An economic evaluation of fusiform rust protection research
Fusiform rust is a widespread and damaging disease of loblolly pine (P. taeda) and slash pine (P. elliottii) in the South. Research has identified families of these pines with improved genetic resistance to the disease, allowing production and planting of resistant seedlings in areas at risk. This study compared the cost of fusiform rust research to the simulated benefits of rust resistant seedlings in plantations that have been or are projected to be established Southwide between 1970 and 2020. Results showed that compounded fusiform rust research costs of $49 million in 1992 will return discounted benefits to plantation owners of between $108 and $999 million in 1992, at a 4% real discount rate. The most probable targeting of rust resistant seedlings would provide estimated discounted benefits of fusiform rust protection of about $200 to $300 million in 1992, or annual discounted benefits of $40 to $60 million. This would generate benefit-cost ratios of about 4:1 to 6:1 for fusiform rust research. Currently anticipated improvements in resistance will not eliminate all physical and financial damages from the disease; simulation results indicate substantial financial benefits yet remain for additional research and development.