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WSU Decision Aid System (DAS)

What is DAS?

WSU-DAS (das.wsu.edu) is a web-based platform designed to transfer time-sensitive information to decision makers in the tree fruit industry. It currently consists of ten insect, four disease, and two horticultural models. It implements models that estimate the current status of the issue, provides management recommendations including access to pesticide recommendations. DAS is a comprehensive system that incorporates environmental data from WSU-AgWeatherNet, forecasts from NOAA’s National Digital Forecast Database, and other information sources such as WSU’s Orchard Pest Management Online.

A Tool Used by the Industry

We performed user surveys in 2008, 2010, and 2013 to estimate usage and areas where we needed to improve the system. The results showed that DAS is used by the majority of IPM decision makers in the industry. Roughly 300 managers or management consultants use DAS on a regular basis on >80% of the acreage throughout the season. All three user surveys estimated that the value for DAS to the industry was roughly $16.5M/yr. Users felt that DAS clarified treatment timing, improved their overall management program, helped them choose pesticides for best efficacy and least effects on natural enemies, and was a good source of general IPM information. Users also reported better pest control and lower management costs.

Finally, DAS users indicated that 81% of them shared information on DAS with others, suggesting that its impact is broader than what can be estimated by just counting those who regularly access the web site. Simply put, DAS reaches the decision makers in the industry.

Fees

WSU-DAS is now a yearly subscription fee site. The fee is $150.00 for each station per year. With this yearly fee, each station will have access to all tree fruit models, historic data, the DAS Sprayguide, model notifications and all future upgrades to the DAS software.

Quick Overview

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Returning Users

How DAS was Developed

How was DAS developed?

DAS has been supported for the last 7+ years on competitively acquired grant funds from state, federal and industry funds (sources are shown in the pie chart to the right - none of the WSU faculty time is listed). Grants are provided by a particular agency to further the goals of that agency that also help WSU meet our land grant mission. These funds are actually a legal contract that WSU will meet the objectives outlined in the grants within a particular time frame (generally 1-3 years), but do not allow obligations once the granting period is over and funds are expended. Grant funds are not provided as a free gift for WSU to use as they see fit, the objectives must be fulfilled.

Current Status

Although we have been successful for the past 7+ years, granting agencies (including the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission) have told us that they will no longer support projects that have any maintenance of DAS associated with them. Nor will they pay for the implementation of new features based on previous finished research.

WSU Extension stepped up starting 1 January 2014 and has provided funding for a single programmer for maintenance – this amounts to about one-third of the total cost to run DAS. In addition to the single programmer, DAS requires a manager/educator for outreach, training, and project coordination and a second programmer to implement new features and improvements.

Attempts to find a Solution

For long-term stability and to improve DAS, we need stable funding. We worked with our advisory committee over the past three years looking for alternative ways to raise funding, but none of the methods proved viable even in the short run. We have tried a fund raising campaign, approached chemical companies and large pest management companies in 2011-2013. Our donations to date are $50 from one private person. No chemical company or large management company committed to provide even short term funding.

Industry-wide cost-sharing seems impractical at this time because of potential confusion with the recent Tree Fruit Endowment campaign. There is no funding from the Tree Fruit Endowment for DAS, nor has there been any discussion with endowment advisory committee members or WSU administrators that suggests there will be funding from the endowment in the future.

Without additional support, both the long-term and short-term viability of DAS are in doubt. Having found no suitable alternative for funding and with encouragement from our advisory committee (all industry members), the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, and WSU-Extension, we are attempting to stabilize the funding with the user fees. It is important to note that DAS is a non-profit, so that if the current cost gives a surplus, it would result in reducing fees the following year or be used in the short term to fast-track the implementation of new features.

Industry-wide cost-sharing seems impractical at this time because of potential confusion with the recent Tree Fruit Endowment campaign. There is no funding from the Tree Fruit Endowment for DAS, nor has there been any discussion with endowment advisory committee members or WSU administrators that suggests there will be funding from the endowment in the future.

Setting User Fees

We have set the fees based on previous use patterns and with the goal of meeting the needs to just run the system and to keep the improvements coming. We are solely attempting to fund the needs of the system, we are not attempting to make a profit. Although there are a number of ways that we could have set up the price structure, we decided on a flat fee for all users so that everyone pays the same amount for the services they use; larger users don’t get a discount at the expense of the smaller users or vice-versa. The first year will provide us a better picture of the funding available and we expect there will be some tweaks in the future to make sure that the cost-sharing is as fair as possible. Our surveys have shown consistently that users estimated the value of using DAS at ≈$75/acre. Thus, our current cost of $150 per station would be quickly made up even if a grower has just a small orchard.

Decision Aid System (DAS) - Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center
1100 N Western Ave, Washington State University, Wenatchee WA 98801, 509-663-8181
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