Integrated Pest Control, by Jeff Rugg
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods have been around as long as gardening has been around. The word “integrate” means to integrate separate compatible parts to form a unitary whole. The pest can be anything living that can harm people or their animals, plants and property. We try to manage the entire program for economical, safe and long-term pest control.
In an IPM system, environmentally and economically sensible decision-making comes first, instead of reflex-like reaction syringes. Pests are only controlled when necessary and other control methods are considered before pesticides. Safer types of pesticides are being considered and reduced amounts of pesticides are being used to reduce the likelihood of pests developing resistance. This is all different from programs that prohibit the use of pesticides (which are allowed with IPM), and it is different from organic programs that require the pesticides to be organic.
Most homeowners wait for plant problems to become apparent before investigating the cause. Misidentifying the cause can lead to useless pest control practices and wasteful, unsafe pesticide use. The first thing to do is to identify the cause of the problem. If it turns out that the problem is caused by a pest, we need to decide whether the pest is still causing damage and whether the damage is tolerable.
Monitor your landscape regularly (weekly before you mow the lawn). You can prevent most landscape problems from turning into bigger problems that require pesticides. Finding pests before they cause a disaster can help determine if there is a threshold that needs to be met before controls are required. In many cases, the acceptable level is much higher than just finding an insect. A pest threshold of one may be required if the pest is a heron that is eating the fish from your goldfish pond or if it is a cockroach found in a kitchen. The same pest can reach a different threshold depending on who is monitoring and what type of damage it could do. The damage thresholds can change with different stages of plant development and can also vary from plant variety to plant variety.
Once a pest is found that can increase to an extent where the damage will be significant, we need to select a control measure that is most likely to result in an economic reduction in the pest population. The control must also interfere with the natural control of the pest, such as predators, the least. It should be the least dangerous to human health, the least toxic to non-target organisms, and the least harmful to the general environment. It must be easy, effective and inexpensive to carry out both in the short and long term.
For many of our landscape pests, we can use cultural control to increase plant health and prevent pests. For example, mowing a lawn causes stress on the grass plant, so it is necessary to fertilize and water properly to keep the grass healthy enough to prevent weeds from entering the lawn. Proper care in advance will help avoid the need for herbicides.
Some plant diseases can be prevented by using plants that are resistant to the disease. Many newer varieties of perennials, shrubs and garden vegetables are resistant to pathogens. Biological control agents, like using ladybirds to eat aphids, help avoid the need for insecticides.
IPM is a pest control strategy that uses a complementary range of ecological methods, from natural enemies and parasites, pest-resistant plant varieties, cultural practices and biological controls to the use of pesticides as a last resort. It can be used outdoors in the countryside, in the garden, and on the farm. It can also be used indoors, at home, in schools, and in businesses.
Continuous monitoring for all types of pests can keep the pest population at a tolerable level that allows for a wise decision on the type of control measure to use.
Email questions to Jeff Rugg at [email protected] To learn more about Jeff Rugg and to read articles by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.