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Integrated Pest Management

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Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is 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.

Integrated pest management takes advantage of all appropriate pest management options, including the judicious use of pesticides. In contrast, organic food production applies many of the same concepts as IPM but limits the use of pesticides to those that are produced from natural sources, as opposed to synthetic chemicals.

Related topics
Pollution Prevention, Best Management Practices, and Conservation

Related publications from the Ag Center
Integrated Pest Management
Organic Farming
Pollution Prevention, Best Management Practices, and Conservation

EPA grants available to reduce pesticide use
PestWise Grants

How do IPM programs work?

IPM is not a single pest control method but, rather, a series of pest management evaluations, decisions, and controls. In practicing IPM, growers who are aware of the potential for pest infestation follow a four-tiered approach. The four steps include:

(1) Action Thresholds: Before taking any pest control action, 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 an economic threat is critical to guide future pest control decisions.

(2) Monitoring and Identifying 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 that 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.

(3) Prevention: 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. These control methods can be very effective and cost-efficient and present little or no risk to people or the environment.

(4) Control: 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 spraying of pesticides. Broadcast spraying of non-specific pesticides is a last resort.

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Do most growers use IPM?

With these steps, IPM is best described as a continuum. Many, if not most, agricultural growers identify their pests before spraying. A smaller subset of growers use less risky pesticides such as pheromones. All of these growers are on the IPM continuum. The goal is to move growers further along the continuum to using all appropriate IPM techniques.

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How do you know if the food you buy is grown using IPM?

Although organic food is often labeled as such, in most cases, food grown using IPM practices is not identified. There is no national certification for growers using IPM, as the United States Department of Agriculture is developing for organic practices. Since IPM is a complex pest control process, not merely a series of practices, it is impossible to use one IPM definition for all foods and all areas of the country. Many individual commodity growers, for such crops as potatoes and strawberries, are working to define what IPM means for their crop and region, and IPM-labeled foods are available in limited areas. With definitions, growers could begin to market more of their products as IPM-grown, giving consumers another choice in their food purchases.

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Integrated pest management has been identified by the federal government as an underutilized approach to pest control that would lead to reductions in pesticide risk. The National Integrated Pest Management Forum, sponsored by EPA in June 1992, identified the lack of a national commitment to IPM as the number one constraint to its further adoption. As a result, at a Congressional hearing on September 22, 1993, USDA, EPA, and FDA pledged to have 75 percent of the U.S. agricultural acreage under IPM by the year 2000 and to reduce the use of pesticides.

The federal agencies held a stakeholder workshop in February 1994 to gather their ideas, suggestions, and concerns about reducing pesticide use. A set of principles emerged that were used to guide development of an appropriate program. The guiding principles were: 

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Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program

The Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP) is a voluntary program that forms partnerships with pesticide users to reduce the health and environmental risks associated with pesticide use, and to implement pollution prevention strategies. The program was initiated in 1994 as the result of the meeting described in Background above. USDA subsequently took responsibility for the IPM commitment.

There are two categories of membership in PESP:

In addition to formally signing a statement to support the goals of PESP, Partners and Supporters are required to write a Strategy that describes their long-term strategic approach to risk reduction and annual, measurable activities to achieve pesticide risk reduction.

Each PESP Partner and Supporter is provided an EPA Liaison, from the Office of Pesticide Programs or an EPA Regional Office, who works with the member to provide information and assistance in developing and implementing their Strategy. The EPA Liaisons are these organizations' single-point customer service representative at EPA. They provide information on new pesticides and other EPA activities, assist in developing the Strategy, and provide information on funding to support Strategy implementation.

More PESP information from EPA
Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP)
Joining PESP
IPM Institute of North America, Inc. (PDF) (7 pp, 33K)

Success Stories
Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission Wins 2006 California Environmental and Economic Leadership Award
Five Companies Lauded for Reducing Pesticide Risk

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IPM Saves Money, Improves Environment, Protects Health

Some pests have been known for thousands of years; others are as new as this morning's headlines. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a way to curb damage by insects and other pests while causing the least possible harm to people, property, and the environment.

