Biochemistry I (Plants)

Study biochemistry - the chemistry of living things - focusing on plants. Foundation course for anyone working with plants: from gardeners to research assistants.

Course Code: BSC102
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
Get started!

Build an Understanding of Fundamental Plant Biochemistry

This course will start you on your way with a sound foundation in plant biochemistry. While focusing on plants, much of the content is applicable to both plants and animals.

Chemical reactions are at the heart o everything that happens in a plant; from the germinating of seeds and the growth of tissues, to the production of flowers and fruit. Understanding these chemical reactions will give you a unique insight into how plants can be used and managed.

Study: Biochemical substances and terms, carbohydrates, lipids, amino acids, proteins, metabolism, the nitrogen cycle, photosynthesis, respiration, transpiration, acidity and alkalinity, nutrition, hormones, chemical analysis and biochemical applications in industry.

A Problem Based Approach for learning in this course, makes the educational experience practical and applied, helping you to understand, absorb and retain your new knowledge.

Student Comment: 'Having not finished high school myself and never studied biochemistry my confidence is a little low but the encouragement I am receiving from Honor [tutor] is a tremendous help and making it easier for me as I go. [The course] is helping me realise what I am actually capable of and that I am smarter than I thought. Thank you for making it possible for me to study my passion while still being able to work.' Melissa Smith, Australia, Biochemistry I.

Prerequisite: Some secondary school chemistry will be helpful though it is not essential.


Lesson Structure

There are 9 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction
    • The Basics
    • Atoms
    • The Atomic Nature Of Matter
    • The Structure Of Atoms
    • Elements And Compounds
    • Parts Of A Compound
    • Chemical Names
    • Alkyl Groups
    • Organic Compounds
    • Carbohydrates
    • Proteins
    • Amino Acids
    • Lipids
    • Nucleic Acids
    • Biochemical Processes In Plants And Animals
    • What Is Life?
    • Classification Of Living Things
    • Biochemistry
    • Biochemical Process In The Cell
    • The Carbon Cycle
    • Calculating The Components Of A Chemical
    • Atomic Weights Of Elements
  2. Lipids, Proteins & Carbohydrates
    • Carbohydrates
    • Types Of Carbohydrates
    • Hydrolysis
    • Aromatic Compounds
    • Aryl Groups
    • Lipids & Proteins
    • Characteristics Of Lipids
    • Naturally Occurring & Commercially Useful Lipids
    • Proteins
    • Amino Acids
    • Types Of Proteins
    • Lipoproteins
    • Proteins In The Human Diet
    • Protein Structure
  3. Enzymes & Hormones
    • Definitions
    • Enzymes
    • Plant Hormones
    • Chemical Growth Modification
    • Effect Of Temperature
    • Effect Of Ph
    • Activation
    • Isoenzymes
    • Inhibition
  4. Nitrogen & The Nitrogen Cycle
    • The Role Of Nitrogen
    • The Nitrogen Cycle
    • Nitrogen Fixation
    • Ammonification
    • Nitrification
    • Denitrification
    • Nitrogen Loss
    • Forms Of Nitrogen
    • The Urea Cycle
  5. Photosynthesis & Respiration
    • Photosynthesis
    • The Light Reactions
    • The Dark Reactions
    • Environmental Factors Which Affect Photosynthesis
    • Respiration
    • The Rate Of Respiration
  6. Assimilation & Transpiration
    • Water And Plant Growth
    • Transpiration
    • Environmental Factors That Affect Transpiration & Water Uptake
    • Metabolism Of Plants & Animals
    • Animal Nutrition
    • Animal Respiration
    • Animal Synthesis
    • Mechanisms Of Nutrient Uptake In Plants
  7. Acidity & Alkalinity
    • Ph
    • Measuring Ph
    • What Is An Acid Or Base?
    • Buffers
    • Nutrient Availability & Ph
    • Cation Exchange Capacity & Ph
    • Plant Cellular Ph Balance
  8. Chemical Analysis
    • Laboratory Testing Of Soils
    • Soil Sampling
    • Conductivity
    • Measuring Salinity
    • Conductivity & Hydroponics
    • Colorimeters
    • Chromatography
    • UV/Visible Spectrophotometers
    • Other Instruments Used In Laboratories
  9. Biochemical Applications
    • Alkaloids
    • Poisonous Plants
    • Herbal Medicines
    • Chemical Toxicities
    • Chemical Pesticides: Insecticides
    • Summary Of Main Chemical Groups Of Insecticides
    • Comparative Toxicities Of Pesticides
    • How Poisonous Is A Chemical?
    • Tissue Culture
    • Problems
    • Tissue Culture Procedures
    • Explants
    • Sterilisation
    • Nutrient Media
    • Methods Of Shoot Induction & Proliferation
    • Multiplication By Adventitious Roots
    • Rooting And Planting Out
    • Environmental Conditions
    • Types Of Media
    • Composition Of Nutrient Media
    • Cleanliness
    • Light And Temperature Conditions
    • Hormones
    • Laboratory Requirements
    • Glossary Of Terms Used In Tissue Culture
    • Biotechnology In Horticulture
    • Cell Fusions
    • Overcoming Pollination Incompatibility

