85861 - Chemistry And Biochemistry Of Plant Nutrition

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Agricultural Sciences and Technologies (cod. 9235)

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, students would obtain the basic knowledge of chemical and biochemical processes, located at soil/root interface and determining nutrient uptake from soil and soil solution. The course will focus its attention to the relationships between root activities and nutrient mobilization and uptake. Moreover basic knowledge on the metabolism of the main nutrients will be provided.

Course contents

A) Prerequisites

The present course represents the continuation of the educational path started in the other courses of the First Cycle Degree, after which students should have a basic knowledge of:

- Soil physical, chemical and biochemical properties

- Main transformations of soil nutrients

- Plant biology and biochemistry

The related courses are soil chemistry, agricultural biochemistry, soil fertility, agricultural microbiology and plant biology.

B) Didactic units

The course is divided into different didactic units

  1. Nutrients in soil and their availability (8 hours)

1.1 Nutrients availability

Nutrient classification and criteria to define them as essential. Nutrient Use Efficiency (NUE), properties of ionic species in soils, nutrient transportation at short distance, apoplast and symplast, transportation across biological membranes

1.2 Nutrients transportation at short distance

Nutrient mobility in soil, factors determining nutrient mobility, root development and nutrient localization, rhyzosphere formation processes.

Knowledge gained in Didactic Unit 1

- Main processes linked to nutrient uptake and transportation from soil to roots

- Main factors influencing nutrients' availability and mobility in soil

2. Chemical and biological properties of rhizosphere (7 hours)

2.1 Rhizosphere

Rhizosphere formation processes, root secretions, rhizospheric gradients, rhizosphere chemical processes, nitrogen forms and rhizospheric pH, rhizosphere redox potential

Knowledge gained in Didactic Unit 2

- Rhizosphere physical, chemical and biological characteristics

- Main factors influencing rhizospheric soil formation and properties

3. Nitrogen nutrition (7 hours)

3.1 Nitrate uptake

Nitrogen in the soil/plant system, nitrate rootuptake, low and high affinity systems.

3.2 Ammonium uptake

Ammonium uptake, low and high affinity systems

3.3 Nitrate and ammonium assimilation

Nitrate assimilation, nitrogen assimilation, carbon metabolism

Knowledge gained in Didactic Unit 3

- Main nitrate and ammonium uptake mechanisms at root level

- Main nitrate and ammonium assimilation mechanisms at cellular level

4. Phosphorous nutrition (7 hours)

4.1 Phosphate uptake

Phosphorous in soil/plant system, phosphate root uptake, membrane transporters' characteristics

4.2 Mechanisms of root adaptation to phosphate deficiency

Mechanisms of phosphate mobilization in rhizosphere, cluster root formation, root secretions and phosphate deficiency, cellular metabolism adaptation to phosphate deficiency

Knowledge gained in Didactic Unit 4

- Main mechanisms of root phosphate uptake

- Main mechanisms of root adaptation to phosphate deficiency in soil

5. Iron nutrition (7 hours)

Iron in the soil/plant system

5.1 Iron uptake: strategy I

Rhizosphere acidification, iron reductase, metabolic cellular adaptation to iron deficiency, membrane transporters' expression, root exudation of carboxylates and organic acids

5.1 Iron uptake: strategy II

Graminaceous plant cellular metabolism and phyto-siderophores production, phyto-siderophores structure and chemical properties, membrane transporters' expression

Knowledge gained in Didactic Unit 5

- Main mechanisms of root iron uptake

- Main mechanisms of root adaptation to iron deficiency

6. Didactic support activities (24 hours)

Study visits

Study visits to industrial producers of fertlizers, ammendments and biostimulants will help the students to better focus the knowledge and economies related to the field of plant nutrition

Consolidation activities

This part of the course will be dedicated to the consolidation of the knowledge provided during the lessons, by organizing seminars on the more stimulating topics with particular attention to the needings raised by the students


Slides presented during lessons. Lessons notes. Teacher didactic material.

Mineral Nutrition of Higher Plants (Marschner's- Edited by Petra Marschner- Academic Press), available from the teacher

Teaching methods

The course is subdivided into two parts:

1) Class lectures: Students should gain the knowledge on chemical and biochemical processes leading nutrient mobilization and root absorption in soil, through class lectures. Knowledge acquisition and comprehension skills will be constantly monitored, during class lectures, through a continue interaction between the students and the teacher. Such interaction consists in requests by the teacher of discussing some topics of the course, for their impact on current issues linked to the subject of the course, and will aim at developing judgement autonomy and improving communication skills

2) Didactic support activities: Students should attend study visits and seminars aiming at strengthening their knolwedge on the evaluation of chemical and biological processes linked to nutrient availability for plants. Such part of the course will also aim at verifying the ability of applying the theoretical knowledge gained in the first part of the course.

Assessment methods

The learning test for this course is made through a final written examination, carried out together with the module of Microbiology of Nutrition of the integrated course. The written exam is made of 24 multiple choice questions (1 point for each correct answer) and two open answer questions about the two modules of the integrated course (maximum 3 points for each correct answer). You can, on request, sustain the final exam in English.

Teaching tools

Overhead projector, personal computer and projector will be used for both class lectures and didactic support activities

Office hours

See the website of Ilaria Braschi


Zero hunger Responsible consumption and production Climate Action Life on land

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.