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Getting Started with IPM (Integrated Pest Management)

Integrated Pest Management is:
• Eliminating insect, disease and weed problems –
  not eradicating all pests
• Applying pesticides, fertilizers or irrigation only
  when the benefits outweigh the cost
• Considering all of your pest management
  options, including natural, biological
  and chemical methods
Even if you've had no formal
IPM training, there's a good chance
you've already put the IPM "philosophy" to use.
Are you concerned about the environment around you?
Do you want to be a good "steward" to your neighbors?
Do you want to ensure that you're getting the best possible results from your pesticide costs?
Click on the tabs below for some basic information
to help begin an IPM program:
Benefits of IPM

Inputs such as pesticides, fertilizers and irrigation are costly. By using IPM techniques to apply these inputs only when they are truly needed, you can reduce costs. IPM can also help you schedule required applications at precisely the right time, so you get the best possible results and the highest dollar value from your product.

Other benefits include:

  • IPM reduces risk. IPM results in fewer pesticide applications, at reduced rates, using the safest possible materials. This minimizes the dangers associated with pesticide applications, including accidents, drift, and toxic effects on non-target organisms and wildlife.
  • IPM delays pest resistance. Applying the same pesticide over and over again results in insect, disease and weed pests that are no longer killed by the formerly fatal pesticide. By choosing from all possible control methods, including biological pesticides, beneficial organisms, and rotating pest control methods, resistance can be delayed or prevented. Preserving the effectiveness of existing pesticides helps reduce costs for everyone.
  • IPM preserves the environment. Indiscriminate pesticide and fertilizer use can reduce populations of beneficial plants, insects, fish, animals and other organisms. Limiting pesticide applications to essential uses — while using the least toxic materials whenever possible — helps preserve the environment.
The short articles on the following page are a few examples of "IPM Success Stories." Whether you're a grower, a crop consultant or a professional involved in structural pest management, IPM may be an option for you.

Monitoring is Key

Scouting or monitoring—the regular inspection of your plants or crops to determine whether pests are approaching a damaging level—is the backbone of IPM. Growers often say they scout, but it often isn't systematic or regular. Setting up a good monitoring program is a cost-effective way to get started in IPM.

In order to set up an effective monitoring program, it's important that you gather certain baseline data (such as soil type and fertility levels, the history of pest problems, and the effectiveness of past control measures) along with other pertinent information, such as weather conditions. This data will help you understand the context within which your pest problems are occurring.

Numerous tools are available to enable you to have ongoing access to critical weather information. These range from a simple min/max thermometer, to "site-specific" daily weather reports, to on-site weather stations. Other good sources of information for the data you need are your local Extension agent, your agchem dealer, independent crop consultants, and/or some Cooperative Extension web sites.

Another important step in setting up a monitoring program is to determine who will do the monitoring. It is best to have the same person monitor your crops or plants throughout the season.

It is also critical that you keep good written records so you have precise data on which to base your management decisions. Written records will also help you compare one season to the next.
Other Important Tips
  • Know your action thresholds. Those who practice IPM understand that the mere presence of a pest is not enough reason to apply a control measure. The number of pests must be sufficient to cause enough harm to pay for the control measure. The number of pests required to justify a control measure is called the "action threshold." IPM means treating only when pests reach or exceed the action threshold. This threshold may be a certain number of damaged plants, insects in a trap or weeds in a field.
  • Develop an IPM "plan of action." An IPM plan can help you identify which management practices are most valuable to your operation. These practices should be your highest priority.
  • Make use of IPM "checklists." These crop-specific checklists, available from some Cooperative Extension Service offices, are a good tool to use when getting started in IPM. The checklists suggest specific IPM practices you might apply, such as crop rotation, scouting, weather monitoring/recording, and applying pesticides only when pest counts exceed the action threshold. See the link "Pest Management Checklists" on the tech resources page, for some examples.