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Identify characteristics of common chemical compounds important in plant biochemistry.
  • Explain the characteristics of major biochemical groups including; carbohydrates, lipids and proteins.
  • Explain the characteristics of chemicals which control biological processes, including enzymes and hormones.
  • Identify the role of nitrogen in plant biological processes, including the nitrogen cycle.
  • Identify the role of photosynthesis in biological systems.
  • Explain the role of respiration in plants.
  • Explain characteristics of assimilation and transpiration in plants.
  • Explain the effect of acidity and alkalinity on biochemical systems.
  • Develop simple chemical analysis skills relevant to testing plants and soils.
  • Identify applications and uses for biochemical processes and products.

What You Will Do

  • Explain the formulae of ten specified, chemical compounds commonly found in plants.
  • Calculate the percentages of elements contained in two specified chemical compounds.
  • Differentiate between characteristics of major groups of biochemicals including:
    • carbohydrates
    • proteins
    • amino acids
    • lipids
    • nucleic acids
  • Compare differences between monosaccharides and polysaccharides.
  • Differentiate between plant and animal biochemistry, with three specific examples of biochemical processes which are unique to each.
  • Differentiate between a fat and an oil.
  • Explain the characteristics of a specified protein formula.
  • Compare two fibrous proteins with two globular proteins.
  • Explain the functions of carbohydrates in plants.
  • Explain two commercial applications for lipids for the learners chosen industry.
  • Explain two commercial applications for proteins for the learners chosen industry.
  • Explain two commercial applications for carbohydrates for the learners industry.
  • Distinguish between an enzyme and a hormone.
  • Explain how one specific enzyme functions in a living organism.
  • Explain how one specific hormone functions in a living organism.
  • Explain the relevance of hormones to the learners industry sector.
  • Explain the relevance of enzymes to the learners industry sector.
  • Explain plant inoculum in relation to nitrogen use in plants.
  • Define relevant terminology, including:
    • Nitrogen Fixation
    • Ammonification
    • Nitrification
    • Denitrification
    • Symbiotic Bacteria
  • Explain the effect on plant yield of a deficiency in available nitrogen.
  • Explain the effect on plant yield of an excess in available nitrogen.
  • Compare differences in nitrogen deficiency symptoms between monocotyledons and dicotyledons.
  • Analyse the nitrogen cycle with diagrams.
  • Explain the significance of the nitrogen cycle to plants and animals.
  • Perform an experiment comparing the growth of 4 plants grown under differing light conditions.
  • Explain differences in plants grown under different light conditions.
  • Explain the processes of photosynthesis, with diagrams.
  • Explain the importance of photosynthesis to plants.
  • List the main biochemical processes which occur during respiration in plants.
  • Identify the differences between anaerobic and aerobic respiration.
  • Explain glycolysis, including the sequence of chemical reactions which take place.
  • Explain the Krebs cycle, including the sequence of chemical reactions involved.
  • Compare respiration in a plant with respiration in an animal.
  • Explain differences in plant respiration, under different climatic conditions, for a specified situation.
  • Define relevant terminology, including:
    • Transpiration
    • Translocation
    • Vapour Pressure
    • Osmosis
    • Evapotranspiration
    • Assimilation
  • Explain how water is absorbed into a plant, with the aid of diagrams.
  • Explain how nutrients are absorbed into a plant, with the aid of diagrams.
  • Perform, a simple experiment, showing the movement of dyed water into, and through a plant.
  • Explain how water is moved about in a plant.
  • Explain how nutrients are moved about in a plant.
  • Explain the purpose of transpiration, in plant function.
  • Define pH terminology including; acid, alkaline, base and neutral.
  • Explain the control of acidity and alkalinity in different living organisms, using 4 specific examples, including:
    • buffers
    • chemical reactions
  • Explain how soil pH affects plant nutrient availability.
  • Explain plant responses to changes in soil pH.
  • Analyse the effects of three different fertilizers on the pH of growing media.
  • Explain the effects of abnormal pH levels in a specific case study of a physiological process, in a living organism.
  • Identify factors involved in controlling acidity and alkalinity in a specific case study.
    • Define relevant terminology, including:
    • calibration
    • electroconductivity
    • chromatography
    • colorimeter
    • indicators
  • Compare chemical pH test kits with chemical pH meters, in terms of the following:
    • accuracy
    • ease of use
    • portability
    • speed
    • maintenance
    • calibration
    • costs
  • Explain the practical applications of various analytical techniques including:
    • chromatography (TLC, GC)
    • colorimetry
    • atomic absorption
  • Determine the value of analytical techniques used in industry including:
    • efficiency
    • accuracy
    • ease of use
  • Differentiate between chemical toxicity and tolerance.
  • Explain the implications of LD50 characteristics with five different chemical substances.
  • Explain the implications of half-life characteristics with five different chemical substances.
  • List the active toxins in ten poisonous plants which commonly occur in your home locality.
  • Explain the effects of two naturally occurring toxins on the human body.
  • Explain the function and use of two different plants as medicines for humans or animals.
  • Determine three different applications for plant tissue culture.

