The Integrated Pest Management Concept


    Integrated pest management (IPM) is a holistic approach to managing insects, mites, pathogens, nematodes, weeds and other pests in which multiple practices are implemented throughout the entire production period of the crop.

    Integrated is the key word: it means combining a variety of pest management techniques and concepts that can either prevent pest introduction, eradicate pests or reduce pest populations to lessen their economic impact while maintaining plant quality. Some of these practices are preventative methods -- good sanitation (weed control, removal of plant debris, etc.) and sound cultural practices including fertilization, irrigation and pruning. Other practices are implemented specifically to manage existing pest problems. Examples of management activities that affect pests and diseases include regulation of irrigation timing and frequency, alteration of the relative humidity level in the greenhouse, or application of biological control agents or least toxic pesticides as needed, to preserve beneficial organisms and reduce environmental contamination.

    Restricted labeling of pesticides, pest resistance, safety to nursery personnel and environmental issues are all concerns that encourage nurseries to seek forms of pest control other than scheduled, preventative, nursery-wide pesticide applications. IPM is not the complete abandonment of traditional pesticides, but rather the use of them in conjunction and careful coordination with other pest management practices. This approach allows many practices to be utilized more efficiently and often in decreasing amounts.

    Scouting, or monitoring, is one of the most important principles of IPM and is the foundation of any IPM program. The timely detection of pests and accurate assessment of population densities of the pests and their natural enemies are fundamental to IPM decision-making. Early detection of pests enables the nursery to reduce plant damage, improve plant quality, reduce production costs, avoid production delays and increase profits. Continuous detection efforts and accurate record-keeping increase the ability to anticipate and schedule activities related to pest management. Low pest populations are easier to control, and detection should be followed closely with an appropriate management tactic when necessary to prevent pest outbreaks. Scouting provides the overview and the raw data by which preventative and curative pest management options are chosen. In some situations, low pest populations can be ignored and are even useful in sustaining populations of beneficials. Some pest infestations disappear due to beneficial arthropods or pathogens.

    Crop scouting provides increased awareness of pest presence, activity and management. Scouting addresses the real needs of the crop, improves pesticide use by eliminating routine, unnecessary applications and assures that pesticides are applied at the proper stage of the life cycle to insure maximum efficacy. Scouts also collect the data by which the efficacy of management tactics is evaluated to guide further IPM program development.