Skoltech Digital Agro
Course
Plant genetic diversity & Adaptation to stress
3 ECTS in MSc Life Sciences – Prof Cécile Ben
Plants, unlike animals, are rooted in a single location and thus forced to adapt to any environmental conditions. In order to withstand stressful conditions, plants have evolved an array of advanced physiological, biochemical, and molecular defense mechanisms, which help them in avoiding or combating negative environmental effects. Climate change is expected to exacerbate unfavorable environmental conditions caused by abiotic (drought, flooding, salinity...) and biotic (pests, diseases) stress factors, resulting in sharp reductions in average crop yields. On the other hand, societal demand for environmentally friendly farming practices with low inputs supports the need for new improved varieties tolerant to harsh environmental constraints. Understanding plant responses and adaptation mechanisms to extreme stress conditions are therefore critical to the genetic improvement of economically important crops.

Implemented in a project and problem-based learning approach, this teaching unit is built around an experimental project as a common thread throughout the course, addressing a current hot-scientific agronomic or ecological issue linked to the adaptation of plants to a key environmental constraint.
The goal of this project is to get students to think about, develop and implement an experiment aimed at studying the tolerance of plants to an environmental constraint. The reflection concerns the choice of the experimental system (taking into account budgetary, human and time constraints), the experimental design (allowing a statistical analysis of the results), the phenotypes to be observed, the choice of genotypes as well as the methods of stress application. After the acquisition of the experimental data, the students report, during workshops, the results of the biostatistical analyzes carried out and their biological/physiological interpretations and make proposals in terms of varietal selection programs and/or restoration of agro- or ecosystems in vulnerable areas.


Course team
Laurent Gentzbittel
Instructor