PBIO*3120 Plant Physiology

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The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2023 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 anatomical, physiological and biochemical traits that have evolved in plants emphasizing the mechanisms of energy capture, nutrient concentration, compartmentalization and signal transduction that allow plants to dominate the landscape. Using examples from crop and horticultural plants the course will emphasize how evolutionary adaptations and life strategies of plants are utilized in managed systems to optimize the usefulness of plants to humans in field and controlled environment production systems. Case studies and labs will emphasize skills needed to measure physiological responses and problem solve.

This course incorporates many different delivery methods allowing for maximum flexibility in content and learning based on the participant's interests and learning styles. Much of the course is discovery based learning where students are asked to gather and learn using many methods to acquire the knowledge necessary to understand plant physiology.

Pre-Requisites:BIOL*1050 or BOT*2100


Teaching Assistant:

Kirsten Holy (kholy@uoguelph.ca by appointment)

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

Timetable is subject to change.

Please refer to WebAdvisor for course schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  1. Determine different physiological strategies for plant functions (eg. light, carbon, water and nutrient capture and transport) of commercially important plants using anatomical, physiological and biochemical methods. Explain how water moves in plants and determine the water status of plants using a number of different methods.

  2. Demonstrate how evolutionary adaptations of plants to overcome limitations on growth, development, and reproduction can be used to provide a service to managed ecosystems. Demonstrate how plants implement multiple strategies to overcome limitations of growth, development, and reproduction.

  3. Demonstrate the ability to measure physiological mechanisms of plants and explain how physiological principles affect productivity of plants in an environment. Show how signal transduction in plants alters growth of individuals and plant communities in response to different biotic and abiotic conditions.

  4. Use primary literature in plant physiology to create explanations for phenomena observed in crop and horticultural plant productions and management.

  5. Explain evolutionary strategies of plants, using data and mathematical calculations to describe responses to the environment and efficiency of strategies.

  6. Effectively communicate in a specialized field of plant biology by summarizing appropriate literature and by properly communicating research.

Lecture Content:

Topics to be covered:

  • Functions of plants
  • Form and Function
  • Light and Capture
  • Synthesis Reactions
  • Water movement
  • Mineral Nutrients
  • Nitrogen and Phosphorus (Symbiosis)
  • Plant Hormones
  • Biotic Stressors
  • Plant Response to management
Labs & Seminars:

Labs will be combination of experiments and demonstrations.

Topics include:

  • Germination
  • Light quality
  • Relative growth rate
  • Plant hormones
  • Water movement in plants
  • Biotic and Abiotic stress

Course Assignments and Tests:

Assignment Description % Weight Outcomes Assessed
Quizzes 8 quizzes will be given during lab period or online covering material presented in both lectures and labs.
30% 1, 2, 4, 5
Midterm Paper Students will be required to write a paper on a subject of their choosing. The outline of the paper will be due by the 4th week of classes and the final paper is due in Week 8. All papers will be turned in on DropBox 15% 4, 5, 6
Lab Hand In

At the end of lab periods students will be required to hand in a reflective assignment. These may be required to be turned in during the lab period or will be turned in on DropBox.

5% 3, 5, 6
Lab Reports

Two lab reports will be required based on experiments run in the lab during the semester.

20% 1-6
Final Exam

Check WebAdvisor for location, date and time

30% 1-6


Final examination:

Please refer to WebAdvisor for final exam schedule and location.

Course Resources:

Recommended Resources

Students should seek out a modern Plant Physiology Textbook from the library or other source. Campbell's Biology from BIOL*1050 will serve as a good resource. There are multiple copies in the library.

Additional Resources


Lectures presented in PowerPoint as well as quiz keys and additional material can all be found on CourseLink.

Weekly quizzes will be given in person during the lab period or occasionally through CourseLink. The final exam is currently scheduled to be given in person. Please note that this may change based on University policies regarding campus access. All lecture and lab sessions will be taught F2F unless otherwise specified to be recorded learning modules.

Course Policies:

Email Communication

As per university regulations, all students are required to check their e-mail account regularly: e-mail is the official route of communication between the University and its students.

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. In addition, all lecture material such as notes or files provided by the instructors are solely for the use of the authorized student in this course 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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For more information, contact CSD at 519-824-4120 ext. 56208 or email sas@uoguelph.ca or visit the Student Accessibility Services website: http://www.uoguelph.ca/csd/.

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