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Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Integrated pest management (IPM) is a sustainable, scientifically based process for identifying, managing, and reducing the risk associated with pests with minimal economic, health, and environmental risks. IPM combines several prevention and control strategies to create a plan for managing pests. There are four main components to IPM: monitoring, identifying, evaluating, and selection of controls.

The first component of IPM involves monitoring the garden or landscape on a regular basis for the presence of both harmful and beneficial organisms. While most plants should have minimal problems, certain plants called key hosts are highly susceptible to attack from key pests, requiring that they be examined more frequently. This should be done using at least a 10x magnification hand lens. While looking for pests, also look for beneficial organisms which might assist in fighting insect pests. These beneficial organisms are often predators, parasites, or pathogens (viruses, fungi, or bacteria) that infect or kill the pests. Record all observations in a journal or notebook.

The second component of IPM is identifying all harmful and beneficial organisms detected while monitoring the garden or landscape. Knowing the types of pests you are dealing with and which beneficial organisms are present that might be leveraged to deal with those pests will allow you to make informed decisions on how best to control the pests should action need to be taken.

The third component of IPM is evaluating the extent of the pest problem to determine if controls need to be implemented. Once you have identified the pests and beneficial organisms in your garden or landscape, you must determine how much damage by the pests is acceptable from an economic, aesthetic, or health perspective before action needs to be taken and control measures need to be put in place to deal with the pest. This breaking point or level of damage where the scale tips from an acceptable amount of damage to an unacceptable amount of damage is called the action threshold.

The fourth component of IPM is choosing the correct combination of control measures to implement once a pest problem has exceeded an economic, aesthetic, or health threshold. If the IPM process is followed correctly, you should catch pest problems early making the problem easier to fix.

Once pest controls have been implemented to manage the level of pests, the final step in IPM is to continue to monitor your garden or landscape. This should be done to determine whether the controls put in place were successful in reducing the number of targeted pests.