59157 - Plants, Environment and Society

Course Unit Page


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

Good health and well-being Responsible consumption and production Climate Action Life on land

Academic Year 2020/2021

Learning outcomes

The student will acquire knowledge about the relationship between plants and environment and the consequent implications on the society. Different aspects of the modern or alternative use of plants will be taken into consideration and the student will be able to associate plant structural and functional characteristics with their influence upon environmental and economical sustainability and human health. By means of laboratory experiences, the student will realise how science (in particular plant biotechnology) is the basis of technology and knowledge progress for the use of plant in modern society. Specific student interests will be valorised and personal detailed study will be encouraged.

Course contents

The course will deal with different aspects of the use of plants in the modern society.

Lectures (Prof. Annalisa Tassoni)

  • Cell cultures of plant tissues and organs. Applications to the production and regeneration of new plants. Applications to the production of nutraceutical and pharmaceutical compounds. The active metabolites of plant origin and their use for human health.
  • Transgenic plants. How to produce them and what are they useful for. Italian, European and world regulations. How does society perceives them? What is their real impact on the environment and human health? The study cases of golden rice and rainbow papaya.
  • Plants and food. What to eat and how to eat it? Plants and human health (positive and negative aspects). Allergies and food and environmental intolerances: what is the role of plants?
  • Alimurgic plants: common plants, ancient remedies and traditions.
  • Dyeing plants: traditions and modern uses.
  • Phytoremediation: the use of plants in reducing environmental pollution.
  • The plants as bio-indicators of pollution.
  • Urban plants as bio-indicators of climate change.
  • Positive and negative interactions of plants with human artifacts (monuments and architectural works).
  • The plants as a source of energy. The use of plant organisms (algae and higher plants) for the production of biofuels (e.g. bioethanol and biodiesel).
  • Biorefineries: reuse of industrial and agricultural plant wastes for the production of energy and new molecules useful in daily life.
  • Production of bioplastics and new sustainable materials from agro-industrial vegetable waste and residues.

Laboratory practicals (Dr. Maura Ferri)

  • Plant cell cultures: culture media preparation, sterilisation and cutting of the explants, establishment of in vitro cultures in sterile conditions.
  • Bioactive molecules characterisation in food via spectrophotometric assays: total polyphenols, antioxidant activity and reducing sugars quantifications.
  • Evaluation of plant phytoremediation activity and heavy metal adsorption.
  • Evaluation of cell culture growth and discussion about obtained results.

PLEASE NOTE To be able to attend the laboratory, students must be in possession of the certification for passing the Modules 1 and 2 for laboratory safety


Power point presentations of the lectures will be available in IOL.

Use of popular and scientific articles and book chapters on various topics provided by the teacher and also proposed by the students.

Teaching methods

Frontal lessons with power point presentations. For laboratory experiences, protocols will be provided in paper format and students will have to carry out the experiments personally.


The theoretical and practical teaching activities of the first cycle of lessons 2020/21 will take place regularly in the presence of all students compatibly with the health conditions and with the regulations in force relating to the COVID-19 emergency. Didactic activities and university laboratories will in any case also be guaranteed online.

Assessment methods

Power point presentation (20 minutes) regarding on one topic chosen among those covered in class (using literature collected by the student). The presentation will be publicly exposed to the teacher and to the classmates. Laboratory acquired concepts will be assessed by multiple answer test that result will take place before power point presentation. Therefore, the attendance at laboratory is highly recommended.

Teaching tools

Power point lectures. Laboratory practicals. Seminars given by professors specifically expert in the different subjects of the programme

Office hours

See the website of Annalisa Tassoni

See the website of Maura Ferri