Growing genetically resistant plants allows pathogen populations to be
controlled and reduces the use of chemicals. However, pathogens can
quickly overcome such resistance. In this context, how can we achieve
sustainable crop protection? This crucial question has remained largely
unanswered despite decades of intense debate and research effort. In
this study, we used a bibliographic analysis to show that the research
field of resistance durability has evolved into three subfields: (i)
‘plant breeding’ (generating new genetic material), (ii) ‘molecular
interactions’ (exploring the molecular dialogue governing
plant–pathogen interactions) and (iii) ‘epidemiology and evolution’
(explaining and forecasting of pathogen population dynamics resulting
from selection pressure(s) exerted by resistant plants). We argue that
this triple split of the field impedes integrated research progress and
ultimately compromises the sustainable management of genetic resistance.
After identifying a gap among the three subfields, we argue that the
theoretical framework of population genetics could bridge this gap.
Indeed, population genetics formally explains the evolution of all
heritable traits, and allows genetic changes to be tracked along with
variation in population dynamics. This provides an integrated view of
pathogen adaptation, notably via evolutionary–epidemiological
feedbacks. In this Opinion Note, we detail examples illustrating how
such a framework can better inform best practice for developing and
managing genetically resistant cultivars.