Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management
IPM (Integrated Pest Management) is the use of several pest control
methods together, along with a rigorous and consistent monitoring of
fields and crops. IPM emphasizes the growth of a healthy crop with the
least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural
pest control mechanisms. Entomologists and ecologists have urged the
adoption of IPM pest control for many years as it allows for a safer
means of controlling pests. This includes managing insects, plant
pathogens and weeds.
Today many growers no longer apply pesticides to food on a regular
basis regardless of whether or not there are insects, weeds, or other
pest problems. Instead, they carefully watch pest populations, and
apply pesticides only when needed, and target them towards the
specific pest. In addition, rather than applying one strong chemical,
they use a variety of techniques. For example, during the insect
breeding season, a farmer may use pheromones to block reproduction
or sterilize insects, along with a small amount of pesticide to keep
populations down, and then finally they may introduce a natural
predator (such as a spider) onto the fields to keep insect populations
low. In this way, pest resistance to a chemical is kept to a minimum,
the farmer is reducing cost for chemicals, and there are fewer health
IPM requires a knowledge of the ecology of the fields and the pests,
and how to break pest ‘cycles’ using multiple approaches. There are
many programs now to educate farmers so they can apply this
management approach. Ironically, farmers themselves used to be IPM
experts in the days before the green revolution, when a deep
understanding of the insect and crop cycles on a farm were critical for
successful yields, and management required a multi-faceted approach.
That knowledge was largely lost when successive generations of
farmers were trained more on the economics of high yields, and how
to achieve them with synthetic products and high chemical use. More
and more farmers today are using IPM, and in some parts of the
country, food is being marketed as IPM food (implying lower chemical
pesticide use).
Some practices for preventing pest damage may include:
inspecting crops and monitoring crops for damage, and
using mechanical trapping devices, natural predators (e.g., insects
that eat other insects), insect growth regulators, mating
disruption substances (pheromones), and if necessary, chemical
pesticides. The use of biological pesticides is an important
component of IPM. A great local example that you may have
seen or used is spraying ladybugs (alive) onto crops. Lady bugs
eat aphids (a major pest to crops). A farmer can also use salt or
a salt based pesticide at the same time, which kills the soft
bodied aphids, but does not affect the lady bugs because they
have a hard ‘shell’ made of chitin. All of this can be done at the
time of year when aphid eggs hatch, to avoid a large outbreak of
these pests.
In technical terms, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the
coordinated use of pest and environmental information with available
pest control methods to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage
by the most economical means and with the least possible hazard to
people, property, and the environment.
Here is a great website on IPM from UC Davis: