Whereas most mycoviruses lead 'secret lives', some reduce the ability of their fungal hosts to cause disease in plants. This property, known as hypovirulence, has attracted attention owing to the importance of fungal diseases in agriculture and the limited strategies that are available for the control of these diseases. Using one pathogen to control another is appealing, both intellectually and ecologically. The recent development of an infectious cDNA-based reverse genetics system for members of the Hypoviridae mycovirus family has enabled the analysis of basic aspects of this fascinating virus–fungus–plant interaction, including virus–host interactions, the mechanisms underlying fungal pathogenesis, fungal signalling pathways and the evolution of RNA silencing. Such systems also provide a means for engineering mycoviruses for enhanced biocontrol potential.