Eliminating all pests from fields may not be possible, but growers can effectively manage them through farm-specific integrated pest management plans (IPM). By understanding pests and their life cycles, farmers can minimize damage while promoting sustainable practices and increasing profits.
What is integrated pest management (IPM)?
Integrated pest management, or IPM, is an effective, sustainable approach to manage pest populations. It incorporates prevention, monitoring, and intervention, and combines cultural, physical, biological, and chemical controls.
A proper IPM plan effectively manages a wide variety of pests, including insects, weeds, and plant diseases. Farmers can reduce reliance on chemical controls through preventative techniques like crop rotation, physical barriers, and pest-resistant varieties.
A proper IPM plan will:
- Reduce damage and improve crop quality
- More effectively control pests
- Minimize the need for expensive chemical treatments
- Reduce pest resistance to pesticides
- Increase yields
The benefits of IPM
An IPM plan can help increase yields. It controls pests more effectively, reduces crop damage, and improves overall quality.
It can also help growers optimize their chemical use. An IPM employs biological controls, such as beneficial insects, to control pests. This can help reduce overall pest resistance to pesticides, which makes chemical use more efficient over time. That reduction in pesticide use makes growers better stewards of the land, and improves soil and water quality.
5 steps to an effective IPM plan
Step 1: Identify the pest
To control pests, it’s important to first identify them in the field. Proper identification can help determine damage thresholds and a specific plan for control. For help identifying pests, reach out to your AgriGold agronomist or state extension website.
Step 2: Monitor pest activity
To monitor fields, it’s not necessary to check every plant. Instead, employ a scouting strategy. Choose a handful of unsystematic areas across the field to get an average insect and damage threshold. Look for patterns or variations, as these may point to an underlying reason plants are exhibiting symptoms.
Step 3: Determine action thresholds
Before taking any pest control action, an effective IPM plan sets an action threshold. This is an economic point at which pest populations or environmental conditions indicate action is essential. Thresholds can be based on the average number of pests per trap each week, the percentage of leaf coverage, the number of damaged/infested plants, or the number of pests dislodged per shake, beat, or water-lodging sample.
Insect population thresholds vary based on the pest, geographic location, hybrid or variety type, and planting time. Action thresholds allow for precise application timing, which can maintain/improve crop quality and minimize pesticide applications. If it’s hard to identify thresholds, work with an agronomist or consult county or university extension experts for a pest identification guide.
Step 4: Explore and implement treatment options
The most common pest control method is pesticides. But consider prevention before applying them. Consider other cultural prevention practices, like crop rotation or planting date variation. Planting a crop during the recommended window can reduce the risk of seedling-insect exposure to mid-to-late season pests. Crop rotation also helps fend off pests and lessen insect populations. If cultural and/or mechanical treatments aren’t available, use pesticides. Follow all chemical label recommendations to avoid damage.
Step 5: Evaluate results
Evaluating a control method’s results helps ensure pests are gone. If high pest populations are still there after implementing a proper IPM plan, continue to use a combination of treatment options throughout the year. Maintain a monitoring program and adjust the IPM plan as needed until pests are no longer present.
The bottom line
- Integrated pest management (IPM) is an effective, sustainable approach to manage pest populations in crop production. It uses a combination of prevention, monitoring, and intervention techniques.
- An IPM plan protects crops, increases yields, and minimizes potential pest damage while reducing the need for pesticide use.
- A proper IPM plan should be farm-specific and include a combination of cultural, physical, biological, and chemical controls.
- The benefits of IPM include better yields, higher crop quality, less pest resistance to pesticides, and better stewardship of the land.
- An effective IPM plan includes five steps: identify the pest, monitor pest activity, determine action thresholds, explore and implement treatment options, and evaluate results.
Our team has the tools and knowledge to establish pest management plans that help our growers reach their goals. Reach out to your AgriGold agronomist for questions or help creating a pest management plan.