Integrated Pest Management is successfully practiced today in a variety of settings including homes, home landscapes and gardens. The adoption of community IPM practices is on the rise as pests become resistant to pesticides, environmental awareness increases, and research unearths effective and economical alternatives to pesticides.
IPM does not exclude the use of pesticides. In fact, IPM does permit integrated utilization of pesticides. This method helps to mitigate negative environmental impacts.
One way to understand IPM is to compare it to non-IPM practices.
IPM Practice
Ask: Is the invader really a pest?' Identify it
Proactive: look for pests; set lures; exclude pests with barriers
Multiple tools: sanitation, prevention, proper plant selection, cultivation, biological control
When no other methods work, treat visible pests during their most vulnerable stage
Specific pesticides that are least toxic to humans should target pests and conserve beneficials
Spot treatments in specific areas mean less pesticide is applied
Non-IPM Practice
Assume that invader must be controlled
Reactive: use controls after problem is discovery
Primary tool: chemical pesticides
Scheduled or "calendar" treatments are possible
Broad spectrum pesticides can kill many different kinds of organisms
Large areas can be sprayed IPM steps for pest management:
Step 1: Determine what makes something a pest. A pest is something, usually living, that causes damage or problems. These pests include insects, plant diseases, weeds and at times wildlife.
Step 2: Be nosy (scout for pests) Look routinely around your home (indoors and outdoors) on your lawn, trees, and plants for pests or signs of their activity.
Step 3: Know what you have and gain knowledge about it. Identify the pest (to determine whether you’ve found a “friend” or “foe”. Where did you find it? During what part of the pest’s life cycle does it cause a problem? What did the first symptoms of activity look like? What is an acceptable level (tolerance threshold) for that pest? Your local Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners can help you identify pests and offer control recommendations.
Step 4: Implementation of control option(s) if needed: IPM, or integrated pest management, is different from traditional pest control. It is a system of controlling pests that does not depend on automatic application of pesticides. Once the pest has been identified and the potential damage/problem assessed, a creative, effective, and commonsense management approach can be undertaken. Adopt a peaceful attitude.
Most pests aren't life-threatening, and with a calm attitude you can resolve the problem.
If you decide you need to take action: You then must choose what control options(s) to use. Sometimes you may decide to use a combination of options. Remember: Practicing Integrated Pest Management does not eliminate the use of all pesticides but promotes their judicious use when and where needed.
Some cultural control strategies are:
• Use and preservation of natural enemies or making augmentative releases to keep the pest in check.
• Cultural sanitation practices such as removing garden debris during and at the end of the growing season may remove harborage for many pests.
• Crop rotation in a vegetable garden can prevent buildup of unwanted pests and decrease transmittal of disease.
• Assuring plant health. Keeping plants growing vigorously may enable them to withstand some pest attacks and resist weed problems. Pick the right plant for the right place.
• Use organic matter and compost to improve soil.
Some physical and mechanical control strategies are:
• Tightening window screens and filling holes into the house with caulk may help prevent a future household pest problem.
• Use of row covers over plants can exclude some unwanted pests.
• Hand picking pests to reduce their population can help in smaller gardens.
• Using mulch to reduce competition from weeds and to prevent mower injury to trees and shrubs.
• Removing weeds when they’re small before they produce seeds.
• Pruning plants to remove broken or diseased plant parts.
• Mow your lawn at a height of 3 inches never removing more than 1/3 of the blade at one time. (Return grass clippings to your lawn, they’re a great source of nitrogen).
Some chemical control strategies are:
• Spot treatment as needed rather than treating a large area
• Choosing the least toxic pesticides and ones that target specific pests leaving beneficial insects unharmed
• Treating the pest when it is most susceptible to the pesticide
• Avoid zero tolerance levels (i.e., the mindset that one is too many and requires direct pesticide treatment)
• Have your soil tested before you decide to apply fertilizer and don’t use weed and feed unless you have a widespread weed problem
Remember: Before using any pesticide read and follow ALL label instructions.
Step 5: Follow up. Check later in those areas around your home where pests were a problem to see if those problems have been resolved.
Step 6: Keep a journal. Keeping records is important to your success providing you with an accurate picture of events that occur in your yard, garden, or house. Information such as what pests you have and when pests were active can help you determine when to begin scouting for them next year. Make notes about the way you decided to manage the pest and how well it worked. Always evaluate your actions so you will be able to make good IPM decisions in the future.
