So, what is Integrated Pest Management, or IPM?
We use this term often, sometimes loosely and sometimes without understanding. The pests farmers are usually concerned about here include weeds, insects and plant diseases. By definition from the University of Wisconsin-Extension Field Crop Scouting Manual, “IPM is a decision-making process that utilizes all available pest management strategies, including cultural, physical, biological and chemical control, to prevent economically damaging pest outbreaks and to reduce risks to human health and the environment.” Who wouldn’t be in favor of this?
IPM is not new; it has been around since the 1950s. It originally was known as “Integrated Control.”
Focus on management
Today’s IPM now focuses on management, not complete control of pests. It is also concerned about the entire cropping system — not just making a decision for today, but thinking well into the future — and considers sustainable solutions to pest challenges, which typically change each year due to temperature and rainfall variability.
IPM is a decision-making process that takes into account economic thresholds for crops (cost of control is less than the expected damage from the pest) and aesthetic thresholds for vegetables, fruits and ornamentals (appearance plays a critical role in the crop’s marketability, i.e., blemishes, spots or bruising on apples and other edibles).
IPM incorporates multiple pest management tactics. It encourages a systems approach, which includes using cultural, physical, biological and chemical control methods. It promotes using no-chemical means first before resorting to chemicals. The use of chemical control is a part of IPM, but usually is our last choice after we have employed other control options.
IPM seeks to prevent economically damaging pest outbreaks and reduce risks to human health and the environment. Public health, the environment, and producers’ profitability and livelihood are all factors that weigh into the decision-making process.
Farmers are encouraged to take advantage of Integrated Pest Management to improve their overall profitability and remain sustainable. To be most successful, they need to understand the main components of IPM and use them together as a package:
Scouting. You have to collect good data in order to make sound, data-driven decisions.
Pest prevention. Remember, an ounce of prevention is equal to a pound of cure.
Control. Use nonchemical methods of control first, then add pesticides.
Research and education. Read, learn and know the facts to use data to make decisions.
Some important tools that are found in every farmer’s IPM toolbox include: crop rotations, hybrid selections, cover crop implementation, pesticide selection and sustainable farming practices. All of these tools need to be used in concert to be highly effective.
Following IPM standards and guidelines will help farm operators be more profitable and sustainable in the long term. Using IPM principles is good for producers, landowners, the environment and the general public. Contact your local county Extension educator to obtain fact sheets, publications and advice that will help your farming operation maintain profitability and continue to be sustainable for many years to come.
Koepp is the Extension agriculture educator in Columbia County, Wis.