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Future Trends in Sustainable Plant Protection: RNAi Technology for Insects

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NOVA PhD course series scheduled for 2016-2018. Each course in the series is of 3 ECTS.
Responsible for course series: Dr. Ingeborg Menzler-Hokkanen, University of Helsinki - Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry.



Course Description
Changes in pest management will be required over the next decade to fill the gap being left by legislative restrictions on pesticide use and the evolution of pest and disease resistance. There will be a growing demand to develop new solutions that are practical and effective at the grower level.

2016 Course
Based on the NOVA MSc pilot course at UHEL 2015 on RNAi technology, the various dimension and the required knowledge to understand RNAi technology in the context of Nordic agriculture will be deepened during this course. Basic mechanisms of RNAi technology will be explained and demonstrated in laboratory sessions. The objective of the course is to provide the participating students with the basic knowledge and skills to understand future developments in RNAi technology in agriculture.

2017 Course
Based on the NOVA MSc pilot course at UHEL on RNAi technology, UHEL will focus on the aspect of insect control and the role of Bioinformatics. The objective of the course is to transfer the knowledge necessary to understand and assess RNAi technology as a pest management tool.

2018 Course
The first objective of this course is to understand the molecular basis of plant interactions with insect herbivores. Modification of insect plant-interaction by manipulating insect behavior offers a route to new strategies for sustainable plant protection. Using RNAi technology could open the possibility of strategically modifying plant-insect interactions temporally and spatially within plant tissues. Further, it would allow targeting of critical insect herbivore genes via the host plant. This course will bring students up to date on the latest progress in the field including- potential insect and plant traits that could be targeted by RNAi, methods of delivery including use of nanotechnology, potential for modifying chemical ecology of plantinsect interactions and prospects for use in crop protection including case studies of crop-pest systems. 

Learning Outcomes
After taking a course individually or the complete series, the students will have acquired the knowledge at the advanced frontier of novel insect management tools based on RNAi technology. Each course is emphasising one aspect particularly:

  • 2016: the laboratory skills and challenges involved
  • 2017: the contribution bioinformatics can give in finding efficient and safe dsRNA for the respective insects
  • 2018: to understand the molecular basis of plant interactions with insect herbivores and the necessary skills in understanding underlying insect physiology and ecological safety aspects.

Evaluation Elements
Oral exam at the end of the course.

Pedagogical Approach
The different courses in the course series are using different pedagogical tools, for instance: pre-campus assignments, in-depth lectures, group exercises, case studies, laboratory sessions/demonstrations and sessions in bioinformatics.

Prerequisite Knowledge
Bachelor degree in a relevant field is required. Relevant fields: biological sciences (including agriculture), bio-informatics, genetics, environmental sciences, agroecology, wild-life management, biology.

Admission for NOVA courses is handled by the course organiser/ the NOVA member institution organising the course.

*Please note that the organising of the course scheduled for 2018 will be dependent on the student evaluations of previous courses within the series, as well as the yearly NOVA course budget.
Detailed information on each course in the series and information on how to apply will be available on each course's information web page. The information web page will be published on the NOVA website in the beginning of the year when the course is sheduled to run. Please see NOVA's course catalogue.

Published 2. August 2017 - 9:51 - Updated 19. October 2018 - 14:24