The Red Queen situation

The third disadvantage of vertical resistance may be called the 'Red Queen' situation, a phrase taken from Lewis Carroll's Alice through the Looking Glass. It will be remembered that the Red Queen said to Alice "Now here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place". If a plant breeder is under continuous pressure to produce new cultivars, in order to replace vertical resistances that have failed, it is difficult to make progress in other directions. It will be remembered that resistance to crop parasites is only one of the four primary objectives in plant breeding. The others are yield, quality of the crop product, and agronomic suitability.

A breeder may perhaps be forgiven if he concludes that these other objectives are collectively more important than parasite resistance. He may also conclude that the control of crop pests and diseases is really the responsibility of the entomologists and plant pathologists. So, the breeder abandons resistance breeding, and hands this problem over to his parasitological colleagues. Sadly, almost the only weapons available to the entomologists and pathologists are crop protection chemicals. This 'Red Queen' situation, and the consequent abandoning of the resistance objective in plant breeding, is perhaps the chief reason why we now use these chemicals in such large quantities.

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