Integrated pest management (IPM) is a pest control strategy that uses a variety of complementary strategies including: mechanical devices, physical devices, genetic, biological, cultural management, and chemical management.
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These methods are done in three stages: prevention, observation, and intervention. It is an ecological approach with a main goal of significantly reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides while at the same time managing pest populations at an acceptable level. For their leadership in developing and spreading IPM worldwide, Dr. Perry Adkisson and Dr. Ray F. Smith received the 1997 World Food Prize.
Shortly after World War II, when synthetic insecticides became widely available, entomologists in California developed the concept of supervised insect control. Around the same time, entomologists in cotton-belt states such as Arkansas were advocating a similar approach. Under this scheme, insect control was "supervised" by qualified entomologists, and insecticide applications were based on conclusions reached from periodic monitoring of pest and natural-enemy populations. This was viewed as an alternative to calendar-based insecticide programs. Supervised control was based on a sound knowledge of the ecology and analysis of projected trends in pest and natural-enemy populations.
Supervised control formed much of the conceptual basis for the "integrated control" that University of California entomologists articulated in the 1950s. Integrated control sought to identify the best mix of chemical and biological controls for a given insect pest. Chemical insecticides were to be used in manner least disruptive to biological control. The term "integrated" was thus synonymous with "compatible." Chemical controls were to be applied only after regular monitoring indicated that a pest population had reached a level (the economic threshold) that required treatment to prevent the population from reaching a level (the economic injury level) at which economic losses would exceed the cost of the artificial control measures.
In the United States, IPM was formulated into national policy in February 1972 when President Nixon directed federal agencies to take steps to advance the concept and application of IPM in all relevant sectors. In 1979, President Carter established an interagency IPM Coordinating Committee to ensure development and implementation of IPM practices.
An IPM system is designed around six basic components: The US Environmental Protection Agency has a useful set of IPM principles.
- Acceptable pest levels: The emphasis is on control, not eradication. IPM holds that wiping out an entire pest population is often impossible, and the attempt can be more costly, environmentally unsafe, and frequently unachievable. IPM programs first work to establish acceptable pest levels, called action thresholds, and apply controls if those thresholds are crossed. These thresholds are pest and site specific, meaning that it may be acceptable at one site to have a weed such as white clover, but at another site it may not be acceptable. This stops the pest gaining resistance to chemicals produced by the plant or applied to the crops. If many of the pests are killed then any that have resistance to the chemical will rapidly reproduce forming a resistant population. By not killing all the pests there are some un-resistant pests left that will dilute any resistant genes that appear.
- Preventive cultural practices: Selecting varieties best for local growing conditions, and maintaining healthy crops, is the first line of defense, together with plant quarantine and 'cultural techniques' such as crop sanitation (e.g. removal of diseased plants to prevent spread of infection).
- Monitoring: Regular observation is the cornerstone of IPM. Observation is broken into two steps, first; inspection and second; identification. Visual inspection, insect and spore traps, and other measurement methods and monitoring tools are used to monitor pest levels. Accurate pest identification is critical to a successful IPM program. Record-keeping is essential, as is a thorough knowledge of the behavior and reproductive cycles of target pests. Since insects are cold-blooded, their physical development is dependent on the temperature of their environment. Many insects have had their development cycles modeled in terms of degree days. Monitor the degree days of an environment to determine when is the optimal time for a specific insect's outbreak.
- Mechanical controls: Should a pest reach an unacceptable level, mechanical methods are the first options to consider. They include simple hand-picking, erecting insect barriers, using traps, vacuuming, and tillage to disrupt breeding.
- Biological controls: Natural biological processes and materials can provide control, with minimal environmental impact, and often at low cost. The main focus here is on promoting beneficial insects that eat target pests. Biological insecticides, derived from naturally occurring microorganisms (e.g.: Bt, entomopathogenic fungi and entomopathogenic nematodes), also fit in this category.
