Plant Disease: Teaching resources for GCSE Biology

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From September 2016, all students in England are required to study common plant diseases as part of their GCSE Biology courses.

Alistair Moore from the University of York Science Education Group worked with Science and Plants for Schools (SAPS) and experts in the field to develop practical activities and other teaching and learning resources for this new area of the biology curriculum.

According to the 2016 Key Stage 4 subject content criteria, GCSE Biology students are required to:

  • describe a minimum of one plant disease
  • explain how communicable diseases (caused by viruses, bacteria and fungi) are spread in plants
  • describe physical plant defences (including leaf cuticle and cell wall)
  • describe chemical plant defence responses (including antimicrobial substances)
  • describe different ways plant diseases can be detected and identified, in the lab and in the field
  • explain how the spread of communicable diseases may be reduced or prevented in plants.

Activities and resources

Identifying the cause of brown rot

In this practical activity, students explore how the technique of re-infection (using infected material to infect healthy plant tissue) can help to identify the cause of a plant disease.

This activity was developed with the assistance of Dr Charles Lane at Fera Science Ltd.

Click here to download the activity from the SAPS website.

Observing violet bramble rust

In this practical activity, students use magnification to examine leaves showing symptoms of a common plant disease, and produce labelled drawings of the fungal spores.

This activity was developed with the assistance of Dr Paul Beales at the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

Click here to download the activity from the SAPS website.

The Powdery mildew survey

In this practical and data analysis activity students collect samples of leaves showing samples of infection with powdery mildew; the samples can be sent for analysis as part of the Powdery Mildew Survey citizen science project. Students analyse data from the survey at the end of this activity.

This activity was developed with the assistance of Oliver Ellingham at the University of Reading.

Click here to download the activity from the SAPS website.

Plant disease detective

In this paper-based activity students act as detectives, piecing together information from the sources provided to identify common plant diseases, including the type of pathogen causing it, ways in which the disease is spread, and how to stop the spread.

Click here to download the activity from the SAPS website.

Poster: The battle for fortress plant

This engaging poster depicts ‘the never-ending battle for fortress plant’, describing the physical and chemical defences of plants and how pathogens attack and invade.

Click here to request a free copy of the poster from the SAPS website.