Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a term you may have been hearing a lot about lately. It is, simply, an effective and environmentally friendly way to manage pests. A main goal of IPM is to reduce the use of pesticides while keeping pest populations at an acceptable level.

IPM isn’t a single method but a series of evaluations, decisions and controls. Three stages can be considered when using IPM; prevention, observation and intervention.

  1. Prevention: This is a first line of defense. Some cultural controls used to prevent pest problems include crop rotation, planting resistant varieties and choosing healthy, pest-free plants. Proper use of fertilizer and irrigation are necessary for healthy plants. Keeping weeds and debris to a minimum are also effective prevention methods.
  2. Observation: Monitor and identify pests. Most insects aren’t harmful and some are even beneficial. You certainly don’t want to kill off your beneficial insects so it’s very important to identify what you’re looking at. Proper identification will enable you to find the life cycle and best treatment time to get the best control. Set a threshold for damage. Seeing a single insect does not mean control is necessary. When the damage you’re seeing reaches a level that is unacceptable to you, intervention is necessary. This monitoring & identification helps eliminate the possibility that pesticides will be used when not really needed or when they won’t be effective.
  3. Intervention: Once it has been decided that control is necessary, choose the proper method. Use the least hazardous option first. This might include trapping, using growth regulators, mating disrupters or even changing some of your cultural practices. Biological control would be tried next. Beneficial insects, fungi and bacteria can be useful tools to control certain pests. If those controls don’t work, then additional methods would be used. This would be a spray of pesticides targeting the specific insect. A broadcast spray of non-specific pesticide is your last resort.

IPM realizes there will always be insects and disease to cause us trouble. The huge benefit of using IPM to control these pest problems is the ecological reward we all receive by recognizing that not all pests are serious enough to require immediate treatment. Understanding the many options available for pest control and using the least harmful option first will keep us all, the earth included, healthier, longer. And that will make everyone happy.

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