What is IPM?

IPM is a science-based, decision-making process that:

  • combines many different methods, or tactics, including cultural practices, biological control organisms, pesticides, pest-resistant plants, mechanical methods and physical barriers;
  • identifies, manages and reduces risks from pests and pest management strategies;
  • and, minimizes overall economic, health and environmental impacts.
     –paraphrased from “A National Road Map for Integrated Pest Management (2018)

In other words, IPM combines appropriate methods to prevent or reduce pests such as weeds, insects, rodents and the agents that cause plant and human diseases to acceptable levels while causing the least impact on the environment and public health. It also employs direct observation, or monitoring, to determine the level of the pest(s), and it assesses the potential for pest damage to inform choice about appropriate actions. IPM helps reduce over-reliance on pesticides, but pesticides can complement other methods when used as part of an IPM program.

Integrated means that all feasible types of control methods, tools or tactics are considered and combined as appropriate to solve a pest problem. By using a variety of methods (and avoiding reliance on a single method), we can reduce: the likelihood that a pest will invade; the pest’s ability to multiply; pest damage; and the risk of the pest adapting to the control strategy. Because each pest and situation is unique and deserves a flexible approach, IPM programs can be site-, crop- or pest-specific. This is what makes IPM adaptable to many settings, not just agriculture.

Pests are unwanted organisms that are a nuisance to man or domestic animals, or can cause injury to humans, animals, plants, and property. Pests can reduce yield and/or quality in harvested products. They can also harm structures, and spread diseases to animals and humans. The damage inflicted by pests can be merely aesthetic or it may be life threatening. Organisms considered a pest in one scenario, or from one perspective, may be acceptable or even desirable in another scenario or from another perspective. For example, bermudagrass may be a desirable turf species on someone’s property but considered a pest (weed) to someone maintaining a tall fescue lawn.

Management is the process of making decisions in a systematic way to keep pests from reaching intolerable levels. Small populations of pests can often be tolerated and encouraged to maintain natural enemies thus, total control or eradication is often not necessary, or feasible. 

IPM doesn’t mean “organic,” although organic production benefits from the use of IPM. It’s not about the elimination of pesticides or using “pesticides as a last resort or least toxic pesticides only.” IPM is about the best use of all tools, including pesticides, in a way that cohesively targets the pest now and into the future. Good IPM practices make use of each method available in the best possible way to both achieve effective control and preserve the individual method for use in the future.

IPM Definitions and Resources:

Radcliffe’s IPM World Textbook

University of California Statewide IPM Program

  1. What is IPM?
  2. Why Practice IPM?
  3. Pest Identification
  4. The PAMS Approach
  5. Monitoring
    1. Insect monitoring traps
    2. Digital monitoring and decision tools
  6. Suppression
  7. IPM Resources
  8. IPM Quiz