The billion dollar game of strategy: The effect of farmers' decisions on pest control

December 31, 2015

Researchers say that the actions of individual farmers should be considered when studying and modelling strategies of pest control.

Research published in PLOS Computational Biology presents a model to understand the actions of humans and the dynamics of pest populations. The authors demonstrate this by using the example of the European corn borer, a moth whose larval phase is a major pest of maize.

Using game theory the researchers found that the farmers' perceptions of profit and loss, alongside communication networks between individuals, affects pest populations. A farmer's decision on whether to control a pest is usually based on the perceived threat of the pest and the guidance of commercial advisors.

Therefore, farmers in a region are often influenced by similar circumstances, which can create a coordinated response to a pest. This coordinated response, although not intentional, can affect ecological systems at the landscape scale.

Dr Alice Milne, Rothamsted Research scientist who led the study commented: "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".

Dr Milne continued, "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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All works published in PLOS Computational Biology are Open Access, which means that all content is immediately and freely available. Use this URL in your coverage to provide readers access to the paper upon publication: http://journals.plos.org/ploscompbiol/article?id=10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004483

Press-only preview: https://www.plos.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/pcbi.1004483.pdf

Contact: Alice Milne
Address: Rothamsted Research
CSYS
West Common
Harpenden, AL5 2JQ
Phone: +44 1582 763133
Email: alice.milne@rothamsted.ac.uk

Citation: Milne AE, Bell JR, Hutchison WD, van den Bosch F, Mitchell PD, Crowder D, et al. (2015) The Effect of Farmers' Decisions on Pest Control with Bt Crops: A Billion Dollar Game of Strategy. PLoS Comput Biol 11(12): e1004483. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004483

Funding: This research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) grant number S5198. 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.

About PLOS Computational Biology

PLOS Computational Biology features works of exceptional significance that further our understanding of living systems at all scales through the application of computational methods. All works published in PLOS Computational Biology are Open Access. All content is immediately available and subject only to the condition that the original authorship and source are properly attributed. Copyright is retained. For more information follow @PLOSCompBiol on Twitter or contact ploscompbiol@plos.org.

About PLOS

PLOS is a nonprofit publisher and advocacy organization founded to accelerate progress in science and medicine by leading a transformation in research communication. For more information, visit http://www.plos.org.

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