Breeding a crop variety to be resistant to a pathogen usually takes years. This is problematic because pathogens, with short generation times and fluid genomes, adapt quickly to overcome resistance. The triumph of the pathogen is not inevitable, however, as there are numerous examples of durable resistance, particularly in wild plants. Which factors then contribute to such resistance stability over millennia? We review current knowledge of wild and agricultural pathosystems, detailing the importance of genetic, species and spatial heterogeneity in the prevention of pathogen outbreaks. We also highlight challenges associated with increasing resistance diversity in crops, both in light of pathogen (co-)evolution and breeding practices. Historically it has been difficult to incorporate heterogeneity into agriculture due to reduced efficiency in harvesting. Recent advances implementing computer vision and automation in agricultural production may improve our ability to harvest mixed genotype and mixed species plantings, thereby increasing resistance durability.
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