Epidemic network analysis for mitigation of invasive pathogens in seed systems: potato in Ecuador

Seed systems have an important role in the distribution of high-quality seed and improved varieties. The structure of seed networks also helps to determine the epidemiological risk for seedborne disease. We present a new approach for evaluating the epidemiological role of nodes in seed networks, and apply it to a regional potato farmer consortium (Consorcio de Productores de Papa [CONPAPA]) in Ecuador. We surveyed farmers to estimate the structure of networks of farmer seed tuber and ware potato transactions, and farmer information sources about pest and disease management. Then, we simulated pathogen spread through seed transaction networks to identify priority nodes for disease detection. The likelihood of pathogen establishment was weighted based on the quality or quantity of information sources about disease management. CONPAPA staff and facilities, a market, and certain farms are priorities for disease management interventions such as training, monitoring, and variety dissemination. Advice from agrochemical store staff was common but assessed as significantly less reliable. Farmer access to information (reported number and quality of sources) was similar for both genders. However, women had a smaller amount of the market share for seed tubers and ware potato. Understanding seed system networks provides input for scenario analyses to evaluate potential system improvements.