Integrated Pest Management

Screen Shot 2017-09-11 at 2.04.55 PMOriginal Source, “Bloomin News” Vol. 12, No. 3 Fall 2017

The first thing to know is what is Integrated Pest Management, better known as IPM. We all think it sounds great, but how do we implement IPM in our own landscape? I like to think of IPM as a lot of common sense along with some scientific information that will help eliminate or knock back the pest problem to acceptable levels. Notice I said acceptable levels. With IPM you sometimes must be willing to tolerate a certain amount of damage. What that level depends on the individual and the plant you are dealing with.

Integrated Pest Management is a program that should be based on prevention, monitoring, and control. IPM utilizes a variety of methods and techniques, including cultural, biological and structural strategies to control a multitude of pest problems.

The first step in any IPM program is prevention. Having good healthy plants that are disease resistant is going to help you maintain a pest free environment. I always equivocate this statement to when a doctor says to eat right, sleep well and take your vitamins. You know as a human if you are doing all these things correctly the chances of you catching a cold or other minor ailment is lower. The same is true of plants. There are also many plant cultivars that are bred to be less susceptible to certain pests. Look for those cultivars when you purchase your plants.

Once a pest is visible the next step in a good IPM program is monitoring. This should include regular site inspections and trapping to determine the types and infestation levels of pests on each plant. By doing these things you are better able to determine the least toxic way to handle your pest problem. Remember there are “good bugs” out there that can help you eliminate the ones that are damaging your crops. There are companies that sell these predatory insects. For example, lady bugs are one of the best controls for aphids and other soft bodied insects. Ants will attack scale on your plants.

The next step is control/action. What are you going to do if anything for the pest problem you have? Chemicals should be used as a last resort and the least toxic chemical for the job should be used. Applications of chemicals should be minimized to limit exposure to humans and all non-target organisms. Using dish washing liquid and water is one of the most effective ways of controlling many pests. You must realize that this will take more effort on your part. It is not just a “once and done” kind of control like more toxic chemicals. This kind of low impact action will prevent the beneficial insects that you desire in your garden from being eliminated.

IPM is based on taking preventive measures, monitoring the crop, assessing the pest damage, and choosing appropriate actions. IPM practices mean that you use multiple tactics to prevent pest build-ups, monitor pest populations, assess the damage, and make informed management decisions, keeping in mind that pesticides should be used as a last resort.

We all want a clean environment and we all must do our part to make that happen. IPM is just one of the many things you can do on your part to help the environment.

-Dee Johnson

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