CEU Series: Improve Your Integrated Pest Management Plan

Management of pests and diseases can be challenging for Florida growers, even under optimum conditions, given the diversity of pest problems in our state and a generally favorable environment for their growth and development.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a process consisting of the balanced use of cultural, biological, and chemical procedures that are environmentally compatible, economically feasible, and socially acceptable to reduce pest populations to tolerable levels while maximizing productivity in a way that is ecologically sound and safe.

IPM is based on taking preventive measures to avoid or solve a pest problem. Often, but not always, it means limiting the use of broad-spectrum pesticides

General IPM principles include regular scouting or monitoring for problems, identifying pests and their life stages, keeping good records of pest management practices, using exclusion techniques, practicing good sanitation, testing soil or plants for nutrients, using biological controls when possible, and using selective pesticides, properly timed and applied.

Pests are unwanted organisms that are a nuisance to man or domestic animals, and can cause injury to humans, animals, plants, structures, and possessions.

Management is the process of making decisions in a systematic way to keep pests from reaching intolerable levels. Small populations of pests can often be tolerated; total eradication is generally not necessary and is often impractical or impossible to achieve.

IPM implies management of all crop pests, including insects, mites, diseases, nematodes, and weeds.

There are several good reasons for adopting an integrated approach to pest management even though it may seem that chemical pesticides provide an adequate level of pest control.

Ecological benefits. Every ecosystem including agricultural cropping systems are made up of living things and their non-living environment in some sort of balance and the actions of one creature in the ecosystem usually affect other, different organisms. The introduction of chemicals into the ecosystem can change this balance, destroying certain species and allowing other species (sometimes pests themselves) to dominate.
Beneficial insects such as the ladybird beetle and lacewing larvae, both of which consume pests, can be killed by pesticides, leaving few natural mechanisms of pest control.

Pesticides may be ineffective. Chemical pesticides are not always effective. Pests can become resistant to pesticides. In fact, approximately 600 cases of pests developing pesticide resistance have been documented to date in the U.S., including a variety of insects, weeds and diseases. In addition, pests may survive chemical applications in situations where the chemical does not reach pests, is washed off, is applied at an improper rate, or is applied at an improper life stage of the pest.

IPM Is not difficult and involves a number of common sense approaches such as accurately identifying the pest, determining the extent of the damage, and making a decision on the appropriate action to take. An IPM approach provides a producer with a variety of additional management tools beyond just chemical pesticides.’

IPM can save money through avoiding crop loss (due to pests), and avoiding unnecessary pesticide expense. For example, onion growers who followed IPM recommendations in 1987 saved more than $23 an acre in insecticide costs. Applicators are able to save on sprays because the calendar is not the basis for spraying; the need is.

Promote a Healthy Environment. Fewer pesticides means less risk to surface water and groundwater, and less hazard to wildlife and humans.

Public Image.Recent public attention on the presence of pesticide residues on produce has heightened pesticide applicator awareness of the level of public concern about chemicals. Consumers are pressuring food stores, which in turn are pressuring producers, for produce that has been grown with as few pesticides as possible. Growing food using integrated pest management can help alleviate public concerns and may provide a marketing advantage.

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