Advances in molecular biology have made it possible to produce antibody fragments comprising the binding domains of antibody molecules in diverse heterologous systems, such as Escherichia coli, insect cells, or plants. Antibody fragments specific for a wide range of antigens, including plant pathogens, have been obtained by cloning V-genes from lymphoid tissue, or by selection from large naive phage display libraries, thus avoiding the need for immunization. The antibody fragments have been expressed as fusion proteins to create different functional molecules, and fully recombinant assays have been devised to detect plant viruses. The defined binding properties and unlimited cheap supply of antibody fusion proteins make them useful components of standardized immunoassays. The expression of antibody fragments in plants was shown to confer resistance to several plant pathogens. However, the antibodies usually only slowed the progress of infection and durable ‘plantibody’ resistance has yet to be demonstrated. In future, it is anticipated that antibody fragments from large libraries will be essential tools in high-throughput approaches to post-genomics research, such as the assignment of gene function, characterization of spatio-temporal patterns of protein expression, and elucidation of protein–protein interactions.