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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Identifying the Sociological Factors That Limit Adoption of Preventative Control Practices for Wood-Canker Diseases

Location: Crops Pathology and Genetics Research

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
Compare sociological and economic factors in terms of their influence on adoption of preventative control practices for wood-canker diseases of grape and pistachio.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
The primary literature states that preventative practices are effective and growers say they use these practices, but they are still losing trees and vines prematurely to wood-canker diseases. To resolve these conflicting observations, our grower surveys will identify sociological factors that limit adoption of preventative practices or cause improper application. With a clear understanding of the social-learning network that growers use to make disease-management decisions, we can develop new extension tools for strategic deployment.


3.Progress Report:

This project was established in support of objective 1 of the in-house project, which is to develop sustainable disease control practices for grapevines. The goal of the project is to compare sociological and economic factors in terms of their influence on adoption of preventative control practices for wood-canker diseases of grape and pistachio.

In fall,2012, we conducted 28 semi-structured interviews with growers, farm advisors, pest control advisors (PCAs), and other representatives in the grape, almond, and pistachio industries. Most interviews were conducted over the course of 30-60 minutes at the interviewee’s workplace in the San Joaquin, Sacramento, Napa, Sonoma, and Salinas valleys. A few interviews were conducted over the phone. We asked participants about their experience with wood-canker diseases, the range of practices they knew about and used to control wood-canker diseases, their information sources in the context of wood-canker disease management, and their participation in outreach and education programs. The interviews are intentionally flexibly structured to capitalize on an individual respondent’s particular area of expertise. These interviews inform the design of more quantitative data collection instruments (surveys and experiments) that come later, and also provide the research team with a more nuanced understanding of the decision-making process that quantitative methods might not provide.

In winter and spring of 2013, we designed and implemented an online survey targeted towards pest control advisors, consultants, farm advisors, and other industry representatives serving in an advisory capacity. This survey asked respondents about the costs and benefits of various wood-canker disease management practices, whether or not they advised growers to use these practices, their own sources of information regarding these practices, and their participation in outreach and education organizations. This initial, advisory survey serves the purpose of informing the design of the subsequent survey targeted at growers and key decision-makers as well as provides important data in its own right, as the opinions of PCAs and other advisors play a key role in the agricultural decision-making process. The specific work involved in delivering this survey included writing and editing survey questions, implementing the online version of the survey, collaborating with the advisory research team and others to vet the survey content and format, and finally collaborating with the California Association of Pest Control Advisors to deliver the survey to their membership as well as with UCCE farm advisors around the state to deliver the survey to their lists of relevant individuals. This survey is still collecting results, but thus far, has been delivered to over 1500 individuals and about 100 surveys (including partial completions) have been returned. Initial examination of the results from this survey is currently ongoing.

In summer and fall of 2013, we developed and are continuing to refine an in-person survey of growers and other key agricultural decision-makers. This process involves reviewing results from our semi-structured interviews and survey of advisory individuals to ensure we are targeting the best suite of specific diseases, crops, and geographic locations to answer our research questions. It involves compiling lists of potential survey respondents using county Pesticide Use Reports. It involves the writing and design of the actual survey itself. It also involves collaborating with a team of farm advisors from counties in California to refine the survey instrument and coordinate the delivery of the survey instrument to respondents, thus improving the representativeness of our sample and boosting our response rate. This process is ongoing and the survey will be delivered in Winter, 2014.

Over the course of the entire year, we have been developing an experimental design for a decision-making experiment that will be piloted with university students in the Fall/Winter of 2013/2014 and implemented with growers and other agricultural decision-makers over the course of 2014. This process involves coming up with a basic experimental design to test a particular aspect of the agricultural decision-making process relevant to our overall research question, as well as developing the software that implements the experiment in a computerized format.


Last Modified: 9/2/2014
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