Positive Returns from Investment in Fusiform Rust Research
Fusiform rust [Cronartium quercuum (Berk.) Miy. ex Shirai f. sp. fusiforme Burdsall et Snow] is a widespread and damaging disease of loblolly and slash pine across much of the Southern United States. Research by government and university scientists has identified families of these species with improved genetic resistance to infection by the disease, allowing production and planting of resistant seedlings in areas at risk. This paper describes an evaluation that compared the cost of fusiform rust research to the simulated benefits of rust resistant seedlings in plantations established Southwide between 1970 and 2020. Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) records from 1968 to I986 provided the frequency of various infection rates and site qualities among young plantations before substantial effects of improved resistance. These site quality and infection levels formed the inputs to stand-level yield models that simulated the disease’s effects on mortality and product degrade as stands mature. Yields at successive ages were merchandised to three products and valued to permit identification of optimal rotation age. We extrapolated stand-level yields to regional levels using the FIA frequency data plus historical and projected planting rates, The value of these regional yields indicated plantation values in the absence of improved resistance and formed our baseline scenario.