IPM Pest Control Strategies

Typically, a garden or landscape will never be pest free.  The goal should not be to eliminate all pests, but instead to maintain a balance with a wide variety of beneficial organisms and a tolerable number of pests.  IPM utilizes four types of controls to manage pests: cultural controls, mechanical or physical controls, biological controls, and as a last resort, chemical controls.

Cultural Pest Controls

Cultural controls are generally preventative in nature and focus on changing the pest’s environment, pest’s behavior, or the conditions of the host plant to reduce the chances that pests will establish themselves, reproduce, spread, and survive.  In a gardening setting, these might include techniques such as maintaining the proper soil pH for your plants, adding organic material to the soil to improve fertility and promote a diverse population of organisms in the soil, selecting plants that are appropriate for the soil and climate and possibly resistant to certain  pests, planting in areas with the proper amount of sunlight an airflow to reduce diseases, watering at appropriate times late at night or early in the morning, and mulching.  In an agricultural setting, these cultural controls might include rotating crops, selecting pest-resistant varieties, or planting rootstock that is pest-free.

Mechanical Pest Controls

Mechanical or physical controls involve the use of devices, machines, and other physical techniques to control pests, typically after they have exceeded an action threshold.  These might include removing insects and their eggs from the plants by hand, knocking pests off with a spray of water, using barriers to prevent pests from gaining physical access to your plants, using traps to capture the pests, soil solarization, sanitized pruning of infested or infected stems, and more.

Biological Pest Controls

Biological controls involve the use of natural enemies of pests such as insects, mites, plant pathogens, weeds, and others to lower and maintain pest populations.  These natural enemies used to control pests can include predators, parasites, pathogens, and competitors.

Chemical Pest Controls

Chemical controls involve the use of pesticides to control pest populations.  Such controls are only used as a last resort and in conjunction with other types of controls resulting in more effective, long-term results.  Under IPM, pesticides are selected and applied in ways to minimize harm to humans, the environment, and nontargeted organisms.  There are two main categories of pesticides: biorational and conditional.