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: Declining catch rates in Caribbean green turtle fishery may be result of overfishing

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

On the trail of fire ant pheromones

Apr 14, 2014

The painful sting of the red imported fire ant is not easily forgotten. Delivered in large numbers, the stings can kill small animals. Humans that develop hypersensitivity to the ants' venom are at risk as ...

Seeding success in India turns coconut dust into gold

Apr 10, 2014

Coconut dust may not be fairy dust, but in southern India, the substance is creating healthy crops. A Virginia Tech-led program is showing farmers that the material, derived from husks, is great potting soil ...

Recommended for you

Chimpanzees prefer firm, stable beds

6 hours ago

Chimpanzees may select a certain type of wood, Ugandan Ironwood, over other options for its firm, stable, and resilient properties to make their bed, according to a study published April 16, 2014 in the open-access ...

For cells, internal stress leads to unique shapes

7 hours ago

From far away, the top of a leaf looks like one seamless surface; however, up close, that smooth exterior is actually made up of a patchwork of cells in a variety of shapes and sizes. Interested in how these ...

Adventurous bacteria

9 hours ago

To reproduce or to conquer the world? Surprisingly, bacteria also face this problem. Theoretical biophysicists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have now shown how these organisms should ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...

Chimpanzees prefer firm, stable beds

Chimpanzees may select a certain type of wood, Ugandan Ironwood, over other options for its firm, stable, and resilient properties to make their bed, according to a study published April 16, 2014 in the open-access ...