The complex relationship between disease resistance and yield in crops

Mark C. Derbyshire, Toby E. Newman, William J.W. Thomas, Jacqueline Batley, David Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In plants, growth and defence are controlled by many molecular pathways that are antagonistic to one another. This results in a ‘growth-defence trade-off’, where plants temporarily reduce growth in response to pests or diseases. Due to this antagonism, genetic variants that improve resistance often reduce growth and vice versa. Therefore, in natural populations, the most disease resistant individuals are often the slowest growing. In crops, slow growth may translate into a yield penalty, but resistance is essential for protecting yield in the presence of disease. Therefore, plant breeders must balance these traits to ensure optimal yield potential and yield stability. In crops, both qualitative and quantitative disease resistance are often linked with genetic variants that cause yield penalties, but this is not always the case. Furthermore, both crop yield and disease resistance are complex traits influenced by many aspects of the plant's physiology, morphology and environment, and the relationship between the molecular growth-defence trade-off and disease resistance-yield antagonism is not well-understood. In this article, we highlight research from the last 2 years on the molecular mechanistic basis of the antagonism between defence and growth. We then discuss the interaction between disease resistance and crop yield from a breeding perspective, outlining the complexity and nuances of this relationship and where research can aid practical methods for simultaneous improvement of yield potential and disease resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalPlant Biotechnology Journal
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 May 2024


Dive into the research topics of 'The complex relationship between disease resistance and yield in crops'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this