Introduction to IPM

different varieties of apple fruitIPM is based on taking preventive measures, monitoring the crop or site for the level of the pest(s), assessing the potential for pest damage, and choosing appropriate actions. Many different tactics may be available, including cultural practices, biological control agents, pesticides, pest-resistant varieties, mechanical methods and physical barriers. In IPM, these tactics may be combined into a plan that best suits the particular situation.  It is a comprehensive approach dedicated to removing causes rather than just treating symptoms. IPM practitioners determine whether intervention is needed and:

  1. When it is needed,
  2. Where it is needed, and
  3. Which pest management intervention(s) will be appropriate.

Defining IPM

Since the 1930’s, over 60 definitions of IPM have been published.  Here is a basic definition which will be used on this website.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the coordinated use of pest and environmental information along with available pest control methods, including cultural, biological, genetic and chemical 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.

Integrated means that all feasible types of control strategies are considered and combined as appropriate to solve a pest problem.

Pests are unwanted organisms that are a nuisance to man or domestic animals, and can cause injury to humans, animals, plants, and property. Pests reduce yield and/or quality in plants ranging from field crops, fruits and vegetables, to lawns, trees, and golf courses.

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; total eradication is often not necessary, or feasible.

The Basics of IPM

All of the components of an IPM approach can be grouped into three activities.  The first is monitoring; the second is assessing the pest situation; and the third is taking action. Trace these steps through this web site by reading through these pages. For more information follow the links on each page.

IPM is information intensive and relies on scouting and monitoring programs for the collection of field data about key factors such as:

  • Pest population identification
  • Disease pressure
  • Weather conditions and degree-days
  • Pest date of first occurrence of biological events in their annual cycle
  • Crop growth stage
  • Presence, reliance and preservation of beneficial organisms

IPM uses decision support systems for determining if control measures are necessary and what measures are most appropriate. Such as:

  • Economic thresholds – the pest population level that inflicts crop damage greater than the cost of control
  • Availability of selective pesticides
  • Action levels – pest level when action should be applied to prevent pest from reaching injurious levels
  • Environmental risk measurements (i.e. impacts on pollinators)
  • Disease forecasting systems

 IPM programs seek to avoid pest damage through practices such as:

  • Use of field sanitation and reduction of pest habitat
  • Crop rotations
  • Selection of pest/disease tolerant or resistant seeds and varieties
  • Judicious use of pesticides that prevent pest infestations
  • Resistance management

Why Practice IPM?

hummingbird on yellow flowersYou might be wondering why you should even consider IPM when pesticides so often succeed at controlling pests.  Here are some reasons for using a broader approach to pest management than just the use of pesticides.

  • Many IPM practices are used before a pest problem develops to prevent or hinder the buildup of pests.
  • Keep a Balanced Ecosystem. Every ecosystem, made up of living things and their non-living environment, has a balance; the actions of one creature in the ecosystem usually affect other, different organisms.  Many of our actions in an ecosystem can change this balance, destroying certain species and allowing other species (sometimes pests themselves) to dominate.  Beneficial insects, such as the ladybird beetle and lacewing larvae, both of which consume pests, can be killed by pesticides, leaving fewer natural mechanisms of pest control.
  • Reliance on Pesticides can be Problematic.  Pesticides are not always effective when used as a singular control tactic.  Pests can become resistant to pesticides. In fact, some 600 cases of pests developing pesticide resistance have been documented to date, including populations of common lamb-quarters, house flies, Colorado potato beetle, Indian meal moth, Norway rats, and greenhouse whitefly.
  • IPM Is Not Difficult. You will have done much of the “work” for an IPM approach if you’ve figured out the problem (the pest), determined the extent of the pest population, and decided on the best combination of actions to take.
  • Maximize Effectiveness of Control Tactics.  Pest control practitioners, following traditional programs, sometimes apply pesticide treatments on a calendar based schedule regardless of the stage of development of the target pest and the number of pests present.  Using an IPM approach will ensure that all control tactics, including pesticides, are used at the proper time and only to reduce pest damage to acceptable levels.  This will reduce costs from unnecessary pesticide applications and insure that control tactics are used when they will be most effective.
  • Promote a Healthy Environment.  The definition of IPM promotes a careful consideration of all pest control options with protection of the environment a key goal.
  • Natural Enemies Conserved. Parasites and predators are part of the natural control mechanism for some pest populations.  These natural controls are considered and protected in an IPM program
  • Maintain a Good Public Image. A thoughtful approach to pest control, which protects the environment and provides an abundant, affordable crop and safe living conditions, is a basic goal of IPM.

IPM Definitions and Resources

Why Practice IPM

Topics covered in this section


Compiled by Ron Gardner

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