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:

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. Demonstrate the ability to solve quantitative problems using SI units, in the areas of crop growth analysis, canopy absorptance 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. Demonstrate familiarity with a range of instrumentation used in studies of crop – environment interactions.
  5. Interpret the results of an experiment in crop stress physiology in the context of information and theory covered in the course.

Lecture Content:

As listed below, there are 21 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
  2. Growth Stages and Rate of Development
  3. The Yield Equation
  4. The Crop Growth Curve
  5. Crop Growth Analysis
  6. Solar Radiation and Leaf Absorptance
  7. Light Reactions of Photosynthesis
  8. Dark Reactions of Photosynthesis
  9. Diffusive Processes
  10. Leaf Net Photosynthesis
  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
  18. Water 1 – The Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Continuum
  19. Water 2 – Stomatal Regulation and the Leaf Energy Balance
  20. Water 3 – Drought Stress
  21. Water 4 – Water Use Efficiency
Labs & Seminars:

For most lab periods, your lab group will be instructed to arrive at a time other than the beginning of the lab period.  This means that even though your work each week will not take the entire allotted 3-h time period, you should leave this entire slot free in your schedule.  

Over the course of the semester, you will observe two artificial "crops" of canola (one at a high plant population, one at a low plant population) growing in Growth Room #3 in the Crop Science Building.  Each week your lab group will be tasked with making a particular set of measurements on these crops, and then recording the data in a way that makes it accessible to the entire class.  Products will include:

  1. A set of three prediction statements related to the effect of plant population on growth and development of the crops (individual grade)
  2. Weekly contributions to the dataset that will be shared with the class (ungraded)
  3. A lab report in which you will use the data collected in the lab exercise to address the questions for which you made predictions in #1 above (individual grade)

The exact schedule of lab activities will be distributed in the first lab periods (week 2).

Course Assignments and Tests:

Assignment or Test Contribution to Final Grade Learning Outcomes Assessed

In-class quizzes


1, 2, 3

Prediction Statement



Final Lab Report



Final Exam


1, 2, 3, 4

Final examination:

Please refer to Web Advisor for class schedule and location.

Course Resources:

Required Texts:


Recommended Texts:


Lab Manual:


Other Resources:

All course materials will be posted in .pdf format to the course website.  Generally, lecture notes are posted 2 – 3 days prior to the actual lecture.

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:

Academic Misconduct

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community, faculty, staff, and students  to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring.

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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