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Future Trends in Sustainable Plant Protection in Nordic Agriculture: RNAi Technology for Insects

The course is cancelled.
NOVA Master's course of 5 ECTS, organised by Gabor Lövei, Aarhus University - Science and Technology.
Course dates and location: 16-20 May 2016 in Slagelse, Denmark.

This course is the first in the Master's course series "Future trends in sustainable plant protection: RNAi technology for insects". The series consist of three consecutive courses: (1) 2016: Future trends in sustainable plant protection in Nordic agriculture: RNAi technology for insects, (2) 2017: Sustainable insect management and disease control based on RNAi technology and (3) 2018: RNAi modification of arthropod-plant interactions.

Information below concerns the first course in the course series.

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. 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.

Based on the NOVA Master's pilot course at the University of Helsinki 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.

Detailed course description with literature

The course will introduce you to the concept of manipulating pest insects by gene silencing/RNAi methods, and how this can be incorporated into sustainable integrated pest management systems under the conditions of northern agriculture. Special emphasis will be placed on the principles of environmental impact assessment with regard to this technology. The course starts with a preparatory module, is followed by a one-week intensive course with a combination of lectures, discussions, student presentations as well as practical sessions. After the training, two additional modules are to be completed, using the knowledge acquired at the course.

The exercises include how to detect effective outcome of the intended modifications, using plant and insect models, employing the standard qualitative and quantitative diagnostic methods. This will allow you to study specific subjects in more detail, as basis for analyses, data processing and reporting.

Programme Outline

  • Pre-course distance learning block, 1 April-25 April 2016: 
  • Direct training week: early May 2016 – co-ordinator: Prof. G. Lövei
  • Post-course distance learning block 1: 9 May - 16  May 2016, Submission of paper: 17 May to  Dr. Ingeborg Menzler-Hokkanen
  • Post-course distance learning block 2: 23 May – 30 May 2016, Submission of paper by 31 May to Dr. W. Walker
  • Post-course distance learning block 3: 5 -12 June 2016. Submission of paper by 15 June 2016 to Prof. G. Lövei

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. This course emphasises the laboratory skills and challenges involved.

The course aims to teach participants the principles, methods and techniques of gene silencing, how to test for side effects of the organisms generated, and how this affects insect pests, and their impact on some important cultivated plants in northern Europe. Sustainable integrated pest management (IPM) and environmental impact assessment connected to the RNAi technology will also be presented and discussed.

 After the course, participants will have:

  • learned the principle of gene silencing and how it applies to plant protection in general, and to IPM in particular
  • learned how to design practical experiments to assess effects of the RNAi under laboratory conditions in plants and insects
  • understood how this gene technology method can be integrated into IPM systems in Northern Europe
  • the ability and knowledge to critically evaluate problems related to environmental/ecological impact assessment of transgenic organisms in agriculture.

Evaluation Elements
Oral examination at the end of the course. Presentation of personal assignment, participation at course & discussions.

Pedagogical Approach
Pre-campus assignment, in-depth lectures and laboratory sessions are the main pedagogical tools.

Estimated Workload

  • independent work, distance learning blocks (pre-course and post-course): 110h (pre-course work-load: 30h, post-course working hours: first unit: 20h, second unit: 30h, third unit: 30h)
  • training week: 20h lectures, 5h seminar, 15h lab demonstration

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 see the links in the margin for more information.

NOVA and BOVA students are eligible to apply for NORDPLUS mobility funding to attend the course. Please contact your local Nordplus coordinator at your home institution for further information on application.

Please note that the course will run with a minimum of 12 participants signing up.

Published 19. January 2016 - 8:49 - Updated 3. April 2018 - 14:58