Connectivity illuminates risk of spread of crop pests, diseases

Feb 02, 2009

The United States is one of the most important crop production areas in the world, so its vulnerability to crop pests is a vital concern. Ten such pests are estimated to enter the country every year, and the federal government spends more than $1 billion annually on research, emergency response, and education related to crop pests.

A graphical analysis that assesses the vulnerability of different crops to pests in the United States is described in the February issue of BioScience. Margaret L. Margosian of Kansas State University and her colleagues based their work on county-level information about the amount of four key crops grown per hectare across the lower 48. By assuming that pests spread more easily between closely spaced counties and between those with high densities of a particular crop, they could identify regions of the country within which pests affecting the crop in question should move relatively easily. The analysis was repeated for hypothetical pests that are transmitted with different levels of difficulty.

Data on soybean, maize, wheat, and cotton yielded distinctly different patterns of connectivity at the national scale. The soybean crop was judged highly connected for easily transmitted pests, and thus potentially vulnerable to their spread. It was however, less connected for less easily transmitted pests. Maize was vulnerable to pests with a wide range of transmissibilities. Cotton and wheat, in contrast, were much less connected nationally.

Margosian and colleagues suggest their type of analysis could help in the formulation of strategies for dealing with invasive pathogens and pests. It might, for example, be prudent to encourage cropping patterns that disrupt connectivity, to minimize the likelihood that a pest will spread. And once a pathogen or pest has been introduced, graphical analysis could suggest where and when radical interventions, such as crop eradication, might be justified to prevent the pest's spread.

Source: American Institute of Biological Sciences

Explore further: China's latest survey finds increase in wild giant pandas

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Improved soil condition increases moisture for crops

Feb 03, 2015

Tillage practices that conserve moisture, plants that use water more efficiently and soil with more organic matter have produced higher yields even in dry conditions, according to soil scientist David Clay, ...

Recommended for you

A molecular compass for bird navigation

22 hours ago

Each year, the Arctic Tern travels over 40,000 miles, migrating nearly from pole to pole and back again. Other birds make similar (though shorter) journeys in search of warmer climes. How do these birds manage ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.