What is Biochemistry?

Biochemistry is the chemistry of living organisms. An organism is anything that is alive, or if not, was once alive (a "dead" organism"). What, then, is the condition we call life? We cannot offer a rigid, precise definition, but we do know that living things are characterised by metabolism, growth, and reproduction. Metabolism is the process by which a body introduces into itself ("ingests") various energy rich materials from its environment ("food"), and transforms these materials, with the release of energy, into other substances, some of which are retained by the body ("growth" or "repair") and some eliminated. Reproduction is the process by which one body produces another that is like itself in properties, structure, composition, and function, including metabolism and reproduction.

The distinction between an organism and a material is not always clear. A virus consists of particles several hundred Angstrom units in length or diameter; these particles can reproduce themselves in a suitable environment but they do not ingest food, or grow, or carry on any other metabolic processes. Are viruses, then, living organisms, or are they chemical materials that consist of large molecules capable of replicating themselves under suitable conditions? To include viruses among the living, the definition of life must be modified. Most broadly, we may consider anything living if it can bring order out of disorder at the expense of energy and has the capability to preserve accidental variations (called mutations) that may occur in the process.

In an organism, the structure called the cell may be considered to be a biochemical reactor. An organism consists of one or more cells, and the various groups of cells in a multi cellular organism may be sharply differentiated in their biochemical function. The reactions in the cell are said to occur in vivo (Latin, "in the living organism"); the corresponding reactions outside of the cell are said to occur in vitro (Latin, "in glass). The living cell is not merely a tiny membranous beaker with homogeneous contents. It is, rather, entity of great complexity, not yet completely understood as to structure and function. There are specific sites within the cell at which specific reacting systems, metabolic or reproductive, operate. The biochemist seeks to identify these sites, and to illuminate the course and mechanism of the reactions that occur there. Sometimes he tries to remove a chemically reacting system from its cellular environment and duplicate it in vitro. He does this because reactions are usually easier to study under the more controllable conditions of laboratory reactors than they are in vivo.

Biochemical Process in the Cell


Several anatomical features are so small that they can be revealed only with the aid of an electron microscope. Some of these fine structures of the cell are non-essential inclusions, like blobs of fat, or particles of starch. Others called organelles, perform essential functions and are reproduced when the cell divides. Some of these functions are well known; others still elude us.

