IPM (10915 bytes)

What is IPM?

By Kerrie B. Badertscher, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Horticulture

What does IPM stand for?

IPM, or Integrated Pest Management, is a decision process that includes detecting when you need controls, where you need them and what alternatives are available.

IPM was first developed for large-scale agricultural operations, but its basic tenets apply also to the homeowner. By using IPM, homeowners, as well as agricultural producers and others involved in the green industry, can minimize the use of chemicals to control pests, but rely upon them when the situation calls for it. Pests include insects, weeds, pathogens and even plant material that's not desired in a specific area.

Getting started with IPM may seem overwhelming, but the guidelines below will help:

  • Learn what is a pest and what is not. Not all insects, for example, are pests. If you apply a spray, you may knock down the target insect but kill its natural predators, too. Then a secondary problem arises because the natural predator has been removed.

  • Get to know the life cycle of your plants, pests and their natural enemies.

  • Look for the least disruptive control measure possible. Natural solutions often are more effective and probably lower in cost.

  • Monitor your site and keep records. Record pest and natural enemy populations, as well as weather changes.

  • Identify whether you even need to monitor certain pests. Do they even occur in your area?

  • Decide which are the important predators and pest populations to monitor.

  • Determine how frequently you will monitor populations. This will vary with the pest and the time of year.

  • Ask yourself if certain locations in the garden or landscape merit more vigilance than others? Those areas should be given higher priority.

  • Design a systematic sampling pattern and follow it.

In designing an IPM program, ask yourself some key questions:

  • Do you need an insect-free lawn?

  • Can you still enjoy an apple that has small marks on it?

  • Can you tolerate trees with some leaves that may be imperfect because they have holes in them?

Your level of toleration for such imperfections will determine whether to treat the problem or to leave it alone. Treatment does not always mean spraying. It also doesn't mean you must eradicate the pest; often reducing it is sufficient.

You might be able to trap pests by using sticky traps or you might decide to plant varieties that are resistant to specific pests. You might choose to place certain plants in different sites to preclude them from injury.

As you experiment with different ways to treat pest problems, you'll also want to evaluate your efforts. Did they work? What could you change to make your efforts more effective?

The term `integrated' is important because pest managers must look at the entire ecosystem, not just one segment of it. They also must consider a variety of social, economic, environmental and political ramifications to each decision.

Graphic: Judy Sedbrook, (with help from Angelina and Brooklyn)

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010