Introduction To IPM: Module 1

Module 1: Defining IPM

Lesson 1.1: IPM Defined – IPM Components

There are several different interpretations of the term integrated pest management (IPM) as we will see later. It may be useful to start by explaining the meaning of the three words that make up the term.

Integrated is defined in one dictionary as ‘to make into a whole by bringing several parts together’. In IPM we use many different ideas and techniques combination to understand and solve pest problems. Control methods may be traditional, local or low-tech, such as rotating crops to reduce build-up of pests and diseases, or modern, such as growing crops that have been modified to have in-built resistance to pests. IPM techniques may be imported from other regions or countries, such as when a predator is introduced from elsewhere to control a problem. The IPM mix of tactics makes economic, social, and environmental sense in the context of the farm’s agroecosystem. Such rational pest management is also often integrated with other production and farm management decisions, such as fertilizer management and decisions relating to food safety.

Pest is a general term for organisms which may cause illness, nuisance or damage or consume food crops and other materials important to people. A pest can be any living organism that causes economically significant damage to the crop, such as insects, weeds, mites, nematodes, bacteria, fungi, viruses, and vertebrates such as rats and birds. If an organism damages a crop but that damage has no negative economic effect, then that organism is not considered a pest in IPM.

Management is the organization and coordination of the activities in order to achieve defined objectives. In IPM, management means making controlled, rational pest control decisions that prevent economic damage to a crop. Good IPM management involves careful scouting and monitoring, good record-keeping, and a long-term farm IPM plan. These AgLearn resources are aimed at extension agencies and private crop consultants who commonly advise and facilitate farm managers to adopt improved pest management based on IPM.

Lesson 1.2: IPM Defined

Defining IPM is a bit more contentious than defining the component words of IPM, and different authors have advanced widely different definitions. Some interpret IPM as a way to reduce or eliminate chemical pesticide use in agriculture. Others say that IPM is a wiser way to use all types of control methods. Some explicitly mention chemical pesticides in their definitions of IPM, but the more extreme views exclude all but the most benign agrochemicals. Many definitions reflect the political views of the definers. The degree to which chemical pesticides are included or excluded is usually the most contentious issue in an IPM definition. The system approach and necessary minimum levels of pesticide usage are usually central points in the following definitions.

“IPM is a set of management activities that farmers implement to maintain the intensity of potential pests at levels below which they become pests, without endangering the productivity and profitability of the farming system as a whole, the health of the farm family and its livestock, and the quality of the adjacent and downstream environments.” (John Wightman, 1998)

The FAO defines IPM as: “A pest management system that, in the context of the associated environment and the population dynamics of pest species, utilizes all suitable techniques and methods in as compatible a manner as possible and maintains the pest populations at levels below those causing economic injury.”

In the European Union, IPM is defined through Directive 91/414/EEC as “The rational application of a combination of biological, biotechnical, chemical, cultural or plant-breeding measures, whereby the use of plant protection products is limited to the strict minimum necessary to maintain the pest population at levels below those causing economically unacceptable damage or loss”.

The US EPA describes IPM as an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. 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. IPM takes advantage of all appropriate pest management options, including the judicious use of pesticides.