Improving sustainability of quantitative disease resistance against plant disease: a project to understand and counter host adaptation by downy mildew

Every year a large proportion of the food produced is lost to plant pests and pathogens. The oomycete pathogens, including Phytophthora infestans -culprit of the Irish potato famine-, are some of the most widespread, virulent and generally misunderstood.

However, over the last 30 years, our knowledge of the plant immune system has been transformed by the plant-oomycete (Arabidopsis thaliana-Hyaloperonospora arabidopsidis) model pathosystem. Now, it is helping us understand how pathogens are adapting to overcome the plant’s defences and develop new strategies for crop protection. One of these strategies is by preparing or “priming”, the plant immune system against future pathogen attack, resulting in a stronger, faster response.

I aim to test how durable current resistance strategies are against fast evolving pathogens and understand the costs and benefits associated with the use of priming commercially.

Emma Smith


Professor Jurriaan Ton

Department of Animal and Plant Sciences


Professor Michael Brockhurst

Department of Animal and Plant Sciences

Dr Joost Stasson

Department of Animal and Plant Sciences