Assignments submitted online are automatically given a time stamp indicating the date and time of submission.

Course Policy on Group Work: 

All graded components of this course are based on individual submissions. Students are encouraged to collaborate to discuss the course content and results of experiments, but all submitted assignments must be the individual work of each student.

Course Policy regarding use of electronic devices and recording of lectures:

Electronic recording of classes is expressly forbidden without consent of the instructor. When recordings are permitted they are solely for the use of the authorized student and may not be reproduced, or transmitted to others, without the express written consent of the instructor.

Other Course Information:

University Policies

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the academic calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration:

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University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


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