Potentially durable resistance mechanisms in plants to specialised fungal pathogens
Specialised plant pathogens are in many ways adapted to exploit their host plants. Infective propagules should reach the appropriate plant tissue, gain access to the tissue and negate or suppress various kinds of constitutive and inducible resistance mechanisms. The resistance type most frequently deployed in plant breeding is the race-specific resistance, where a hypersensitive response of plant tissue is elicited by an avirulence factor produced by the pathogen. The great disadvantage of this type of resistance is, that it is often ephemeral. Detailed screening of germplasm may result in the discovery of alternative defence mechanisms not associated with hypersensitivity, that may be durable. Avoidance mechanisms may reduce the chance of infection. Upright plant habit has been reported to decrease spore deposition in cereals. Crop architecture may also affect aspects such as humidity and aeration in the crop, and hence the chances for successful infection by pathogen propagules. Other examples of avoidance are leaf surface properties that interfere with leaf wettability, germ tube orientation and finding of stomata to enter the leaf. Stomata in some accessions of Hordeum chilense are excessively covered by cuticular wax that prevent rust fungal germ tubes from perceiving the stomata, resulting in failure of penetration of the pathogen into the leaf. There is evidence that incompatible host species, biotrophic pathogenic fungi induce basic compatibility by suppressing defence mechanisms. Failure of this induction results in abortion of the infection attempt. Several cases of apparently durable resistance are discussed that are based on failure of haustorium formation, and are not associated with hypersensitivity. They may represent cases where the pathogen has problems in establishing basic compatibility.