Pharma Focus Asia

How Growers Make Decisions Impacts Plant Disease Control

Rachel E. Murray-Watson, Frédéric M. Hamelin, Nik J. Cunniffe

While the spread of plant disease depends strongly on biological factors driving transmission, it also has a human dimension. Disease control depends on decisions made by individual growers, who are in turn influenced by a broad range of factors. Despite this, human behaviour has rarely been included in plant epidemic models.

Human behaviour is intuitively important in the control of plant infectious disease, as individuals often face choices when adopting infection-limiting behaviours. This behaviour has been widely considered in the context of human (reviewed in and) and animal diseases, though there have been fewer studies for plant diseases (with the exception of and). Where studies do consider individual’s decisions there is much variation in how decision-making is modelled, although it clearly will affect the outcomes of their decisions.

Materials and Methods:

Our model (Fig 1A) is a simplified representation of a CSS. Fields are classified by infection status (susceptible, S, or infected, I), as well as whether their growers currently control, i.e. used certified clean seed the last time the field was planted (subscripts: controller, C, or non-controller, N). We assume each grower cultivates only a single field, and so use the terms “grower” and “field” synonymously.

Surprisingly, few plant disease studies examine how human behaviour alters the dynamics of epidemic models. Here we presented a model that uses game theory to incorporate grower decision-making into a model of CBSD and investigated the effect of economically- and epidemiologically- important parameters on disease spread and the uptake of control by way of a clean seed system.

Citation: Murray-Watson RE, Hamelin FM, Cunniffe NJ (2022) How growers make decisions impacts plant disease control. PLoS Comput Biol 18(8): e1010309.

Editor: Claudio José Struchiner, Fundação Getúlio Vargas: Fundacao Getulio Vargas, BRAZIL

Received: December 22, 2021; Accepted: June 16, 2022; Published: August 22, 2022.

Copyright: © 2022 Murray-Watson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: Sample code, along with the data used to make each figure, is available on:

Funding: REMW acknowledges the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council of the United Kingdom (BBSRC; for support via a University of Cambridge DTP PhD studentship (Project Reference 2119272). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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