- Chemical controls: Synthetic pesticides are generally only used as required and often only at specific times in a pests life cycle. Many of the newer pesticide groups are derived from plants or naturally occurring substances (e.g.: nicotine, pyrethrum and insect juvenile hormone analogues), and further 'biology-based' or 'ecological' techniques are under evaluation.
IPM is applicable to all types of agriculture and sites such as residential and commercial structures, lawn and turf areas, and home and community gardens. Reliance on knowledge, experience, observation, and integration of multiple techniques makes IPM a perfect fit for organic farming (the synthetic chemical option is simply not considered). For large-scale, chemical-based farms, IPM can reduce human and environmental exposure to hazardous chemicals, and potentially lower overall costs of pesticide application material and labor.
Pesticide application refers to the practical way in which pesticides, (including herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, or nematode control agents) are delivered to their biological targets (e.g. pest organism, crop or other plant). Public concern about the use of pesticides has high-lighted the need to make this process as efficient as possible, in order to minimise their release into the environment and human exposure (including operators, bystanders and consumers of produce). The practice of pest management by the rational application of pesticides is supremely multi-disciplinary, combining many aspects of biology and chemistry with: agronomy, engineering, meteorology, socio-economics and public health, together with newer disciplines such as biotechnology and information science.
The push–pull technology is a strategy for controlling agricultural pests by using repellent "push" plants and trap "pull" plants. For example with maize is often infested by stem borers, grasses planted around the perimeter of the crop attract and trap the pests, whereas other plants planted between the rows of maize repel the pests and control the parasitic plant striga. Push–pull technology was developed at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Kenya particularly by Hans Herren.
Green pest management is pest control strategy that uses setting pest action thresholds, monitors for pests regularly, takes steps to prevent pest problems and uses control methods that are organic (plant based) materials or materials of natural origin. Green pest management is an extension of integrated pest management and is similar in all regards except for the control methods. While both integrated pest management and green pest management choose the least risky pest control material, green pest management uses organic (plant based) materials or materials of natural origin.
The Paradox of the pesticides is a paradox that states that by applying pesticide to a pest, one may in fact increase its abundance. This happens when the pesticide upsets natural predator-prey dynamics in the ecosystem. The paradox can only occur when the target pest has a naturally occurring predator that is equally affected by the pesticide, and therefore presents a case for more specialized pesticide products.
Biological control of pests, in agriculture, is a method of controlling pests (including insects, mites, weeds and plant diseases) that relies on predation, parasitism, herbivory, or other natural mechanisms. It can be an important component of integrated pest management (IPM) programs.
Differing approaches to pest control are equally notable. In chemical horticulture, a specific insecticide may be applied to quickly kill off a particular insect pest. Chemical controls can dramatically reduce pest populations in the short term, yet by unavoidably killing (or starving) natural control insects and animals, cause an increase in the pest population in the long term, thereby creating an ever increasing problem. Repeated use of insecticides and herbicides also encourages rapid natural selection of resistant insects, plants and other organisms, necessitating increased use, or requiring new, more powerful controls.
In contrast, organic horticulture tends to tolerate some pest populations while taking the long view. Organic pest control requires a thorough understanding of pest life cycles and interactions, and involves the cumulative effect of many techniques, including:
- Allowing for an acceptable level of pest damage
- Encouraging predatory beneficial insects to flourish and eat pests
- Encouraging beneficial microorganisms
- Careful plant selection, choosing disease-resistant varieties
- Planting companion crops that discourage or divert pests
- Using row covers to protect crop plants during pest migration periods
- Rotating crops to different locations from year to year to interrupt pest reproduction cycles
- Using insect traps to monitor and control insect populations
Each of these techniques also provides other benefits, such as soil protection and improvement, fertilization, pollination, water conservation and season extension. These benefits are both complementary and cumulative in overall effect on site health. Organic pest control and biological pest control can be used as part of integrated pest management (IPM). However, IPM can include the use of chemical pesticides that are not part of organic or biological techniques.
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