Ag Biz News Column
County Extension Agent—Ag/NR
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Integrated Pest Management or IPM is a strategy used to manage pests by using economically and environmentally sustainable practices. What is a pest to some may not be a pest to others.
There are several steps to an IPM program. The first step is to scout and monitor the site for pests and the damage caused by the pest. The second step is to accurately identify the pest causing the damage. A third step is to determine an action threshold for the pest species. Is the pest causing damage on all or a portion of the intended crop, plant, or other desired area?
Determining the pest species is very important in any situation as some pests are easily controlled at early developmental stages. For example, grasshoppers are easily controlled in the immature stage before they become adults and develop wings. Once they can fly, control is more difficult. The same goes for some weed species. Annual weeds are easily controlled in the seedling stage while perennial weeds are controlled in the bud or flowering stage.
The goal of IPM is not necessarily to eradicate or eliminate pests, but to strengthen and stabilize the ecosystem so that conditions are favorable for plants and unfavorable for the pest species. IPM uses controls such as biological, mechanical, cultural, and chemical to reduce pest populations.
Biological controls include other insects called beneficial insects to control certain species of pests. Biological control uses predators, parasite and pathogens to reduce pest populations. Aphids, for example, are soft-bodied insects that can cause damage to vegetable and other landscape plants. Lady beetles or lady bugs are a beneficial insect that can consume a large number of aphids.
Mechanical control is similar to when we mow our lawns. When we mow our lawns, we reduce weed species along with our grass as it is cut down. If our lawn is healthy and has adequate nutrients, once the stand of grass grows back it can out compete our weed species. Grass burs or sandburs are one example of a weed that shows up in most cases due to infertility in the soil.
Cultural controls include crop rotation in vegetable gardens. Cover crops can help by reducing the number of nematodes in the soil and once turned under the cover crop can add some organic matter back into our soils.
Chemical control is also a part of IPM. When pests reach levels that cause economic damage to the desired plant species or crop, it may be necessary to use pesticides to reduce pests. Be sure to read and follow all pesticide label recommendations as it is never legal to use a pesticide inconsistent with the label. Properly-applied chemical control methods are used only when justified, and then by choosing the least toxic methods. Density of the pest species over an area will also help determine the method of application either broadcast or individual plant treatment.
Scouting or monitoring your landscape, trees, and fields can help determine the number of pests present. Do not wait until the pests have totally damaged all or a great portion of the desired plant species before deciding what to do next. If caught early, various control methods may come into play. If caught late and the damage is done, control options will significantly be reduced to one option or even no option for control of the pest species.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service of Smith County will offer a Private Applicator Training and Testing in the Cotton Belt Building at 1517 West Front Street, Suite 116 here in Tyler on Thursday, January 3, 2013. Study manuals are available for purchase at our office. These manuals are $40 and should be purchased ahead of the training. There will be a $10 course fee the day of the training. The training is required for the Private Applicator License. The Texas Department of Agriculture representative will be on site at the completion of the training to administer the exam. You may use a calculator on the exam and please bring a current color photo ID as well. When purchasing the manuals and/or the course fee, we accept cash or check only. You may call or stop by our office from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and we close noon to 1:00 p.m. for lunch.
Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.