While pesticide use for the control of pests and diseases is and will continue to be important in the production of food, pest management is shifting from relying exclusively on pesticides to using an integrated approach based on pest assessment, decision making, and evaluation. Using integrated pest management (IPM) makes economic sense, has benefits for pest managers and the environment, and can reduce the development of resistance in pest populations.
Integrated pest management is a collection of pest management strategies that incorporates a range of pest control tactics. The goal is to prevent pests from reaching economically or aesthetically damaging levels with the least risk to the environment. It involves anticipating pest outbreaks and the prevention of potential damage. To be successful, IPM programs must be based on identification of pests, accurate measurement of pest populations, assessment of damage levels, and knowledge of available pest management strategies.
IPM Step 1: Identify The Pest And Understand Its Biology
Correct identification is important whether you are dealing with an insect, weed, plant disease, or vertebrate. The more that is known about a pest, the easier successful pest management becomes. Once a pest is correctly identified, you can research information about its life cycle and behavior, the factors that favor development, and the recommended control procedures. Correct identification can also help determine the significance of the pest and the need for control. Some pests have little impact on a plant, animal, or structure and do not require control. Other pests warrant immediate control because they can cause serious crop damage.
The concept of economic thresholds is useful in determining whether or not a pest should be controlled. The presence of a pest does not always cause a loss in quality or quantity of an agricultural or ornamental product. To justify the cost of control, pest populations must be large enough to cause significant damage. This population level is called the economic threshold (ET). The ET is defined as the population density (number of pests per unit of area) at which control measures are needed to prevent the pest from reaching the economic injury level (EIL).
The EIL is the pest population density that causes losses equal to the cost of control measures. To make a control practice profitable, it is necessary to set the ET below the EIL. Otherwise, growers stand to lose money — first from the damage caused by the pest, and then by the cost of applying the control. Setting the ET below the EIL triggers pesticide application and other controls before pests reach the EIL.
The ET and EIL can be used as a basis for determining action thresholds. An action threshold is the pest level at which some type of pest management action must be taken. It is a predetermined pest level that is deemed to be unacceptable. Factors besides economics may come into consideration for establishing action thresholds. In some situations, the action threshold for a pest may be zero (i.e., no presence of the pest is tolerated — an example would be citrus fruit destined for a canker-free area).
IPM Step 2: Monitor Closely The Pest To Be Managed
Regular monitoring is the key to a successful IPM program. Monitoring involves measuring pest populations and/or the resulting damage or losses. Scouting and trapping are commonly used to monitor insects and their activity. Weather and temperature data are particularly helpful in following a pest’s life cycle or in predicting how long it takes a certain pest to develop. Models have been developed for a number of insects and plant diseases to predict the need for and timing of pesticide applications.
IPM Step 3: Develop The Pest Management Goal
The goal of most IPM programs is to maintain pest damage at economically acceptable levels. Prevention and suppression techniques are often combined in an effective IPM program. In rare instances, eradication may be the goal of an IPM program. Once the goal of the program has been determined, the strategy for a sound IPM program is to coordinate the use of multiple tactics into a single integrated system. Pesticides are just one method for controlling pests. Non-chemical methods may provide longer and more permanent control of a pest and should always be considered when developing a pest management strategy. Evaluate the costs, benefits, and liabilities of each control tactic.
IPM Step 4: Implement The Integrated Pest Management Program
The following steps should be taken before implementing an IPM program:
– Identify the pest
– Set up a monitoring program
– Know the pest level that triggers control
– Know what control methods are available
– Evaluate the benefits and risks of each method
When implementing an IPM program, try to select the methods that are the most effective and the least harmful to people and the environment. Use several methods whenever possible, and be sure to use them correctly. It is also important to observe all local, state, and federal regulations regarding the methods chosen.
IPM Step 5: Always Record And Evaluate Results
It is extremely important to record and evaluate the results of your control efforts. Some control methods, especially non-chemical procedures, are slow to yield measurable results. Other methods may be ineffective or even damaging to the target crop, animal, treated surface, or natural predators and parasites. Consider how well your strategies work and their impact on the environment before implementing them again.
Successful pest management programs do not happen by accident. They require careful observation, a thorough knowledge of the pest and the damage it causes, an understanding of all available pest control options, and a professional approach. These steps are at the very heart of a successful IPM progam.