Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?
IPM is an approach to solving pest problems by applying our knowledge
about pests to prevent them from damaging crops, harming animals,
infesting buildings or otherwise interfering with our livelihood or
enjoyment of life. IPM means responding to pest problems with the most
effective, least-risk option.
Under IPM, actions are taken to control pests only when their numbers
are likely to exceed acceptable levels. Any action taken is designed to
target the troublesome pest, and limit the impact on other organisms and
Applying pesticides to crops, animals, buildings or landscapes on a
routine basis, regardless of need, is not IPM. Applications of
pesticides are always the last resort in an IPM program.
"IPM Year" graphic and text courtesy of Cornell
Soil Preparation: Growers 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
Planting: Growers plant crops that tolerate common problems,
altering planting time and spacing to discourage certain diseases and
Forecasting: Weather data
are consulted to predict if and when
pest outbreaks will occur. Treatments can then be properly timed,
preventing crop damage and saving sprays.
Pest Trapping: Traps that are attractive to insects are used so
that growers can pinpoint when the pest has arrived and decide whether
control is justified.
Monitoring: Growers inspect representative areas of the fields
regularly to determine whether pests are approaching a damaging level.
Thresholds: Before treating, growers wait until pest populations
reach a scientifically determined level that could cause economic
damage. Until that threshold is reached, the cost of yield and quality
loss will be less than the cost for control.
Cultural Controls: The pest's environment it then disrupted by
turning under crop residues, sterilizing greenhouse tools, and
Biological Controls: It is necessary for growers to conserve the
many beneficial natural enemies already at work. They import and use
additional biologicals where effective.
Chemical Controls: Growers select the most effective and
appropriate pesticide and properly calibrate sprayers. They then verify
that weather conditions will permit good coverage without undue drift.
Recordkeeping: Records of pest traps, weather and treatment are
kept for use in pest management decisions.
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Who can use
Anyone who deals with pest problems can use IPM. Farmers,
buildings and grounds maintenance personnel, professional pest control
operators, and home dwellers can learn how to apply least-risk solutions
to prevent pest trouble or respond to problems when they arise.
What are pesticide
Pesticide hazards include
acute, immediate toxicity to humans and other non-target organisms;
chronic or long-term toxicity such as cancer; and potential to
contaminate air, or ground and surface water. Information on many
of these potential hazards for specific pesticides can be found on
pesticide labels, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and resources such
Recent studies documenting the need for continued
reductions in hazardous pesticide use and practices include the Heinz Center evaluation of our nation’s
ecosystems in 2002, reporting that seventy-five percent of streams tested had more than five pesticide contaminants.
A 2006 US Geological Survey review of 51 studies over ten years reported that 96% of fish, 100% of surface water, and 33% of major aquifers sampled from 1992 to 2001 contained one or more pesticides. Nearly 10% of stream sites and 1.2% of ground water sites in agricultural areas, and 6.7% of stream and 4.8% of ground water site in urban areas contained pesticides at concentrations exceeding benchmarks for human health derived from US EPA standards and guidelines for drinking water.
The adult human body is similarly contaminated with pesticides, pesticide-related compounds and other synthetic chemicals. A
2002 study led by Mount Sinai School of Medicine researchers found an average of 91 industrial compounds, pollutants and other chemicals in the blood and urine of nine volunteers.
A total of 167 chemicals were found in these individuals, none of whom worked with chemicals occupationally or lived near industrial facilities. Of the 167 chemicals found, 17 were pesticides or pesticide breakdown products. Seventy-six were carcinogens, 94 neurotoxins, and 79 developmental or reproductive toxins.
Pests can also become resistant to pesticides, increasing control
costs, crop losses or other pest damage. Many natural enemies of pests
are killed by pesticides, freeing pests from these natural controls.
According to a US General
Accountability Office report in 1999, information is currently not collected to fully document the extent of pest problems and pesticide use.
