Molecular interactions at the plant-fungal interface

Kim PlummerDr Kim Plummer

Senior Lecturer & Honours Coordinator for Agricultural Science, Animal Science and Botany, College of Science, Health and Engineering

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Currently, fungicides are used to prevent losses due to fungal diseases. It is anticipated that these diseases will become more economically important as fungicides are phased out (due to health risks and fungicide resistance) or as pathogens adapt to overcome these chemicals. The main goal of Kim's research is to understand the mechanisms involved in interactions between fungal pathogens and their plant hosts.

The ultimate aim will be to identify and isolate the genes involved in these interactions with a view to improving the plant's natural resistance barriers to diseases and pests.  The focus of this research is the molecular basis of plant-pathogen interactions and development of white rot (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum), apple scab disease (Venturia inaequalis) and pear scab (V. pirina) (utilizing genomics, proteomics and cytological techniques).

The main goal of this research is to understand the mechanisms involved in interactions between fungal pathogens and their hosts with a view to isolating the genes determining the interactions.  Key developmental stages are being identified as targets for control.

The long-term aim is to develop strategies for sustainable plant disease control. The focus is on the identification of genes involved in the interaction of the fungal pathogens with their host. They are specifically identifying factors that are involved in pathogenicity, host recognition and host resistance responses. This work is in collaboration with researchers at University of Florida, USA, Lincoln University, NZ, Plant & Food Research. The long-term focus is on the development of strategies for sustainable plant disease resistance.

Dr Plummer's work within the CRC Plant Biosecurity is to investigate mechanisms for accurate and unambiguous identification of pathogens, using comparative genomics. This work is a collaborative effort between Dr Plummer's lab and researchers within DPI Victoria and Plant and Food Research, NZ and various other international groups.

An ARC Discovery grant has funded Dr Plummer's collaboration with Prof Marilyn Anderson’s group to investigate the basis of antifungal activity of a tobacco defensin.

Dr Plummer is also a member of a team (5 universities) delivering the National Plant Biosecurity Curriculum, an online course for postgraduate training in plant biosecurity.