Insects cause billions of dollars of losses to crops each year. They also facilitate the introduction of toxin-producing molds into several crops, including corn. Discovery of plant-derived pest resistance genes and mechanisms can lead to the more desirable use of native genes to promote resistance to insects and fungi.
My research interests currently include determining which potential resistance genes code for proteins that are most active against insects and molds, or otherwise contribute to resistance through regulatory means, produce physical barriers, or produce active small molecular weight chemicals. How the resistance genes and mechanisms interact is also of interest to me in determining what the most effective combinations of pest resistance genes are. Corn is the major crop I’m interested in, but I’m also interested in resistance mechanisms and genes from other plant species, as it is valuable in understanding the different strategies plants use for defense against pest insects and fungi.
Identifying effective plant derived insect and fungal resistance genes and mechanisms assists those who develop more resistant plants through breeding or genetic engineering. More pest resistant plants lead to better yields and profits for growers, an adequate supply of crop materials for end users, and a safer product for humans and animals.