What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?

bugs in the garden

My inexperience in organic farming and gardening has once again left me with my head in the books, researching a new topic for our Facebook followers, IPMs. Again, I have learned so much helpful information about this subject, that I can't help but share it on our blog. Of course, being a social media intern, my first stop was google, which led me directly to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencies website. It was here where I learned what exactly IPM is and how they work. Although I have a pretty good grasp on this topic now, I couldn't possibly put the information into better words than the website does already. It is for this reason, that the following information has been taken directly off of their web page.

What Is IPM?

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least hazard to people, property, and the environment. The IPM approach can be applied to both agriculture and non-agricultural settings, such as the home, garden, or workplace. IMP takes advantage of all appropriate pest management options including, but not limited to, the judicious use of pesticides. In contrast, organic food production applies many of the same concepts as IPM but limits the use of pesticides to those that are produced from natural sources, as opposed to synthetic chemicals.

How Does IPM Work?

IPM is not a single pest control method but, rather, a series of pest management evaluations, decisions and controls. In practicing IPM, growers who are aware of the potential for pest infestation follow a four-tiered approach.

The four steps include:

1. Set Action Thresholds

Before taking any pest control action, IPM first sets an action threshold, a point at which pest populations or environmental conditions indicate that pest action must be taken. Sighting a single pest does not always mean control is needed. The level at which pests will either become an economic threat is critical to guide future pest control decisions.

2. Monitor and Identify Pests

Not all insects, weeds, and other living organisms require control. Many organisms are innocuous, and some are even beneficial. IPM programs work to monitor for pests and identify them accurately, so that appropriate control decisions can be made in conjunction with action thresholds. This monitoring and identification removes the possibility that pesticides will be used when they are not really needed or that the wrong kind of pesticide will be used.

3. Prevention

As a first line of pest control, IPM programs work to manage the crop, lawn, or indoor space to prevent pests from becoming a threat. In an agricultural crop, this may mean using cultural methods, such as rotating between different crops, selecting pest-resistant varieties, and planting pest-free rootstock. These control methods can be very effective and cost-efficient and present little to no risk to people of the environment.

4. Control

Once monitoring, identification, and action thresholds indicate that pest control is required, and preventative methods are no longer effective or available, IPM programs then evaluate the proper control method for both effectiveness and risk. Effective, less risky pest controls are chosen first, including highly targeted chemicals, such as pheromones to disrupt pest mating, or mechanical control, such as trapping or weeding. If further monitoring, identifications and action thresholds indicate that less risky controls are not working, then additional pest control methods would be employed, such as targeted spraying of pesticides. Broadcast spraying of non-specific pesticides is a last resort.

  • Many, if not most, agricultural growers identify their pests before spraying.
  • In most cases, food grown using IPM practices is not identified in the marketplace like "organic" food. There is no national certification for growers using IPM.

*A note - Pesticide is a word that is heavy with assumptions, however, a pesticide is simply anything that kills a pest/pests. There are such things as organic pesticides and certain bugs can work as active and helpful pesticides just the same.

Another source that had a large doing in teaching more about IPM, was the book, "The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control". This book details many different ways in which a gardener can fight off pests without the use of harmful chemicals. A lot of this information was quite fascinating to me! Who would have thought that garlic oil could help in killing insects? Or that our kitchen spice cabinets may be holding the weapon of choice for getting rid of pesky ants? I would recommend definitely checking out this book for these and other helpful pest control tips. I hope you have found this informational to be useful and as always, Happy Gardening!!

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