Researchers evaluate how farmers respond to pest threats

Farmers are constantly trying to keep pests out of their crops and often turn to the advice of commercial advisers when they find out that a pest has been effecting other local crops.

This can lead to a coordinated response to a pest in a specific area because the farmers are all receiving the same advice.

PLOS researchers conducted a study to understand why farmers take the actions they do when choosing how to rid their crops of pests. The researchers used the European corn borer, which causes major pest issues in the larval stage to corn.

The research concluded that individual farmers choose whether or not to control a pest based on the perceived threat of crop loss, and therefore profit loss.

"By understanding the dynamics of farmer decisions we can determine how to manage better the system, through improved communication, subsidy or taxation, to achieve robust and cost effective area-wide control, while minimizing the risk of the evolution of resistance to control strategies," Alice Milne, the Rothamsted Research scientist who led the study, said. "In our study, we used concepts of game theory to build a model framework for understanding the feedback mechanisms between the actions of humans and the dynamics of pest populations. We demonstrate this framework with an example about the European corn borer."

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