IPM Principles

The integrated pest management (IPM) concept is simple...to manage agricultural and urban pests by combining the use of all practical methods of pest control including biological, cultural, physical and chemical methods, in a manner that attains the clients' goals while minimizing economic, health and environmental risks.

As environmental concerns pertaining to the use of chemical pesticides continues to grow, IPM offers the most rational approach to managing insect pests. The IPM rational continues to receive a considerable amount of attention.

Under agricultural IPM program guides, farm fields are scouted on a frequent basis during the growing season. Data obtained includes crop stage, levels of pest populations, as well as beneficial insect numbers. The data is compared to established pest thresholds and pesticide applications are made only when pest numbers exceed those economic thresholds. The result is that pesticides are used only when needed.

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
  •   Boll weevil trap.
      A trap placed in proximity of a cotton field is used to capture boll weevils. The trap lures the pest to the trap with the use of a pheramone strip. Numbers captured give an idea of the infestation levels of the pest.

    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
  • Prevention  
    Proper sanitation which includes the removal of food, water and shelter can prevent,reduce, or sometimes eliminate pest problems in the home.  

    Once monitoring, identification, and action thresholds indicate that pest control is required, and 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.

IPM principles can be employed anywhere there are insect pests...and that's everywhere. Even the little rural church on the hill can reap the benefits of this scientifically based and common sense approach to pest control.

Need more information on how to manage pests or incorporate IPM concepts at your home, business, ranch or farm? Contact your local Texas AgriLife Extension Agent, or Texas Pest Management Association.

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