To successfully combat a crop-threatening disease, it may be more important to educate growers about the effectiveness of control strategies than to emphasize the risk posed by the disease, according to new research by Alice Milne of Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, U.K., and colleagues. These findings appear in PLOS Computational Biology.
Disease-control campaigns help to combat plant pathogens that threaten to spread among crops, but are only successful if they are sufficiently well coordinated and if enough growers and other stakeholders comply. However, most mathematical models of disease control have neglected how people's opinions about disease-control strategies influence their decision to participate.
To better understand how opinions affect the success of a control campaign, Milne and colleagues coupled a mathematical model of the spread of citrus huanglongbing disease (HLB) with a model of human behavior that incorporates findings from a survey of growers. HLB threatens citrus production around the world, and can only be controlled if neighboring growers coordinate use of pesticides and other control strategies.