How the epidemiology of disease-resistant and disease-tolerant varieties affects grower behaviour.
Population-scale effects of resistant or tolerant crop varieties have received little consideration from epidemiologists. When growers deploy tolerant crop, population-scale disease pressures are often unaffected. This only benefits growers using tolerant varieties, selfishly decreasing yields for others. However, resistant crop can reduce disease pressure for all. We coupled an epidemiological model with game theory to understand how this affects uptake of control. Each time a grower plants a new crop, they must decide whether to use an improved (i.e. tolerant/resistant) or unimproved variety. This decision is based on strategic-adaptive expectations in our model, with growers comparing last season's profit with an estimate of what is expected from the alternative crop. Despite the positive feedback loop promoting use of a tolerant variety whenever it is available, a mixed unimproved- and tolerant-crop equilibrium can persist. Tolerant crop can also induce bistability between a scenario in which all growers use tolerant crop and the disease-free equilibrium, where no growers do. However, due to 'free-riding' by growers of unimproved crop, resistant crop nearly always exists in a mixed equilibrium. This work highlights how growers respond to contrasting incentives caused by tolerant and resistant varieties, and the distinct effects on yields and population-scale deployment.