05546 - Agricultural Genetics

Course Unit Page


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

Zero hunger Responsible consumption and production Climate Action Life on land

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

This course gives the basis of Mendelian genetics, quantitative genetics, population genetics, and of the main biotechnological applications. The course gives also some example of plant breeding, to understand the economic importance of genetics and the relevance of the management genetic resources in sustainable agriculture.

Course contents


For this course the student should have basic knowledge of the fundamentals of biology, mathematics and statistics. These skills are acquired in high school and in the basic courses given during the first year, first cycle, and with which it is coordinated.


1. Molecular basis of replication of genetic information and its expression (6 hours)

The genetic inheritance and the hereditary material. DNA composition and replication. DNA Analyses: extraction, purification, electrophoresis, denaturation, restriction and ligation, PCR, sequencing. The gene and its expression: RNA transcription of the message, genetic codification and translation of the message (with elements of protein synthesis). Gene regulation and the central dogma of molecular biology.

Knowledge acquired in Unit 1
The structure of the genetic material and how it is replicated (DNA) or transcribed (RNA). The principles on which they are based methods to the use of DNA for diagnostic, forensic or commercial purposes. The main aspects of the translation of genetic information and of gene regulation.

2. Transmission of hereditary material: Mendel's experiments, genetic association and genetic maps (8 hours)
(integration with the course of biology: reproduction and morphological and functional aspects of mitosis and meiosis; integration with the statistics course: the Chi-square test).

Transmission of genetic material: basics of sexual reproduction and recombination, genetic aspects of mitosis and meiosis. Homozygosity and heterozygosity. Mendel's experiments: dominance, segregation, independent segregation. Likage: the recombination of linked genes (crossing-over), verification of the independence with Chi-square statistical test. Construction of linkage maps and use of genetic markers. Two-point testcrosses; three-point testcrosses.

Knowledge acquired in Unit 2
The inheritance of Mendelian traits. The role of sexual reproduction for obtaining recombinant genotypes. The procedures used for the construction of genetic maps.

3. The dynamic genome: the main modifications of genetic material and genetic engineering (10 hours)

Genomic and chromosomal mutations. Importance of polyploids: evolutionary processes through polyploidy in plants (the particular case of the genus Triticum). Genetic mutations and creation of new variability. Mutagenesis: artificial mutation induction and its use in genetic improvement. Elements of genetic engineering. Genetic transformation of plants with Agrobacterium tumefaciens and with the biolistic method. Gene editing.

Knowledge acquired in Unit 3
The main modifications of the genetic material (mutations). The relationships between mutations and the occurrence of genetic variability. The general aspects related to the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture.

4. Inheritance of quantitative traits (6 hours)
(integration with the course statistics: mean and variance).

Generalities: Johannsen experiments, genotypic and phenotypic effects, the economic importance of quantitative traits. Analysis of the components of the mean in case of multifactorial genetic determination, additive and dominance effects. Inbreeding and heterosis. East experiments, components of the phenotypic variance, the contribution of environmental variability, heritability.

Knowledge acquired in Unit 4
The mode of inheritance of quantitative traits. Understanding of how traits of agronomic and economic importance are determined by polygenes.

5. Population genetics (6 hours)
(integration with the course of statistics: the Chi-square test).

The Hardy-Weimberg allelic and genotypic frequencies equilibrium and its verification with appropriate statistical tests (Chi-square). Equilibrium of a population: mutation, migration, selection, random mating, population size (genetic drift). Biodiversity intra-specific and evolution. Study of populations for germplasm conservation and enhancement of genetic resources. Theoretical aspects and management.

Knowledge acquired in Unit 5
The population genetics and intermating. The factors affecting allelic and genotypic frequencies. The genetic basis of intra-specific biodiversity conservation and managements.

6. Evolution and plant breeding (6 hours)

Evolution and domestication of cultivated plants: history of plant breeding. Genetic improvement in self-pollinated and cross-pollinated plants. Main genetic aspects of the management of genetic improvement programs. Genetics in seed production and seeds marketing.

Knowledge acquired in Unit 6
The main genetic aspects involved in artificial selection. The most relevant genetic aspects of seed marketing. The importance of intra-specific biodiversity and the main aspects of germplasm conservation management.

7. Practical classes (24 hours)

The practical classes are considered as integral part of each teaching units.

Activities carried out during the practical classes.

a) demonstrating simple DNA analysis,
b) observations and measurements of plant material specially developed for educational needs,
c) examination of data collected by the students or by simulated the teacher and simple statistical analysis,
d) critical analysis of simple bibliography, guided by the teacher but conducted by the student,
e) organization of team reports and presentation of short scientific seminars.

Knowledge acquired in Unit 7

Familiarity with the results of diagnostic assays useful for forensic or commercial purposes. Ability to recognize the major genetic events in practice. Acquisition of scientific method in genetic research by means of statistical verification of data. Ability to autonomously acquire new information, using critical skills and source verification, partly in English. Acquisition of experience in team-working and in public communication of technical subjects.


F. Lorenzetti, S. Ceccarelli, D. Rosellini, F. Veronesi. Genetica agraria - Genetica e biotecnologie applicate all'agricoltura. Patron, Bologna, 2011.

Additional readings:

M. Busconi e altri. Genetica agraria, EdiSES, Napoli, 2016

G. Barcaccia, M. Falcinelli. Genetica e genomica, Vol I genetica vegetale, Liguori Napoli, 2005; G. Barcaccia, M. Falcinelli. Genetica e genomica, Vol II miglioramento genetico, Liguori Napoli, 2005.

Notes from the course available on line through the Moodle platform (iol): Conceptual frameworks from classes, datasets used in practicals, collection of students works and of short reports, groups support for seminar organization.

Literature and notes in English will be provided upon request.

Teaching methods

The course consists of 36 hours of teaching assisted by the projection of slides, animations and videos, and 24 hours of hours of tutorials (practical classes) in didactic / demonstration fields and in the classroom. Tutoring activity will assist student's progress, especially for those who are not familiar with bases of genetics fron pevious studies.

The frontal teaching is aimed at illustrating the subjects and at stimulating the involvement of students to verify previous knowledge, the level of learning of the new topics and to promote a critical discussion of the topics covered. Particularly interesting topics, related to the subjects covered in the class, will also be explored in group discussions, case study examination and seminars.

The exercises aim to make students familiar with the results of diagnostic analyses, and with the scientific method in the genetic field, by means of statistical data verification. It is also intended to stimulate the ability to criticize and verify the sources of informtion, partly in English. Last but not least, the aim of practical classes is to promote teamwork and public communication of technical documents.

Assessment methods

The exam can be taken in English, upon request.

The written exam consists of a test of 34 closed-ended, multiple-choice questions (each question has 4 answers of which only one is correct) and 3 open questions on the course topics. For each correct answer to the closed questions 0.5 points are attributed, for each open question 0 to 5 points can be attributed. For all students who have obtained a score at least sufficient in the written test (18), it is also possible to add the points acquired in the practical activities (report and seminar), as specified in the program (for a maximum of 4 points).

Teaching tools

Personal computer and projector for classroom activities.

Scientific literature provived by the Sistema Bibiliografico di Ateneo and provided through VIRTUALE platform.

Blog/forum for discussion teacher-students on VIRTUALE platform, accessible to the course student only.

Self-evaluation quizzes in VIRTUALE platform for assisting the larning process and for trying the final exam.

The conceptual framework presented in classes and notes explaning how to approach textbooks will be made available to the students through VIRTUALE platform.

Office hours

See the website of Elisabetta Frascaroli