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OSU Extended Campus Oregon State University
CSS 330 World Food Crops
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Course Description

Mission and Goals of Course
Format for the Course
Instructional Objectives
Lecture Outline
Evaluation of Student Performance
Important Information
Course Assessment

Printer Friendly Version of the Syllabus

Mission and Goals of Course

CSS 330 is a 3-credit Baccalaureate-Core Synthesis course that is offered on the OSU campus during Winter Term, and as a distance education course during the Spring Term. This Syllabus provides specific information about the distance version of the course.

This course will cover basic principles of crop science and crop improvement and integrate principles from other disciplines so that students may gain an understanding of world food production. The major food crops, their origin, morphology, genetic diversity, adaptation, management, and utilization will be studied. Students will learn about the contributions of genetics, breeding, and management toward improvement of major food crops. Postharvest processing, end-use quality and marketing will be described to illustrate the role of crops in economic and social development. Health and environmental issues such as the potential risks and benefits of genetically modified crops and the sustainability of modern production agriculture will also be discussed. Students will gain technical knowledge needed to make informed decisions about these issues and will be encouraged to examine the controversies from different points of view.

Format for the Course

During the first eight weeks of the course, students will be expected to complete two modules each week. There is only one module scheduled per week during the last two weeks of the term. Most of the core material for the course will be provided in the lecture notes on the website. Additional reading assignments and references will be provided for further study. Students will submit written assignments, take quizzes and exams, and participate in discussions via the Blackboard.

All of the lecture material and written assignments are available on the website throughout the term. Quizzes and discussion board topics will be made available as the term progresses. You are encouraged to work through the material according to the lecture schedule. Interactions among students in the class are enhanced when everyone is learning about the same topic at the same time and work on the group project will facilitated with a uniform schedule.

Instructional Objectives and Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the course, the undergraduate should be able to:
  • Discuss the origins and significance of genetic diversity, and explain why it is important to conserve genetic resources
  • Identify environmental factors that affect crop adaptation, and describe morphological and physiological characteristics that have enabled crops to adapt to diverse environments
  • Describe the major classes of food crops and their contribution to human nutrition. Compare world food requirements with current levels of crop production, and explain how social, environmental, and political changes might affect that relationship
  • Discuss major scientific contributions that have impacted crop improvement and production, and identify the scientists and agencies that were involved
  • Explain potential benefits and risks of molecular genetic technologies used in crop improvement
  • Know the scientific name, origin, genetic makeup, breeding system, and major production areas of the world's important food crops
  • Describe critical management practices for production of major food crops
  • Recognize important disease and insect pests of major food crops and describe their effects on crop productivity and quality
  • Describe major end-uses for crops and explain how quality issues impact marketing and consumption
  • Identify factors that determine the sustainability and economic viability of modern production agriculture
  • Discuss the impact that crop production and crop improvement has had on society


There are no prerequisites for this course; however CSS200, Crop Science Basics or an equivalent course is strongly recommended. Students must be at least junior standing.


An optional textbook is available from the OSU bookstore entitled “Plants and Society” by Levetin and McMahon. The 5th edition of this text was published in 2008. It covers a wide range of plants that impact human society, including medicinal plants, fiber crops, and allergy plants, among others. Since this course focuses on the major food crops, we will cover some topics in more detail than the text. The textbook is therefore not required, but may be useful for students who need more background information on basic botany, or who are interested in studying more diverse uses of plants in society. On-line resources including links and Chapter quizzes to accompany this textbook can be found at www.mhhe.com/levetin4e.

Assigned readings will be provided as pdf files or as links to on-line articles. It will not be assumed that you have access to the optional text, although suggestions for reading from the text will be listed in the reference section for many of the lectures throughout the term.

Another good general reference for this course is:

Chrispeels, M.J. and D.E. Sadava. 2003. Plants, genes, and Crop Biotechnology, 2nd Ed. Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury, MA.

Additional references relevant to this course can be found on the Resources menu on the navigation bar at the top of this webpage.

