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Perceptions of Risk, Risk Aversion, and Barriers to Adoption of Decision Support Systems and Integrated Pest Management: An Introduction

June 2011 , Volume 101 , Number  6
Pages  640 - 643

David H. Gent, Erick De Wolf, and Sarah J. Pethybridge

First author: U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit, and Oregon State University, Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Corvallis, OR 97331; second author: Kansas State University, Department of Plant Pathology, Manhattan 66506-5502; and third author: Botanical Resources Australia-Agricultural Services Pty Ltd., Ulverstone, Tasmania 7315, Australia.

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Rational management of plant diseases, both economically and environmentally, involves assessing risks and the costs associated with both correct and incorrect tactical management decisions to determine when control measures are warranted. Decision support systems can help to inform users of plant disease risk and thus assist in accurately targeting events critical for management. However, in many instances adoption of these systems for use in routine disease management has been perceived as slow. The under-utilization of some decision support systems is likely due to both technical and perception constraints that have not been addressed adequately during development and implementation phases. Growers' perceptions of risk and their aversion to these perceived risks can be reasons for the “slow” uptake of decision support systems and, more broadly, integrated pest management (IPM). Decision theory provides some tools that may assist in quantifying and incorporating subjective and/or measured probabilities of disease occurrence or crop loss into decision support systems. Incorporation of subjective probabilities into IPM recommendations may be one means to reduce grower uncertainty and improve trust of these systems because management recommendations could be explicitly informed by growers' perceptions of risk and economic utility. Ultimately though, we suggest that an appropriate measure of the value and impact of decision support systems is grower education that enables more skillful and informed management decisions independent of consultation of the support tool outputs.

This article is in the public domain and not copyrightable. It may be freely reprinted with customary crediting of the source. The American Phytopathological Society, 2011.