Durable resistance in agriculture is difficult to achieve, and in fact most resistance factors that are introduced into crops are effective for fewer than five years. In contrast, resistance polymorphisms in nature often persist for thousands, if not millions, of years. Why are these dynamics so different?
In this work, Talia Karasov with recent members of the Bergelson group and in collaboration with Richard Hudson and Roger Innes investigated how polymorphisms in resistance (R) genes are maintained over long time scales.
Through dissecting a resistance polymorphism in nature the authors show that the complexity inherent in ecological communities is key to its longevity. This suggests that the simplicity of agricultural communities may not be conducive to long-term resistance. Our study highlights the value of understanding natural species interactions for resistance management.