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Investigating the benefits, costs and barriers to uptake of field diagnostics within the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate

Ann Bruce

Affiliated staff:   Neil Boonham   Kelvin Hughes   Mohamud Hussein

Funding: DEFRA and The Food and Environment Research Agency

Started: April 1 2011


In recent years there has been an impressive proliferation of field detection techniques for plant disease but this proliferation of available techniques has not been mirrored by uptake from end users. In many ways this is not unexpected as the published evidence for the overall benefits of using field diagnostics is rather lacking. In addition to the scientific and economic data on the impact of the use of field testing there is also a social element to the uptake of technology that is important to understand. Deployment of field techniques requires a balanced understanding of assay performance, economics and human behaviour linked to the overarching objective for testing or examining samples under increasingly limited budgetary resources.

The deployment of these technologies is currently primarily viewed on the basis of ‘how do these technologies fit into the way we work today?’ whereas a more insightful question might be ‘how will these technologies improve the way we work tomorrow?’ In particular, there is an urgent need for research establishing the cost-effectiveness of different available techniques and how the most cost-effectiveness  techniques can be deployed as an overall strategy for monitoring and eradication of a particular plant disease. This research will also identify potential behavioural barriers to the deployment of cost-effective technologies in the field and make recommendations about how the end users can be influenced to achieve optimal uptake of the cost-effective techniques.´╗┐

Aims and objectives

  • Provide data (on performance and costs of field detection techniques, and attitudes to their use) necessary for evaluating the benefits and behavioural barriers (or otherwise) of the deployment of cost-effective field test techniques within the UK PHSI
  • Identify gaps in the existing evidence base and recommend future research priorities in this field
  • Make policy recommendations for design and implementation of cost-effective diagnostic strategies´╗┐

Research methods

This interdisciplinary project will provide:

  • Comparative data on different methods of assessing plant diseases
  • Semi-structured interviews with 15 inspectors to explore current experiences and attitudes towards the current use of in-field diagnostics
  • Bio-economic modelling

Further information

For additional information about this project please contact Ann Bruce.