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Determining ~pmple Size ~

Deborah A. Neher and C. Lee Campbell

A hand caIculator or computer spreadsheet may be used for calculations. Allow about one hour te
complete this exercise.


Sampling is one of the most important activities in the study of plant disease epidemics. Sa:::?ling
provides the information upon which much, if not all, of subsequent epidemic analysis is based. b vir-
tually all cases, a population census is neither feasible from the standpoim of cost nor desirable (e.g_,if
the object is processed destrUctively).
Tne goal of sampling for disease assessment is to obtain a representative estimate of epidemic char-
acteristics (e.g., dísease severity, disease incidence, length of latent period) for an affordable cos: with
the greatest possible accuracy and precision and with mínimal disturbance to the host and paL~.ogen
popu!ations and their environment. Trade-offs with regard to cost, accuracy and precision of est!::1ates,
and disturbance of pathosystems must often be made when implementing a sampling plan in 0.e real
wodd of fie!d, grecnhouse, or controlled-environment studies. Only experience with the pathosys:em in
question, along with the counsel of a statistician, can aid an investigater in which
offs can be accepted reasonably without sacrificing vital elcments of the goaLof sarnpling.
i\'umbers of samples (n) taken for a disease assessment determine data quality or reliability a:::: cost
of !he assessment. Three factors that must be consideredin determining sample number are the s:.:.tisti-
cal estimates of the mean and variance obtained in a preliminary sample or pilot study, the biological
characteristics of the pathosystem, and the resources availablc for sampling. Several texts prc'.'ide a
desc:iption of sampling applicable to plant pathology (Karandinos 1976;Cochran 1977; Ives ano ~.loon
1987: Kranz 1988;Campbell and Duthie 1989;Campbell and Madden 1990).


Tne task of determining an appropriate sample size can be approached through a variety of me:hods.
An informal approach is to determine how many samples one can afford to collect. This is realistic,
provided appropriate checks on quality are implemented. If an investigator is not satisfied with the
quality of data (or cannot assess the quality of data) resulting from this approach, then perhaps L':Cex-
periment should not even be conducted due te lack of resources. Resources spent on obtaining samples
thar. in the end, will be imprecise measures of the pathosystem or population characteristics of ir:terest
are t!me and money wasted. Small pilot studies can be used to determine which components of a patho-
system require the most sample replications in order to have the precision necessary te answer Ü¡Cpri-
orit;: questions.
In this exercisc, you will have the opportUnityto learn methods for three approaches for dete:cÜ;¡ing
appropriate sample size: standard deviation, probability and variance with cost considerations- Each
appraach provides an opportunity to determine sample size with a known leve! of confidence.