Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive
alternative to pesticide use. Pesticides, as defined by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), are "any substance or mixture of substances intended
for preventing, destroying, repelling, or lessening the damage of any pest."
Because of the many efforts to phase out the older, hazardous pesticides, IPM
has proven itself across the country as a pest control method that drastically
reduces health and environmental risks.
According to the EPA,
"IPM is the coordinated use of pest and
environmental information with available pest control methods to prevent
unacceptable levels of pest damage by the most economical means and with the
least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment." IPM applies an
array of methods to control pests using a series of pest management evaluations,
decisions, and controls. Information is gathered about the biology of the plant
to be protected and is then used in the design of a pest issue solution. The EPA
encourages homeowners, businesses, and school districts across the country to
adopt IPM practices, which are cost effective and environmentally sensitive.
The EPA states,
"Before a pesticide can be marketed and used
in the United States, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act
(FIFRA) requires that the EPA evaluate the proposed pesticide to assure that its
use will not pose unreasonable risks of harm to human health and the
environment. This regulation involves an extensive review of health and safety
information." Biochemical pesticides, or "biopesticides," include naturally
occurring substances that control pests, microorganisms that control pests
(microbial pesticides), and pesticidal substances produced by plants containing
added genetic material, called plant-incorporated protectants (PIPs).
Estimated Cost Savings:
Integrated pest management practices are among the least costly of
available pest control methods. IPM costs are lowered because the program
focuses on using pesticides as a last resort.
Significant knowledge of the plant being protected is required to
put an IPM program into place. The IPM plan cannot be used the way other
pesticides are, and doing so can produce disappointing results. In addition,
this method often requires more effort to implement and maintain. Consult your
local pest contractor before embarking on an IPM project to ensure quality
Currently, national certification does not exist for food
growers using IPM, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed for organic
Getting It Done:
Anyone with pest problems can use the IPM approach and apply it to both
agricultural and non-agricultural settings, such as the home, garden, and
workplace. IPM is a continuum of pest management assessments that include
understanding the pests and their habits then evaluating the results of an
action plan. For example, practicing IPM growers follow four steps:
1. Set an action threshold. Ask
"at what level do pests become an economic threat?"
2. Monitor and identify pests. Many
organisms are innocuous. By identifying pests accurately, appropriate
control decisions can coincide with action thresholds.
3. Prevention. IPM programs work to prevent
pests from threatening a space. This may mean using control methods, such as
crop rotations, selecting pest-resistant crops, or planting pest-free
rootstock, that present no risk to people or the environment.
4. Control. If control is required, less
risky choices come first in IPM programs. Employing highly targeted
chemicals and mechanical controls (trapping, weeding) is less risky than the
last-resort broadcast spraying of non-specific chemicals.
Homeowners can contact their local U.S. Department of
Agriculture Cooperative Extension Services office for advice on practicing IPM
in home gardens and landscaping.
Videos On This Topic:
Garden Pests (5:32) - National Geographic Green Homes -
The natural inclination when gardening is to kill all bugs and insects to
prevent them from ruining the plants. However, some of these "pests" are
actually beneficial as they actually kill other bugs that could be more harmful
to your garden. In this video from National Geographic Green Homes, find out
ways to manage your garden without eliminating helpful bugs and insects while
minimizing damage to the earth.
More Information On This Topic:
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Pesticides and Food: What "Integrated
Pest Management" Means
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Regulating Biopesticides
nearest USDA Cooperative Extension Office
Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides
America Pesticide Action Network
Safer Pest Control Project (SPCP): Create Your Own IPM Plan