A major challenge in the post-genome era of plant biology is to determine the functions of all the genes in the plant genome. A straightforward approach to this problem is to reduce or knock out expression of a gene with the hope of seeing a phenotype that is suggestive of its function. Insertional mutagenesis is a useful tool for this type of study, but it is limited by gene redundancy, lethal knock-outs, nontagged mutants and the inability to target the inserted element to a specific gene. RNA interference (RNAi) of plant genes, using constructs encoding self-complementary ‘hairpin’ RNA, largely overcomes these problems. RNAi has been used very effectively in Caenorhabditis elegans functional genomics, and resources are currently being developed for the application of RNAi to high-throughput plant functional genomics.