Pathogen and pest species in agricultural systems are responsible for significant economic losses worldwide, and represent a threat to agricultural productivity and food security. Conventional control strategies have been mostly reliant on either genetic resistance in the host, or the use of chemical pesticides, but these approaches are facing increasing challenges from rapid evolutionary change in pathogen and pest populations.
Here I will present results from recent modelling and empirical work that investigates how to design evolution-smart disease control strategies that present pathogens with a shifting, landscape of fluctuating natural selection. I will also briefly discuss how recent advances in genetic technologies might facilitate the development of synthetic gene drives, how these might be used to counteract pest and pathogen evolutionary change, and how ecology and life-history will be important for predicting the success of synthetic drives in agro-ecosystems.
Luke is a senior research scientist with CSIRO Agriculture and Food in Canberra, Australia. He received his BSc (Honours)/BA from Curtin University in 2003 and a PhD from the Australian National University in 2008. In 2008 Luke was awarded the Dropkin Fellowship in Plant Pathology for research at the University of Chicago, and in 2010 returned to Australia to take up an Australian Research Council postdoctoral fellowship. Luke was appointed to a research scientist position at CSIRO in 2012. His research focuses on the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of plant pathogens, their ecological and agricultural impacts, and novel means of pest control. Current projects include research on pathogen evolution and resistance durability in agricultural crops, and the use of gene-drives to control agricultural pests.