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Integrated Pest Management

Note: The content on this page is from the Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a sustainable, science-based, decision-making process that combines biological, cultural, physical and chemical tools to identify, manage and reduce risk from pests and pest management tools and strategies in a way that minimizes overall economic, health and environmental risks (National IPM Roadmap Definition, updated in 2018).

IPM is an approach to solving pest problems by applying our knowledge about pests to prevent them from damaging crops, harming animals, infesting buildings or otherwise interfering with our livelihood or enjoyment of life. IPM means responding to pest problems with the most effective, least-risk option. Actions are taken to control pests only when their numbers are likely to exceed acceptable levels. Any action taken is designed to target the troublesome pest and limit the impact on other organisms and the environment.

Applying pesticides to crops, animals, buildings or landscapes on a routine basis, regardless of need, is not IPM. Applications of pesticides are always the last resort in an IPM program.

Anyone can use IPM. Farmers, greenhouse growers, facility managers, grounds maintenance personnel, pest management professionals, homeowners and apartment dwellers can all learn how to apply low-risk solutions to prevent pest trouble or respond to problems when they arise.

Agricultural IPM and Community IPM differ in many ways but share the same basic principles of prevention, monitoring, careful analysis of risk, and risk-reduction.

Community IPM is an approach to managing pests in buildings and landscapes including homes, businesses, rights-of-way and recreational areas using proactive, preventative, knowledge-based and low-risk methods.  Community IPM practitioners work to identify and correct pest-friendly conditions,  eliminating access to food, water and harborage by improving sanitation, maintenance, exclusion and landscape management practices. By correcting the conditions that lead to pest problems and using approved pesticides only when necessary, IPM provides more effective pest control while reducing pesticide use.

Key Practices in Agricultural IPM

  • Soil Preparation: Growers give their plants a head start on pest problems by choosing the proper site, testing the soil, rotating crops, creating raised beds where necessary, and providing sufficient organic matter.

  • Planting: Growers plant crops that tolerate common problems, altering planting time and spacing to discourage certain diseases and insects.

  • Forecasting: Weather data are consulted to predict if and when pest outbreaks will occur. Treatments can then be properly timed, preventing crop damage and saving sprays.

  • Pest Trapping: Traps that are attractive to insects are used so that growers can pinpoint when the pest has arrived and decide whether control is justified.

  • Monitoring: Growers inspect representative areas of the fields regularly to determine whether pests are approaching a damaging level.

  • Thresholds: Before treating, growers wait until pest populations reach a scientifically determined level that could cause economic damage. Until that threshold is reached, the cost of yield and quality loss will be less than the cost for control.

  • Cultural Controls: The pest’s environment it then disrupted by turning under crop residues, sterilizing greenhouse tools, and harvesting early.

  • Biological Controls: It is necessary for growers to conserve the many beneficial natural enemies already at work. They import and use additional biologicals where effective.

  • Chemical Controls: Growers select the most effective and appropriate pesticide and properly calibrate sprayers. They then verify that weather conditions will permit good coverage without undue drift.

  • Recordkeeping: Records of pest traps, weather and treatment are kept for use in pest management decisions.

Key Practices in Community IPM

  • Inspection and Monitoring: Regular, close examination of structures and landscaping to accurately diagnose pest problems and their sources. Monitoring devices such as sticky traps for insects can indicate pest presence, abundance and direction of travel.

  • Sanitation, Pest-Proofing and Exclusion: Food and water sources and harborage are identified and eliminated.

  • Communication: Educating building occupants to avoid pest-friendly conditions and unauthorized pesticide use, and to report pest sightings promptly.

  • Recordkeeping: Documenting pest complaints, inspection and monitoring results, pesticide applications and recommendations.

  • Low-Risk Pesticides: Non-chemical methods including prevention are the first line of defense. If pesticide use is necessary, products are available such as baits, gels and dusts, with low-toxicity active ingredients applied in ways that greatly limit potential for exposure.

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