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The Value of Plant Disease Early-Warning Systems: A Case Study of USDA's Soybean Rust Coordinated Framework

by Michael Robbins, David Schimmelpfennig, Elizabeth Ashley, Michael Livingston, Mark Ash, and Utpal Vasavada

Economic Research Report No. (ERR-18) 46 pp, April 2006

Early-warning systems for plant diseases are valuable when the systems provide timely forecasts that farmers can use to inform their pest management decisions. To evaluate the value of the systems, this study examines, as a case study, USDA's coordinated framework for soybean rust surveillance, reporting, prediction, and management, which was developed before the 2005 growing season. The framework's linchpin is a website that provides real-time, county-level information on the spread of the disease. The study assesses the value of the information tool to farmers and factors that influence that value. The information's value depends most heavily on farmers' perceptions of the forecast's accuracy. The study finds that the framework's information is valuable to farmers even in a year with a low rust infection like that of 2005. We estimate that the information provided by the framework increased U.S. soybean producers' profits by a total of $11-$299 million in 2005, or between 16 cents and $4.12 per acre, depending on the quality of information and other factors. The reported cost of the framework was between $2.6 million and almost $5 million in 2005.

Keywords: Soybean rust, farmers' perceptions, forecast accuracy, updating beliefs, value of information, real-time disease location, plant disease management, invasive species, pest management, risk management

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Last updated: Sunday, June 03, 2012

For more information contact: Michael Robbins, David Schimmelpfennig, Elizabeth Ashley, Michael Livingston, Mark Ash, and Utpal Vasavada

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