PSC215 Plant Physiology (8)

Students will analyse the key scientific principles underpinning plant function. This subject will develop students' skills in measuring the climatic environment and applying data to determine plant responses. Students will integrate knowledge of basic physiological processes to understand how plant growth and development performance is managed and influenced in crop production systems, particularly with respect to the seasonal climate. Students will also develop their knowledge of the major plant hormones, and how those inform agricultural and horticultural practices.


* Offering has a residential school. Please view following information for further details.

Session 1 (30)
Online *
Wagga Wagga Campus

Continuing students should consult the SAL for current offering details: PSC215. Where differences exist between the Handbook and the SAL, the SAL should be taken as containing the correct subject offering details.

Subject Information

Grading System



One session


School of Agricultural and Wine Sciences


PSC102 or PSC103 or AGR156

Incompatible Subjects

HRT234, PSC214

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this subject, students should:
  • be able to define the plant water relations and their relationship to the water balance of plants;
  • be able to describe the processes of photosynthesis, translocation of sugars in phloem tissues and their respiratory use in sinks, as well as access and transport of other nutrients around the plant;
  • be able to explain the processes of flowering and reproductive development, including the environmental cues;
  • be able to identify the major plant hormones and explain their effects on plant growth and development;
  • be able to explain how environmental conditions, including light, carbon dioxide and temperature, influence photosynthesis and tolerance to water deficits;
  • be able to conduct measurements related to photosynthesis and plant water status.


This subject will cover the following topics:

Basic processes
- Plant water relations (water potential and its components, cohesion-tension theory, stomatal regulation);
- Photosynthesis (light and dark reactions, C3, C4 and CAM modes, photorespiration);
- Respiration (basic biochemistry and location);
- Assimilate transport and partitioning (Munch hypothesis, phloem loading and unloading, regulation of phloem transport);
- Nutrient acquisition (energetics, active and passive uptake)

Developmental processes
- Growth analysis (growth indices, environmental influences on growth and partitioning);
- Physical cues for growth and reproduction (dormancy, floral initiation, photoperiodism, vernalisation, phytochrome);
- Plant hormones (types, mobility, signal transduction, roles, growth regulators);
- Reproductive growth (fruit set and growth, fruit composition, maturity and ripening)

Plants and the environment
- Light (photosynthesis in sun and shade, acclimation, agricultural and horticultural production);
- Carbon dioxide (elevated CO2 - C3 vs C4, stomatal conductance, respiration, interaction with other environmental variables);
- Temperature (biochemistry, photosynthesis, assimilate transport, thermal time, chilling);
- Water (phenology, RDI, drought);
- Nutrients (essential nutrients, deficiencies)

Indicative Assessment

The following table summarises the assessment tasks for the online offering of PSC215 in Session 1 2019. Please note this is a guide only. Assessment tasks are regularly updated and can also differ to suit the mode of study (online or on campus).

Item Number
Value %
Minitest 1a
Minitest 1b
Minitest 1c
Residential workbook
Final exam

Residential School

This subject contains a 3 day Compulsory Residential School.

The Residential School provides an opportunity to revise basic processes in a short lecture series as well as experience key physiological concepts through laboratory exercises. In particular, students will develop skills in measuring plant water relations and determining how the climate influences plant water loss. Skills in determining respiration rates and photosynthesis will be developed and used to interpret how these influence the transport processes and the source-sink balance. Students will also develop skills in measuring how the major plant hormones affect various plant processes, including axillary bud and extension growth and the role of plant hormones on plant water loss.

Special Resources

Students are required to attend the compulsory residential school which may involve travel and accommodation expenses and a time  commitment. Students will also be required to purchase a lab coat and safety goggles which are compulsory for lab based practicals.

The information contained in the CSU Handbook was accurate at the date of publication: October 2020. The University reserves the right to vary the information at any time without notice.