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Querina (R) florina, apple variety resistant to apple scab. © INRA, LE LEZEC Marcel

Novel mechanisms for more sustainable resistance to disease

By Pascale Mollier, translated by Inge Laino
Updated on 03/27/2015
Published on 01/22/2015

This report focuses on the different mechanisms identified to prevent or delay pathogens from circumventing varietal resistance in certain crops (apple, rapeseed, grapevine, other fruit and vegetable crops).

Today, farmers are trying to keep the use of pesticides in check in response to a growing awareness of their impact on health and the environment. In light of this, protecting crops against pests - which, for their part, do not seem to be on the wane - will require alternative strategies. Among those, and creating new, genetically resistant varieties will be paramount.

Nevertheless, this approach alone is not enough, because pathogens adapt and are more or less quick to overcome resistance. For example, it took grapevine fungi (downy and powdery mildew) a mere four years to sidestep monogenetic resistance in vineyards in Germany.

That is why managing resistance sustainably will require alternative strategies, such as combining several resistances in one variety (gene pyramiding), or alternating their use in terms of time (gene rotation) or space (landscape design).This is the focus of the PRESUME programme (1), developed within the framework of INRA’s SMaCH metaprogramme (see inset).

In addition to all-important research on new sources of resistance and their mechanisms, this programme focuses on developing a multidisciplinary approach combining genetics, agronomy and social sciences. The goal is to come up with new crop systems to boost the sustainability of resistance.

This report presents some notable findings that have resulted from this programme.

(1) PRESUME: Plant REsistance Sustainable ManagEment

Integrated crop health

The metaprogramme SMaCH, (Sustainable Management of Crop Health) focuses on the integrated management of crop health as an alternative to the use of pesticides. Integrated management consists of combining several measures, both preventive and curative, with a view to managing, as opposed to eradicating, pathogens.

INRA’s metaprogrammes are designed to create synergies between the research projects of several divisions, and promote an interdisciplinary approach.