The tools of biotechnology have already had a significant impact on control of fungal plant pathogens. The use of molecular markers to create genetic maps, identify, transfer, and clone plant genes of importance to plant protection has had a spectacular beginning. With the availability of new types of markers such as cDNA-AFLP and OMAs as well as the genomic and cDNA sequences of many important fungal pathogens and model dicot and monocot plants, rapid progress in this area is anticipated in the near and distant future. These and other genome-wide approaches will lead to an integrated view of the defense response for different classes of fungal pathogens as well as the core of pathogen-specific genes required for successful plant infection of host plants.
This information will lead to new technologies for plant protection based on rational design whether through molecular breeding or transgene or chemical approaches. At present, few promoters related to disease control from plants have been thoroughly characterized. Likewise, our understanding of the rapid turnover of some defense gene products, such as Rpml, is very poor. What relationship gene transcription has to levels of protein expression and modification and degradation for components of the defense response is unknown. Moreover these relationships must be known at the cellular not tissue level. Knowledge of the complete cascade of players involved defense signaling for one specific pathogen elicitor/effecter is still unavailable. Clearly there is much to learn and much promise ahead based on the knowledge to be gained.
Public confidence in these approaches will require improved communication of the scientific research community with the public sector and comprehensive risk assessment supported by high quality research. Biotechnology is not a solution but a tool to be used along with the many other tools that already exist for plant protection, such as crop rotation and other cultural practices. The appropriate and reasoned use of this technology is needed.
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