Agricultural landscape structure and invasive species: The cost-effective level of crop field clustering

Martin Drechsler*, Julia M. Touza, Piran C L White, Glyn Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Invasive pests in agricultural settings may have severe consequences for agricultural production, reducing yields and the value of crops. Once an invader population has established, controlling it tends to be very expensive. Therefore, when the potential impacts on production may be great, protection against initial establishment is often perceived to be the most cost-effective measure. Increasing attention in the ecological literature is being given to the possibility of curbing invasion processes by manipulating the field and cropping patterns in agricultural landscapes, so that they are less conducive to the spread of pests. However, the economic implications of such interventions have received far less attention. This paper uses a stochastic spatial model to identify the key processes that influence the vulnerability of a fragmented agricultural landscape to pests. We explore the interaction between the divergent forces of ecological invasion pressure and economic returns to scale, in relation to the level of clustering of crop fields. Results show that the most cost-effective distances between crop fields in terms of reducing food production impacts from an invasive pest are determined by a delicate balance of these two forces and depend on the values of the ecological and economic parameters involved. If agricultural productivity declines slowly with increasing distance between fields and the dispersal range of the potential invader is high, manipulation of cropping structure has the potential to protect against invasion outbreaks and the farmer can gain benefit overall from maintaining greater distances between fields of similar crops.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-121
Number of pages11
JournalFood Security
Issue number1
Early online date7 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge financial support from the Xunta de Galicia, Conseller?a de Innovaci?n e Industria (project 08MDS032300PR), the NSF as part of the joint NSF-NIH-USDA Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases program (grant 1414374), and the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (grant BB/M008894/1). This paper was presented at a conference sponsored by the OECD's Co-operative Research Programme on Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems whose financial support made it possible for most of the invited speakers to participate. The opinions expressed and arguments employed in this publication are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the OECD or of the governments of its Member countries.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht and International Society for Plant Pathology.


  • Agricultural pests
  • Invasive species
  • Landscape fragmentation
  • Spatial agglomeration

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