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Lecture Outline




Week 1

1 • Global food security
• Early agriculture and development
• Impact of crop production on society and the environment
2 • Basic genetic concepts
• Origin of genetic diversity – Darwin, natural selection and evolution
• Morphological and genetic changes during crop domestication

Week 2

3 • Vavilov, centers of origin, spread of crops
• Environmental factors that affect plant growth
• Biomes and ecoregions
• Crop adaptation – C3 vs C4 plants, photoperiod, pollination controls
4 • Classification of plants
• Types of food crops and their contribution to human nutrition
• Production and geographic distribution of important food crops
• World food needs

Week 3

5 • Basic plant breeding concepts – gene pools, selection theory
• Genetic vulnerability – impact of monoculture
• Genetic resources and conservation
• Intellectual property and ownership – plant variety protection;
plant patenting, partnerships, impact of biotechnology, ethical issues
6 • Modern cultivar development – role of public and private agencies
• International agricultural research centers
• The Green Revolution and post Green Revolution crop improvement strategies
• Contributions of biotechnology and ag. chemical companies

Week 4

7 Wheat – see list of topics for each major crop below†
Focus: Role of polyploidy in evolution; end-use quality
8 Rice
Focus: Agroecologies and plant pathology issues

Week 5

9 Barley, Oats, Rye
Focus: Malting and brewing
10 Soybean, dry beans, groundnut, and other pulses
Focus: Nitrogen fixation; diverse end-uses; nutritional benefits

Week 6

11 Maize
Focus: Tropical production issues; hybrid corn industry
12 Sorghum, millet
Focus: Adaptation to drought and heat stress

Week 7

13 Sugar cane, sugar beets
Focus: Industrial processing
14 Oil crops – oil palm, cottonseed, rapeseed, and sunflower
Focus: Oil composition and processing

Week 8

15 Potato
Focus: Propagation issues; processing and quality
16 Tropical root and tuber crops - cassava, sweet potato, and yams
Focus: Subsistence agriculture

Week 9

17 Tomato, cabbage, and other vegetable crops
Focus: Crop evolution; genetic resources

Week 10

18 • Food security – potential impact of population growth, climate change, and government policy
• Sustainability of crop production systems
• Strategies for increasing food security
• Promise and controversy of biotechnology

Week 11

  Final Exam

†Important information to be discussed on each major crop:

  • Origin, taxonomy, genetic and reproductive systems
  • Growth requirements; morphological, physiological, and adaptive traits
  • Major production areas and world production statistics
  • Genetic resources, genetic vulnerability
  • Improvements in crop productivity and quality attained through plant breeding
  • Critical management practices for the crop
  • Major diseases and insect pests
  • Postharvest processing and handling, end-uses, quality
  • Economic value of the crop, marketing and trade
  • Cultural significance of the crop
  • Emerging issues and opportunities

Evaluation of Student Performance


    Class Participation on Discussion Board 20%
    Quizzes 20%
    Written assignments 20%
    Group Project 20%
    Final exam 20%

Grades will be assigned based on the following point system:

97-100 = A+ 87-89 = B+ 77-79 = C+  67-69 = D+ <=59 = F
93-96 = A 83-86 = B 73-76 = C 63-66 = D  
90-92 = A- 80-82 = B-  70-72 = C- 60-62 = D-  


You will be expected to participate in discussions on the Blackboard throughout the term. Topics of discussion are indicated at the end of each module. The discussion on each topic will open on the day that the material is presented. They will remain open for the rest of the term, but entries made more than a week after the discussion opens may not receive full credit towards class participation.

Group Project

Students will form small groups via Blackboard Discussion Board. Each group will select a common food product on grocery shelves (Twinkies, mayonaise, rice cakes, tartar sauce...) and create a clever summary of how the product is made from seed to packaging. Each group will paste their summary onto the Discussion Board.


The purpose of the quizzes is to help you to keep up with the lecture material and assigned readings and to prepare you for the final exam. They will consist of multiple choice questions and should be taken closed-book. However, you may take them more than once. Your grade will be automatically updated in the gradebook on the Blackboard. Quizzes will be made available on the Blackboard on the day that the lecture is presented. You will have two weeks from that time to finalize your score for the quiz. Your best 15 scores out of the total of 17 will constitute your grade for quizzes.

Final exam

The final exam will consist of a mix of multiple choice, short answer, true-false, and short essay questions. It will be closed-book and can only be taken once. The exam will be taken on the Blackboard, with a two-hour time limit. The schedule for the final will be announced during the term.

Additional reading materials

Articles and links to websites will be posted on the Blackboard. Reading and discussion are an important component of the class. Students will be required to read about one article per week. Questions from required readings may be on the weekly quizzes and final exam. Optional readings will also be provided for further study.

Written assignments

You will be asked to submit four short written assignments in addition to your term paper and discussions. Details on these assignments are available at the end of each lecture. See the due dates webpage for an overview of all written assignments for the term.


Important Information

Course Assessment

Please fill in and return the evaluation form you receive at the end of the term. You will receive 2 extra credit points for returning the form, and sending me an e-mail to inform me about it.

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