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

The ultimate aim will be to identify and isolate the genes involved in plant pathogen interactions with a view to enhancing 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) and host specific determinants of the scab fungi (utilizing genomics, proteomics and cytological techniques):  apple scab disease (caused by Venturia inaequalis); European pear scab (caused by V. pirina); and Asian pear scab (caused by V. nashicola).

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. Kim’s lab are specifically identifying factors that are involved in pathogenicity, host recognition and host resistance responses. The long-term focus is on the development of strategies for sustainable plant disease resistance.

A new project investigating the role of melatonin in the interaction between plants and their stressors (both biotic and abiotic) is also underway in collaboration with Drs Frank Bedon and Ashely Franks.

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 Ag VIC 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.