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

Grantham Scholar Emma K Moffat researches plant resistance strategies against fast evolving pathogens and the use of commercial priming agents.

The project

Every year a large proportion of the food produced is lost to plant pests and pathogens. The oomycete pathogens, e.g. 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 plant defences. As a result we can develop new strategies for crop protection. For example, we can prepare or ‘prime’ the plant immune system against future pathogen attack. Priming results in a stronger, faster immune response.

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

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