Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective, environmentally-sensitive and economically-sound approach to the management of pest organisms. IPM programmes have been developed for many horticultural and agricultural crops, and excellent programmes have been developed for greenhouse crops.
IPM relies on knowledge of the life cycles and habits of pests, and the naturally occurring factors that regulate their populations, such as environmental conditions and natural enemies (such as the whitefly to the right). Knowledge of how a pest reproduces, overwinters, disperses and how it causes damage is also essential for the development of IPM programmes.
A cornerstone of many IPM programmes is the setting of pest threshold levels (based on their population density) which act as a trigger for the introduction of control methods. Only when a pest is about to exceed a threshold, is a control application made. Generally pest thresholds are based on economic considerations.
IPM programmes recognise that no two crops or properties have identical conditions, and that IPM programmes must be matched to the specific situation of each management unit. This often requires the assistance of crop management advisers and IPM scouts to identify and develop the most effect IPM programme. BioForce Ltd can assist you in setting up your IPM programme.
IPM programmes are often part of a much wider integrated crop management (ICM) programme, which recognise that crop management practices such as nutrient and irrigation inputs, environmental conditions and other crop management practices may have an important effect on pests.
IPM programmes have five basic components:
- Pest identification : It is essential to identify accurately all the pest organisms found on a crop. This is especially important when biological control agents are to be used, because biological control agents are often quite specific as to the pest(s) they attack.
- Pest population assessment and monitoring: Pest populations fluctuate over time, and it is only when they begin to reach damaging levels that control action is warranted. Regular monitoring of the crop and environment can assist in determining when a pest is nearing damaging levels. Monitoring generally involves a combination of visual crop inspection, the use of insect traps or crop sampling and record keeping.
- Pest threshold levels: The point at which economic damage is likely to occur is often called the ‘action threshold’. Some controls like pesticides can be used very close to the action threshold, while others like biological control must be introduced well before a pest reaches the action threshold. Reliable thresholds have not been developed for all pests, so advice from a crop or pest management consultant may be needed.
- Preventing pest problems: Most pests are opportunists and exploit favourable conditions. By making conditions unfavourable for pests, for example, through the selection of pest resistant cultivars, management of environmental conditions and sound crop hygiene practices, can contribute to the reduction of pest problems.
- Integration of control methods: Most pests can be managed by a combination of chemical and non-chemical control methods. For integrated pest management, these control methods must be compatible, i.e., not disrupt each other when they are used together. The combined effect of two or more control measures is often greater than that of a single method in the longer term. The order in which control methods are used and their timing in respect of the pest’s life cycle is also important. As biological control agents are susceptible to many pesticides, it is essential to determine what chemicals may be integrated into your IPM programme (see ‘Impact of Pesticides').
If you require advice on establishing integrated pest management (IPM) programmes in your crops contact BioForce Ltd, firstname.lastname@example.org .