Proactive IPM Tactics I Can I apply at Home: Consider ways to prevent future outbreaks. (One or more of the options below may be used together)
For Your House: Keep your home in good condition: Replacing damaged screens and calking openings where pests might enter helps keep them outside. Make your home less attractive to unwanted guests. Replace rotting wood around doors, windows and framework.
Good housekeeping practices: Keep the inside of your home clean so pests are less likely to be lured in for food.
Proper food storage: Keep grain products including animal food and birdseed in sealed containers to discourage pests from infesting food.
For Your Landscape: Consider your planting design: Planting design is a broad term that refers primarily to the selection and arrangement of plants to serve one or more purposes. This helps to facilitate and minimize maintenance requirements.
Choose low maintenance plants: Include low maintenance plants when possible to reduce cultural and physical maintenance requirements. Plant selection and planting design are obviously important to the overall success of any landscape design. Plants must, of course, be selected and arranged so the species are compatible and suitable for their specific function, whether this is for aesthetics, screening, shading, etc.; but plants should also be chosen and placed with maintenance considerations in mind.
Choose plants with pest resistance: Choosing plants that are tolerant of pests including native plants, deer resistant plants and disease resistant plants decrease the likelihood of pest problems. Understanding the tolerance level plants have to pests and diseases is important when you are trying to create a landscape that minimizes the use of pesticides. Plants that are susceptible to pest problems increase the need for pest control. If you select plants that are resistant you will automatically decrease potential for pest problems.
Match plant to site conditions: Emphasis should be placed on matching plants to their site conditions. Considerations include soil type, pH, sun and wind exposure, and moisture requirements. Plants unsuited to their site conditions will not be healthy and vigorous and are more likely to have pest problems.
Proper placement of plants: Consider their mature size in relation to their proximity to other site features (e.g., trees with a 50-foot mature height should not be planted beneath power lines that are only 30 feet off the ground; a vigorous, spreading shrub should not be planted too near a sidewalk or entrance). Plants that are too large for their space must be pruned regularly adding to their routine maintenance requirements and resulting in poor plant form and often poor health.
Soil preparation: Home gardeners can give their plants a head start on pest problems by choosing the proper site, testing the soil, rotating crops, creating raised beds where necessary, and providing sufficient organic matter.
Proper spacing: Proper spacing of plants to allow good air circulation around them can discourage certain diseases.
Timing of planting: Altering planting time can discourage certain insects.
Avoid monocultures when possible: Large monoculture plantings are more susceptible to insect and disease problems, and infestations are likely to be more severe than in the case of mixed, multi-species plantings. Likewise, due to the uniformity of texture, color, and overall appearance of monocultures, insignificant levels of "damage" (e.g., minor insect pest/disease impacts) are more noticeable and therefore less acceptable than if such damage were present in a more diverse design.
Use of mulch: There are many different kinds of mulch. Everyone knows that when mulch is used in landscape plantings the effect can be aesthetically pleasing but mulch has other purposes as well. Weed free straw can be used in a vegetable garden to reduce weeds and conserve water. After the growing season it can be tilled into the soil to increase organic matter. A tree well is a mulched area around the base of a tree (or a group of trees) that’s used to eliminate damage from mowers and weed trimmers, to reduce competition from grass and weeds, to conserve moisture and to reduce soil compaction caused by mowing equipment.
Application of mulch: When applied properly, mulch can be a gardener’s ally but when it’s applied incorrectly (volcano mulching) it can increase the chance of disease.
Proper lawn care: When mowing your lawn keep mower blades sharp, follow the one-third rule, and mow to a height of 3” to help keep grass in the best shape and discourage weed growth.
Benefits of home IPM:
• Reduces the need for pesticides by using several pest management methods.
• Balances proper and minimal use of chemical pesticides with the need to manage pests.
• Helps protect the environment from excessive and unnecessary pesticide applications.
• Fosters sound structures and healthy plants. Well-maintained homes and lawns better withstand damage from insects, weeds, and other pests.
Remember, if we change our attitudes and work with our yards rather than fighting them, pest management will become easier! — Laurie and the Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Wayne County Master Gardeners