IPM is not a single pest control method but, rather, a series of pest management evaluations, decisions and controls. In practicing IPM, people who are aware of the potential for pest infestation follow a four-tiered approach.
- Set Action Thresholds
Before taking any action to control a pest, IPM first sets an action threshold, a point at which pest populations or environmental conditions indicate that pest control action must be taken. Sighting a single pest does not always mean control is needed. The level at which pests will become either an economic or health threat is critical to future pest control decisions.
- Monitor and Identify Pests
Not all insects, weeds and other living organisms require control. Many organisms are innocuous, and some are even beneficial. IPM programs work to monitor for pests and identify them accurately, so appropriate control decisions can be made in conjunction with action thresholds. This monitoring and identification removes the possibility that pesticides will be used when they are not really needed or that the wrong kind of pesticide will be used.
As a first line of pest control, IPM programs work to manage the crop, lawn, or indoor space to prevent pests from becoming a threat. In an agricultural crop, this may mean using cultural methods, such as rotating between different crops, selecting pest-resistant varieties, and planting pest-free rootstock. In a home it can be as simple as making sure clutter is reduced, window screens are keeping pests outside, and food is not available for pests. These control methods can be very effective and cost-efficient and present little to no risk to people or the environment.
Once monitoring, identification, and action thresholds indicate that pest control is required, and preventive methods are no longer effective or available, IPM programs then evaluate the proper control method both for effectiveness and risk. Effective, less risky pest controls are chosen first, including highly targeted chemicals such as pheromones to disrupt pest mating, or mechanical control such as trapping or weeding. If further monitoring, identifications and action thresholds indicate that less risky controls are not working, then additional pest control methods would be employed, such as targeted bait applications or the spraying of pesticides. Broadcast spraying of non-specific pesticides is a last resort.
Where can we use IPM?
Anyone who deals with pest problems can use integrated pest management (IPM) anywhere. School personnel can and should use IPM practices to minimize pesticide exposure to a school’s occupants. Farmers use IPM practices to prevent pesticide resistance and keep costs low. Professional pest control operators and homeowners can learn how to apply low-risk solutions to prevent pest problems or respond to problems when they arise.