Analysing social-ecological interactions in disease control: An agent-based model on farmers’ decision making and potato late blight dynamics

Pacilly, Francine C.A.; Hofstede, Gert Jan; Lammerts van Bueren, Edith T.; Groot, Jeroen C.J.


In this paper we focus on potato late blight control in the Netherlands to analyse the social-ecological interactions between farmer behaviour and disease dynamics. An agent-based model was developed to analyse the use of crop resistance for sustainable disease control. The framework on farmers’ decision-making was based on a behavioural theory and supported by data from literature and interviews with Dutch potato farmers. This framework was integrated with a previously developed spatially explicit model on potato late blight dynamics. We assumed a scenario where a new resistant potato variety was introduced to the market. The model reproduced a boom-and-bust cycle: the percentage of farmers growing the resistant variety increased until resistance breakdown occurred by emergence and spread of a virulent strain, and in response farmers switched to other potato varieties and management strategies. Several factors and processes were identified that could contribute to the development of sustainable disease management strategies.