Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a combination of techniques to identify, control, prevent and manage pests and the damage they can do in a way that doesn’t rely primarily on pesticides, but only uses them as a last resort if absolutely necessary. IPM is relatively easy to use and can be performed by homeowners but also on a larger scale in greenhouses, grounds of businesses, and farmers.
IPM was developed in response to many problems coming from the extensive use of pesticides. Some of these problems include, increased pest resistance, elimination of natural enemies to pests, increased negative effects on natural pollinators, and environmental contamination. With IPM, action to actually control a pest isn’t taken until the pest is at a level that exceeds acceptable, where it is causing damage that financially or environmentally affects the plant and the farmer.
IPM practices can be comparable with organic farming, as organic farmers also do not use inorganic pesticides. However, the main difference between the two lies in the techniques used to control pests, and the fact that with IPM, inorganic and organic pesticides can be used if absolutely necessary, similar to Regenerative Agriculture.
Pest Control Methods for Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
The strategies and techniques used in IPM are developed using knowledge of pests, their life cycles and the damages they can do. The natural control agents of these pests, such as their natural enemies, are also taken into consideration, as well as other effective control methods with limited negative effects, such as traps. There are many types of traps that can be used depending on the pest, such as sticky traps, pheromone traps, etc. Sticky traps [as seen in the picture below], can be white or brightly colored to attract insects, usually the issue with this is that it can attract any insect as it is not specific. This means even beneficial insects can be stuck in them such as beneficial pollinators. Another example is a pheromone trap, which is usually better but costs more than a sticky trap, as it uses the pheromone of the particular insect to attract them to the trap in which they get stuck.
Other control methods include planning and prepping the site at which crops will be grown. Plants can get a head start on pest problems when a good site is chosen for them to grow, the soil is tested, crops are rotated, raised beds are created when necessary, and growers are ensuring there is sufficient organic matter. Also, altering planting time and spacing, as well as rotating crops can discourage certain pests and diseases, as you are keeping in mind their life cycle as well as what specific plants they prefer. Another important factor is sanitation. Sanitizing all tools, equipment and produce ensures there will be no transfer of pests or diseases to other crops or that once the crops are put in storage the pests or diseases wouldn’t run rampant and destroy the crops.
Another control method is biological control, or using a pest’s natural enemies, this could be another insect. By introducing a predator for the pest their population can be minimized. However, it is important to be knowledgeable of the natural enemy as it is possible that you could be introducing an invasive species into a new ecosystem.
As a last resort pesticides will be used. Ideally these pesticides will have minimum toxicity, and will be species specific in order to prevent negative impacts on other species as well as humans. However, a non species pesticide can be used if it is unavoidable. No matter which pesticide you end up using, it is important to ensure there is no pesticide drift. By checking the weather beforehand you can plan a pesticide spraying schedule.
Developing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan
Usually the first step in developing an IPM plan is forecasting and planning. This involves performing research on what pests may be present either in the area or attracted to the crop, while taking into consideration weather conditions and the seasons. These are important as they can predict pest outbreaks, which can then inform the control methods used. Planning the threshold is also important as the level of damage at which you will take action against the pest needs to be decided. For example, you could decide that action needs to be taken when one third of the crop is being affected as this is the level at which the cost of damage, whether that is yield or loss of quality, exceeds the cost of control methods.
The next step in developing an IPM plan is inspection and monitoring. By regularly inspecting and monitoring crops, plants, etc. you are able to keep an eye on the progress of pest damage but also what pests are present. A sticky trap can be used as a control method but also a monitoring method as an indicator of which pests are present, their movement and an estimate of their abundance. By monitoring the damage you can also determine when the damage is at a level that is unacceptable and needs control either through extra traps or by using pesticides.
Lastly in the plan is communication and recordkeeping. Communication is useful in educating others about the advantages and disadvantages of IPM, and the importance of avoiding harmful pesticides. Communication is also important when reporting pest sightings. There are a number of companies, websites or apps that can be used to report a damaging or invasive pest. This then leads to recordkeeping. Individuals can participate in recordkeeping by documenting pests in their area, their inspection and monitoring results, as well as weather, treatments they have performed and their effectiveness against the pest. Companies can also compile information they have received about pest sightings to help inform monitoring and expectations of pests in certain areas.
Advantages of IPM
Three main advantages of IPM include:
Slower pesticide resistance. With the use of heavy pesticides there is a high chance that those pests will become resistant to the pesticide over time. As they reproduce, their offspring will inherit genes which are slightly more resistant to the pesticide as a result of natural selection. Over time they will reach a point where they will be completely resistant to the pesticide, which then makes it more difficult to control them without causing more damage to the environment by using more toxic pesticides. With IPM, pesticide is a last resort as you are usually able to control the pest using other methods. This decrease in the amount of pesticides used leads to a slower development of pesticide resistance.
Maintaining & preserving biodiversity. Pesticides can have damaging effects on humans in high volumes but also non specific species in the area such as native pollinators. Damaging effects include species loss, which can be extremely damaging if the species is a keystone species. A keystone species is one without which an ecosystem would be dramatically different from what it is normally, resulting in the loss of several other species. An example of a keystone species are bees, as they have massive importance to pollinating and ensuring the success of our crops, but also are a source of food for a range of animals. With IPM there are more options for species specific control, and less damage to the ecosystem and important native species.
Better cost savings. Overall IPM is better in the long run as there is more savings due to the decreased use in pesticides. Compared to regular pesticide application, IPM is cheaper and more beneficial long term.
Disadvantages of IPM
The main disadvantage to IPM is the time, knowledge and resources needed to be able to successfully implement an IPM strategy.
It takes time to implement the strategy as each stage needs to be planned beforehand, with knowledge such as the pests life cycle playing an important role in the control methods used. Time and resources are also needed to determine which control methods are the best, as this may take some trial and error before settling for the most effective one.
These disadvantages can be minimized with assistance from organizations or the government in education and training to make it easier for farmers and individuals to implement IPM.
Environmental Protection Agency. (2022). Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Principles. https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/integrated-pest-management-ipm-principles
IPM Institute of North America. (2022). What is Integrated Pest Management?. https://ipminstitute.org/what-is-integrated-pest-management/
Planet Bee Foundation. (2021). Bees: An Environmental Keystone. https://www.planetbee.org/planet-bee-blog//bees-an-environmental-keystone
Province of British Columbia. (2022). Integrated Pest Management. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/animals-and-crops/plant-health/integrated-pest-management
Soomro, A. (2022). Pros and Cons of Integrated Pest Management. Environment Buddy.