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When does spatial diversification usefully maximise the durability of crop disease resistance?

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Maximising the durability of crop disease resistance genes in the face of pathogen evolution is a major challenge in modern agricultural epidemiology. Spatial diversification in the deployment of resistance genes, where susceptible and resistant fields are more closely intermixed, is predicted to drive lower epidemic intensities over evolutionary timescales. This is due to an increase in the strength of dilution effects, caused by pathogen inoculum challenging host tissue to which it is not well-specialised. The factors that interact with and determine the magnitude of this spatial effect are not currently well understood however, leading to uncertainty over the pathosystems where such a strategy is most likely to be cost-effective. In this talk I will be describing the spatially explicit model we have used to explore the effect on landscape scale disease dynamics of spatial heterogeneity in the arrangement of fields planted with either susceptible or resistant cultivars. Of particular interest is the complex manner in which the epidemiological and genetic parameters interact with the spatial dynamics of the system, leading to important insights for both theory and practical application.

This talk is part of the Worms and Bugs series.

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