The starting point for IPM is learning about the behavior and life cycle of each pest and its interaction with the environment. Knowing how nature deals with the pest to be controlled has helped scientists find creative ways to eliminate the threat posed by that pest, and at the same time reduce the use and impact of harmful synthetic chemicals.

Americans have successfully used a number of pesticides and other chemicals to replace mouse traps and other human and mechanical pest control methods of the past. However, we have since learned that many of these labor-saving chemicals have contaminated our soil and water. People are increasingly concerned about the long-term effects of human exposure to these pesticides, especially for children. Integrated Pest Management seeks to address these concerns.

IPM can be used in both agricultural and non-agricultural settings. It takes advantage of all appropriate pest management options. In contrast, strictly organic food production limits the use of pesticides to those produced from natural sources.

Prevention is the first line of control. IPM starts with setting action thresholds by determining how bad a pest problem needs to be before taking corrective action. Growers then identify and monitor pests. Other alternatives to synthetic chemical pest control include:

IPM is considered a series of progressive actions to care for the earth. EPA's goal is to move growers further along this continuum using all appropriate IPM methods.

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GAO Report on IPM

The Government Accounting Office issued a report on August 17, 2001, titled "Agricultural Pesticides: Management Improvements Needed to Further Promote Integrated Pest Management." (PDF) (36 pp, 2.1MB) Here is the abstract to the report:

"Chemical pesticides play an important role in providing Americans with an abundant and inexpensive food supply. However, these chemicals can have adverse effects on human health and the environment, and pests continue to develop resistance to them. Sustainable and effective agricultural pest management will require continued development and increased use of alternative pest management strategies, such as integrated pest management (IPM). Some IPM practices yield significant environmental and economic benefits in certain crops, and IPM can lead to better long-term pest management than chemical control alone. However, the federal commitment to IPM has waned over the years. The IPM initiative is missing several key management elements identified in the Government Performance and Results Act. Specifically, no one is effectively in charge of federal IPM efforts; coordination of IPM efforts is lacking among federal agencies and with the private sector; the intended results of these efforts have not been clear."

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Information from EPA
What "Integrated Pest Management" Means
On the Farm: IPM Information from EPA's PestWise
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Principles
GreenScaping for Homeowners: The Easy Way to a Greener, Healthier Yard - GreenScaping encompasses a set of landscaping practices that can improve the health and appearance of your lawn and garden while protecting and preserving natural resources.

Links from USDA
USDA Pest Management
Extension IPM Implementation Program
USDA Regional IPM Research Centers

University IPM Programs Exit EPA
Alabama Integrated Pest Management Information Center
Cornell University IPM Program
Michigan State University IPM Program   
Montana State University IPM Program  
North Carolina State University National IPM Network  
North Dakota State University IPM Program 
Ohio State University IPM Program
Pacific Northwest Conservation Tillage Systems Information Resource
Pennsylvania State University IPM Program 
Rhode Island IPM Program

Texas A&M University IPM Program 
University of California, Davis Statewide IPM Program  
University of Connecticut IPM Program  
University of Delaware IPM Program 
University of Illinois IPM Program 
University of Kentucky IPM Program  
University of Maine IPM Program  
University of Maryland IPM Program  
University of Massachusetts IPM Program 
University of Minnesota IPM World Textbook 
University of Missouri Plant Protection Programs 
University of Nebraska Virtual Field Scout IPM Manual 
University of New Hampshire IPM Program  
University of Tennessee Biological Control and IPM Sites   
University of Vermont School IPM 
University of Wisconsin Integrated Pest and Crop Management Program
Virginia Tech IPM  
West Virginia University Pest Management Program 

Other IPM ProgramsExit EPA
Integrated Pest Management at Parrot Jungle Island (PDF) (2 pp, 414KB) - A brochure describing the results of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) mosquito control program at Parrot Jungle Island in Miami, Florida.

Other IPM Links Exit EPA

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