Prospects for engineering and improvement of cross-protective virus strains
Mild strain cross-protection is currently an important method for the production of high quality plant products; despite challenge from severe virus isolates the initial protecting strain precludes symptom development. The mechanism of cross-protection is not yet resolved as RNA silencing does not sufficiently explain the phenomenon. Six requirements have been put forward to ensure long-lasting protection. We propose two additional requirements for effective and durable mild strain cross-protection; mild strains based on knowledge of the mechanism and consideration of impacts to consumers. Future research on predicting phenotype from genotype and understanding virus–plant and virus–vector interactions will enable improvement of cross-protective strains. Shared international databases of whole ecosystem interactions across a wide range of virus patho- and symbiotic-systems will form the basis for making step-change advances towards our collective ability to engineer and improve mild strain cross-protection.