What is IPM?

Integrated pest management (IPM) is a philosophy of pest control founded on the principles of ecology. In practice, it involves using several control tactics based on a knowledge of the crop, pests and associated natural enemies to avoid crop loss and minimize harmful effects on the environment. Implementing IPM requires an understanding not only of insect and mite biology and ecology but also of the entire orchard system. This includes the plants and animals that comprise the orchard community, as well as consideration of contributions from the surrounding habitat. The orchard system also takes into account financial, physical and human aspects of orchard operations.

IPM requires a more tolerant approach to pest control than traditional insecticide-based programs. Eliminating all insects and mites from the orchard is not the objective of IPM. Natural enemies are to be conserved as much as possible and some damage, especially to foliage, is tolerated. For example, pests that attack the foliage can usually be allowed to build to levels higher than those that attack the fruit.

There are both positive and negative impacts associated with the reduced insecticide use that usually accompanies the adoption of an IPM approach. Benefits of IPM include greater survival of natural enemies, slower development of resistance, less pest resurgence, fewer outbreaks of secondary pests, less negative impact on the environment, and greater worker safety. On the negative side, potential pests that are coincidentally controlled by insecticides used to control key pests may be released from all but natural controls. Natural controls will be effective for some. For others, however, the release from insecticidal control will result in population levels that are sometimes damaging. The transition to more intensive IPM programs in orchards will require knowledge and patience-knowledge of pest and natural enemy biology and patience to allow natural enemy build-up. Selective controls will have to be used for pests that are not maintained at acceptable levels by natural controls.

An IPM program involves:
  • Identifying pests, which requires knowledge of their biology and the damage they inflict.
  • Identifying the natural enemies of pests.
  • Understanding the biological and environmental factors that affect the abundance and distribution of pests and natural enemies.
  • Monitoring both pests and natural enemies to determine potential for damage and biological control.
  • Tolerating higher levels of pests, particularly foliage feeders.
  • Using a treatment threshold to decide when control is needed.
  • Knowing the efficacy of available control tactics, as well as their potential impact on non-target pests and natural enemies.
  • Building flexibility into the control program to allow for variations from block to block or year to year.
  • Follow-up to see how well control measures work and if further action is needed.