The mitochondria are organelles shaped like elongated slippers; their cross sectional diameters are about 1 micron. The highly differentiated structure of a mitochondrion contains some 40 enzymes, which control a complex series of redox reactions, including the conversion of diverse organic substances into ATP. The energy reservoir that is thus stored up is available for biomechanical work such as muscle contraction, for electrical work like the action of nerve impulses, and for the activation of other biochemical reactions. Because of these functions, the mitochondria have been called, by an analogy that not all mechanical engineers would accept, the "furnace of the cell".

Chloroplasts are organelles that occur in plant cells and that contain the green pigment chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the catalyst for the endothermic process of photosynthesis, in which glucose is synthesized from carbon dioxide.

The nucleus is a well defined structure which contains the genetic material of the cell; the nucleus thus is the site of the reproductive function. Each time a cell divides, it reconstitutes itself. The ability of self duplication is retained by the new cells and is transmitted repeatedly through successive generations of cells. The reliability of this transmittal accounts for the continuity of species.

Where Can This Course Take Me?

  • To further study in biochemistry.
  • As a prerequisite to gain entry into higher education.
  • To give you a sound understanding of the biochemical processes in plants - useful for those working in research, in hydroponics, in protected plant culture etc.

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.
Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

How can I start this course?

You can enrol at anytime and start the course when you are ready. Enrolments are accepted all year - students can commence study at any time. All study is self paced and ACS does not set assignment deadlines.

Please note that if a student is being assisted by someone else (e.g. an employer or government subsidy), the body offering the assistance may set deadlines. Students in such situations are advised to check with their sponsor prior to enrolling. The nominal duration of a course is approximately how long a course takes to complete. A course with a nominal duration of 100 hours is expected to take roughly 100 hours of study time to complete. However, this will vary from student to student. Short courses (eg. 100 hrs duration) should be completed within 12 months of enrolment. Certificates, Advanced Certificates and Awards (eg. over 500 hours duration) would normally be completed within 3 -5 years of enrolment. Additional fees may apply if a student requires an extended period to complete.
If a student cannot submit their assignments for 6 months to ACS, they should advise the school to avoid cancellation of their student
registration. Recommencement fees may apply.

Simply click on the ENROL OPTIONS button at the top of this screen and follow the prompts.

You can see the course price at the top of this page. Click 'enrolment options' to see any payment options available.

You can pay by Credit Card, PayPal, Afterpay or bank transfer.

Yes! We have payment plans for most courses. Click 'enrolment options' to see the available payment plans.
We also have Afterpay that will allow you to pay for your course or payment plans in four instalments (if you are in Australia).

What do I need to know before I enrol?

There are no entry requirements that you need to meet to enrol in our courses, our courses are for everyone.
If you are under 18, we need written permission from your parent/ guardian for your enrolment to continue, we can arrange that after you have enrolled.

You don’t need to purchase any additional resources to complete our courses.

We aim to teach you the essentials without you having to purchase any specific computer program.
We recommend that you have access to a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs, so that you can easily complete and submit your assignments.

You sure can. We are here to help you learn whatever your abilities.

Yes, if you are enrolling in a Certificate or Advanced Certificate, you might be eligible for credits if you have evidence of your previous studies or relevant experience. More information is here.

We recommend that you are able to browse websites, send emails and conduct online research. You will need to be able to type and submit your assignments.
If you have limited computer skills, we can make special arrangements for you.

This is possible, it depends on the institution. We recommend that if you would like to use our courses that you contact the institution first. Our Course Handbook is a good resource for this.

Our courses are written in English and we only have English speaking academic staff. If you can read and complete your assignments in English, our courses are ideal for you.

Our courses are designed to build knowledge, hands on skills and industry connections to help prepare you to work in the area, running your own business, professional development or as a base for further study.

This course has been designed to cover the fundamentals of the topic. It will take around 100 hours to complete, which includes your course reading, assignment work, research, practical tasks, watching videos and anything else that is contained in the course. Our short courses are a great way to do some professional development or to learn a new skill.

It’s up to you. The study hours listed in the course are a rough guide, however if you were to study a short course (100 hours) at 10 hours per week, you could finish the course in 10 weeks (just an example). Our courses are self-paced, so you can work through the courses in your own time. We recommend that you wait for your tutor to mark and return your assignment before your start your next one, so you get the benefits of their feedback.

