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IPM: Integrated Pest Management

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Definition:

IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management. At bottom, it is about approaching pest control in a comprehensive manner that shows forethought and organization, and that minimizes negative impacts on the environment. Does that just sound like good sense to you? Well, even the EPA, in its introduction to the topic, writes, "Age-old, common-sense practices are what many people associate with IPM."

"Pest control" here refers to both home and garden pest control and weed control; i.e., to controlling both problematic fauna and problematic flora. Here's how IPM works:

Fundamental Principles of IPM

At the heart of IPM are these fundamental principles:

  1. Taking preventive steps to preclude a pest problem is preferable to waiting for pests to arrive and then having to eradicate them.

  2. Determine ahead of time how much of an infestation you can tolerate before eradication measures must be taken, and discipline yourself not to act until those infestation levels have been reached; this is called the "action threshold" (source: EPA).

  3. Be vigilant and timely, because it is easier to control some pests if you take action at a particular time. For example, it's easier to deal with crabgrass in spring with a pre-emergent herbicide than to wait till the weed sprouts later.

  4. Know thine enemy: be aware of entomological research, for example, so that you know the insect you're fighting inside-out. Likewise, consult weed pictures before trying to eradicate a weed plant, as mis-identification can result in applying ineffective control measures for that particular weed.

Control Measures Used in Integrated Pest Management

A military general whose troops entered the fray with just a single battle plan would be unlikely to carry the day. No, a good strategist develops a multi-pronged plan, keeps all options on the table, and always has contingency plans. Landscaping enthusiasts can profit from emulating such an approach. Practitioners of IPM have the following weapons (control measures) in their arsenals:

  • Cultural
  • Mechanical
  • Biological
  • Chemical

To understand the thrust of cultural control methods, you must appreciate the value of, for example, tidiness and of taking the path of least resistance. For instance, for woodchuck control, don't allow tall brush to grow near your garden. And for deer control, grow deer-resistant plants.

One cannot overemphasize the importance of the role played by common sense in cultural control methods. What's the best way to control lawn weeds? It's by keeping your grass healthy. Robustly-growing green grass will crowd out weeds, never giving them a chance to move in and flourish. For natural mosquito control, think about where these pests breed. In water, correct? So eliminate unnecessary standing water.

An example of mechanical control would be pulling weeds. Biological control involves using beneficial insects and the like. Chemical herbicides and pesticides are employed only when absolutely necessary; an organic alternative, such as Neem pesticide, is often available.

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