Data on impacts of pest infestation and pesticide use on children as well as the general public are lacking. Data of short-term illnesses due to pesticide exposure are
limited. Documentation would be difficult to obtain even if concerted efforts were made due to the multiple potential causes for short and long-term symptoms and illnesses associated with exposure to pests and pesticides.
These unknown or poorly understood potential hazards argue for additional levels of protection including exposures to multiple pesticides, at home, at school and in the diet; exposure to chemicals in combination with pesticides such as pharmaceuticals, industrial compounds and personal care products; and the general difficulty in attributing chronic illnesses to any one particular cause.
Pesticides are powerful
tools for responding to persistent pest problems.
It’s not smart, effective or affordable to use these tools when they
are not necessary. Using IPM to prevent pest problems and
minimize reliance on pesticides is the best solution for
a healthy environment for everyone.
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Are all pesticides bad?
Most pesticide problems are caused by a small number of the
pesticides available today. Many low hazard pesticides are available, and
more are being developed each year from both naturally occurring and
synthetic materials. However, pesticide use without regard to need or
potential hazard is always a poor choice, and rarely solves pest problems.
Improvements in pest management are
needed, and pesticides will likely always be a part of the
solution. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria continues to kill more than 1 million annually.
Asthma incidence and asthma-associated morbidity is increasing in inner city children in the U.S.
Asthma is associated with cockroach allergen sensitivity and exposure as well as exposure to pesticides.
(Download a review
of pest and pesticide associations with asthma in PDF format.)
Other persistent and emerging pest problems include vectored human and animal diseases such as West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis and Lyme disease; plant pests and diseases such as emerald ash borer and soybean rust; and more than 170 noxious aquatic, terrestrial or parasitic weeds continue to challenge pest managers in the U.S. and elsewhere, and demand effective pest management measures.
Since 2003, the majority of new pesticide registrations have met
criteria set by EPA for "reduced risk" including lower hazards
to human health and non-target organisms, and reduce potential for contamination of groundwater, surface water, and other environmental resources.
These EPA "reduced risk" pesticides include biopesticides,
which are naturally occurring substances, microorganisms, or pesticidal substances produced by plants containing genetic material introduced specifically to control pests.
How does IPM reduce
IPM reduces hazards by reducing overall pesticide use, using
least hazardous pesticides when there is a demonstrated need, and taking
special protective measures to reduce pesticide exposure living
organisms and the environment.
does IPM differ from Organic?
IPM allows the use of pesticides, fertilizers and other
materials made from synthetic materials when necessary. Organic programs
largely restrict allowable pesticides to those made from natural materials. Pesticides
used in organic programs can also have harmful effects on humans,
animals and the environment, and must be used carefully and only when
needed. IPM strategies can also help organic programs reduce hazards.
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is "IPM Certification"?
Certification implies that
a professional, product or service meets a well-defined standard. Certification can be a powerful tool to demonstrate to customers,
neighbors and peers in your profession that your pest management
practices meet the highest standards for reduced hazard and effectiveness.
Many programs include IPM as a standard that must
be met prior to certification. Not all programs require IPM performance to
the same degree - some programs have minimal IPM requirements and other truly
seek to identify top IPM performers. For an independent rating of many
certification programs addressing pest management, visit www.ecolabels.org.
The IPM Institute has worked with public
agencies, non-governmental organizations and industry to develop and implement
meaningful programs incorporating IPM standards. Clients have included
Food Alliance, Protected Harvest, SYSCO Corporation and the Universities of
Wisconsin, Florida, Cornell and Rutgers.
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can my products or services become IPM Certified?
Pest control operators, farmers, buildings and grounds
managers, wildlife management specialists, crop consultants and others
can have their products or
services certified under a variety of programs that use IPM as a
To find out if you or your organization, products or services are
eligible for certification, contact the IPM
Institute. Anyone can join the Institute and support its efforts to
reduce pesticide hazards.