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J R Soc Interface. 2007 Oct 22;4(16):925-34.

Impact of scale on the effectiveness of disease control strategies for epidemics with cryptic infection in a dynamical landscape: an example for a crop disease.

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  • 1Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EA, UK.


We use a spatially explicit, stochastic model to analyse the effectiveness of different scales of local control strategies in containing the long-term, multi-seasonal spread of a crop disease through a dynamically changing population of susceptible crops in which there is cryptic infection. The model distinguishes between susceptible, infested and symptomatic fields. It is motivated by rhizomania disease on sugar beet in the UK as an exemplar of a spatially structured and partially asymptomatic epidemic. Our results show the importance of matching the scales of local control strategies to prevent intensification and regional spread of disease with the inherent temporal and spatial scales of an epidemic. A simple field-scale containment strategy, whereby the susceptible crop is no longer grown on fields showing symptoms, fails for this system with cryptic infection because the locally applied control lags behind the epidemic. A farm-scale strategy, whereby growers respond to the disease status of neighbouring farms by transferring their quota for sugar beet to farmers in regions of reduced risk, succeeds. We conclude that a soil-borne pathogen such as rhizomania could be managed by movement of susceptible crops in the landscape using a strategy that matches the temporal and spatial scales of the epidemic and which take account of risk aversion among growers. We show some parallels and differences in effectiveness between a 'culling' strategy involving crop removal around emerging foci and the local deployment of partially resistant varieties that reduce amplification and transmission of inoculum. Some relationships between the control of plant and livestock diseases are briefly discussed.

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