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 possible hazard to people, property, and the environment. The IPM approach can be applied to both agricultural and non-agricultural settings, such as the home, garden, and workplace. IPM 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. The rationale for using IPM is threefold. It can cut production costs mainly by reducing energy inputs. IPM can reduce environmental contamination through the judicious use or reduced use of pesticides. An IPM program allows for maximum utilization of cultural practices and natural enemies (for plant pests) and physical methods (for storage pests). IPM can be designed to take advantage of the ecological principles governing pest population abundance. This requires a thorough understanding of the role of all the factors responsible for a pest population reaching certain levels at a particular time of the year, or duration of storage. How do IPM programs 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: 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 control 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. 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. 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 or the environment. Control: Once monitoring, identification, and action thresholds indicate that pest control is required & preventive methods are no longer effective or available, IPM programs then evaluate the proper control method both for 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. There are 4 general types of single component control methods may be used in IPM programs: Chemical Control: A variety of insecticides have been & are continuously being developed for control of insect pests. However, these chemicals are but one tool and should be used in combination with other tactics in an IPM program. The total reliance on chemicals has led to a crisis situation (including pest resurgence, insect resistance, secondary pest outbreaks, environmental contamination, and hazards to human health). However, IPM does not advocate the complete withdrawal of pesticides. That would be impractical. IPM simply demands use of pesticide only when necessary and at rates compatible with other strategies. Physical and Mechanical Methods: Physical and mechanical methods are direct or indirect (non-chemical) measures that completely eliminate pests, or make the environment unsuitable for their entry, dispersal, survival and reproduction. Physical-mechanical control measures may include environmental manipulation (temperature, relative humidity, control atmosphere), mechanical barriers, light taps, irradiation, thermal disinfestation, sanitation, etc. Many times, mechanical and physical methods require considerable extra equipment, materials and labor, hence, they may only be economical in certain situations. For field pests, these methods are rather inefficient but in a storage ecosystem, many of the physical techniques are effective and have great potential for use in an IPM system. Biological Control: Biological control may be defined in a narrow sense as "the manipulation of predators or pathogens to manage the density of an insect population". This definition does not include the naturally occurring control agents, but only parasitoids, predators & pathogens that are purposely manipulated by man. In a broader sense, it includes "the manipulation of other biological facets of the pest life system, such as its reproductive processes (i.e. sterile male technique), its behavior (pheromanes), the quality of its food and so forth." There are some constraints to the potential use and success of natural enemies. Predators, parasites and pathogens found amongst the grain will be regarded as contaminants by consumers and grain exporters. Thus, it makes it very difficult to maintain a pest population level that will enable the biological control agents to establish themselves. The use of pheromones is one of the potentially useful biological agents that could be utilized in IPM for monitoring and partially suppressing pest population not only in agricultural fields but in storage ecosystems. Host-Plant Resistance: The manipulation of the genetic make up of the host so that it is resistant to pest attack is called host plant resistance. Over the years there have been numerous successes in breeding for resistance to a variety of pests and currently many crops are being selected for this purpose. If I grow my own fruits and vegetables, can I practice IPM in my garden? Yes, the same principles used by large farms can be applied to your own garden by following the four-tiered approach outlined above. For more specific information on practicing IPM in your garden, you can contact your state Extension Services.