The course consists of course notes, videos, set tasks for your practical work, online quizzes, an assignment for each lesson (that you receive feedback from your tutor from) and ends in an exam (which is optional, if would like to receive the formal award at the end), using our custom built Learning Management System - Login.Training.

Our courses are designed for adults to gain professional development and skills to further their careers and start businesses.

Our custom online learning portal allows you to conduct your learning online. There may be practical tasks that you can do offline. You have the option of downloading your course notes or print them to read later.

There is also the option to pay an additional fee for printed course notes and or USB (availability limited to location and deliverability).

Yes, if you don’t have access to the internet, you can receive the course as paper notes or on a USB stick for an additional fee. We can also make alternative arrangements for you to send your assignments to us.

We offer printed notes for an additional fee. Also, you can request your course notes on a USB stick for an additional fee.

Yes, your tutor is here to help you. Simply post any questions you have in your portal or contact the office and we can pass on a message to your tutor.

We are more learning focussed, rather than assessment focussed. You have online quizzes to test your learning, written assignments and can complete an exam at the end of the course (if you want to receive your certificate). You will not receive a pass/ fail on your course work. If you need to add more details on your assignment, we will ask you to resubmit and direct you where you need to focus. If you need help, you can ask your tutor for advice in the student room.

Each module (short course) is completed with one exam.

Exams are optional, however you must sit an exam if you would like to receive a formal award. You will need to find someone who can supervise that you are sitting the exams under exams conditions. There is an additional cost of $60 incl. GST for each exam.
More information is here

There are practical components built into the course that have been designed to be achieved by anyone, anywhere. If you are unable to complete a task for any reason, you can ask your tutor for an alternative.

When you complete the course work and the exam and you will be able receive your course certificate- a Statement of Attainment. Otherwise, you can receive a Letter of Completion.

You can bundle the short courses to create your own customised learning bundle, Certificates or Advanced Certificates. More information is on this page.

Yes, our courses are built to be applicable for people living anywhere in any situation. We provide the fundamentals, and each student can apply their own unique flair for their own interests, region and circumstances with the one-on-one guidance of a tutor. There is also a bit of student directed research involved.

Employers value candidates with industry skills, knowledge, practical skills and formal learning. Our courses arm you with all of these things to help prepare you for a job or start your own business. The longer you study the more you will learn.

ACS has an arrangement with OAMPS (formerly AMP) who can arrange Professional Indemnity from Australian and New Zealand graduates across all disciplines. Ph: 1800 222 012 or email

Who are ACS Distance Education?

ACS Distance Education have been educating people for over 40 years.

We are established and safe- we have been in education for over 40 years.
We are focused on developing innovative courses that are relevant to you now and what you will need to know in the future.
We are focused on helping you learn and make the most of your experience.
You can enrol at any time, you can work on your course when it suits you and at your own pace.
We are connected to many industry bodies and our staff participate in continuous improvement and learning activities to ensure that we are ahead of what learning is needed for the future.

Our courses are not accredited by the Australian Government. However many of our courses are recognised and held in high regard by many industry bodies.

Our courses are written by our staff, who all have many years experience and have qualifications in their speciality area. We have lots of academic staff who write and update our courses regularly.

How do I enrol my staff/ sponsored students?

Yes, you can do a request for a bulk enrolment and request an invoice on our Invoice Request Form

We can prepare an invoice, quote or proforma invoice. Simply complete your details on our Invoice Request form

We can arrange bulk discounts for your course enrolment, please get in touch with us to discuss your needs.

Yes, we have many students who are in locked facilities, such as prisons or hospitals. We can cater by also offering paper notes at an additional cost.

What if I have any more questions or need more information?

We can assist you to find the right course for your needs. Get in touch with us via email ( call on +61 7 5562 1088 or complete our course advice form.

What if I change my mind?

Please get in touch with if you would like to be removed from our mail list.

If you would like ACS Distance Education to delete your information at any time (whether you are a customer or a prospective customer), please contact our privacy officer and we will process this ( ).

Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Need Help?

Take advantage of our personalised, expert course counselling service to ensure you're making the best course choices for your situation.

I agree for ACS Distance Education to contact me and store my information until I revoke my approval. For more info, view our privacy policy.