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Thursday, September 17, 2009

What does IPM mean?

It's in the title of this blog and it's something I spend most of my day thinking about, but when I talk to folks outside the university system, I'm not always sure IPM is understood as well as we think it is. This year is the 50th anniversary of one of the most influential papers in entomology (and agricultural biology) and the paper that introduced the integrated management concept. "The integrated control concept" by Stern, Smith, Van Den Bosch, and Hagen was published in 1959 in the University of California journal, Hilgardia. Integrated control in this paper was defined as "pest control which combines and integrates biological and chemical control". While revolutionary for the time, this definition is somewhat limited in comparison to how we think of IPM today (it's not just biological and chemical control).

In the last 50 years, the term "control" has been replaced with "management" to acknowledge the fact that we're a player in agricultural systems, not necessarily in charge.

Other definitions of IPM include:
EPA: IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.

UC IPM: Integrated pest management (IPM) is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties. Pesticides are used only after monitoring indicates they are needed according to established guidelines, and treatments are made with the goal of removing only the target organism. Pest control materials are selected and applied in a manner that minimizes risks to human health, beneficial and nontarget organisms, and the environment.

Radcliff's IPM World: Integrated pest management can be defined as the practice of preventing or suppressing damaging populations of insect pests by application of the comprehensive and coordinated integration of multiple control tactics.

All of these definitions have the same core and get their message across with varying degrees of brevity, but maybe because I like things catchy, I found myself wanting a different way to explain IPM when I spoke to growers and the public. Last year, while driving (which I do a lot for work) I thought about the 3 word that really mean IPM to me: Minimize, Monitor, and Manage.

These broad action categories crystalize the concepts in the definitions above (and many, many others). We should first minimize the likelihood of pests (insect, disease or weed--IPM covers the whole range--it's not insect pest management!). We minimize by selecting good cultural practices: resistant varieties, water management, planting date, nutrition, and many others. We then need to monitor our plants, for pests and for general health. Sometimes these monitoring programs are systematic, sometimes they are as simple as walking through your feed and noticing what's going on. Monitoring also includes correct ID of pests--if you don't know what you have, you can't know what do about it! Monitoring (or knowing a pest population density) is also important when using thresholds. Typically, pest populations have to reach a certain density before you start loosing money--treating before that threshold actually costs more than the good it does. Finally, management. This is where Stern's ideas come back. Management options include biological, cultural, and chemical. As a rule chemical control should be our last choice and should be used in a way to cause the fewest additional problems.

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