The effect on disease development of inhibiting the production of the sesquiterpenoid phytoalexin hemigossypol (HG) in cotton resistant to both verticillium and fusarium wilts was investigated. Inhibition was achieved by treating the plants with the sodium salt of compactin, a competitive inhibitor of hydroxy-methylglutaryl (HMG) CoA reductase. Compactin treatment (150 g litre-1) reduced HG production by a mean of 48%. The enzyme inhibitor did not mimic symptoms in uninfected plants or significantly reduce the ability of the conidia of either Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. vasinfectum or Verticillium dahliae to germinate. Treatment of infected plants with compactin resulted in a breakdown of resistance to verticillium wilt but not to fusarium wilt. These results support the view that HG production is the primary mechanism of resistance to verticillium wilt, but not to fusarium wilt.