Pathogen-tested foundation plant stocks are the cornerstone of sustainable specialty crop production. They provide the propagative units that are used to produce clean planting materials, which are essential as the first-line management option of diseases caused by graft-transmissible pathogens such as viruses, viroids, bacteria, and phytoplasmas.
In the United States, efforts to produce, maintain, and distribute pathogen-tested propagative material of specialty crops are spearheaded by centers of the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN). Agricultural economists collaborated with plant pathologists, extension educators, specialty crop growers, and regulators to investigate the impacts of select diseases caused by graft-transmissible pathogens and to estimate the return on investments in NCPN centers.
Economic studies have proven valuable to the NCPN in (i) incentivizing the use of clean planting material derived from pathogen-tested foundation plant stocks; (ii) documenting benefits of clean plant centers, which can outweigh operating costs by 10:1 to 150:1; (iii) aiding the development of disease management solutions that are not only ecologically driven but also profit maximizing; and (iv) disseminating integrated disease management recommendations that resonate with growers. Together, economic studies have reinforced efforts to safeguard specialty crops in the United States through the production and use of clean planting material.