August 2, 2015

Integrated Pest Management Insights

(Editor’s Note: Questions and answers have been paraphrased for brevity and clarity.)


Organic and conventional producers benefit from the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).  Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to meet the director of the Western IPM Center, Dr. Jim Farrar, who provides overall leadership for the center.  Here is a summary of key questions related to IPM that Dr. Farrar addressed during a recent conversation on IPM insights.


What is IPM and how has it evolved over time?

IPM is a practical knowledge-based system.  This means having a comprehensive knowledge of a particular crop, potential pests and conditions that facilitate their development.  Utilizing IPM is having a plan to prevent, manage and suppress pest damage with the ultimate goal of reducing pests below an economical damaging threshold while protecting the human health and the environment.

IPM is currently used successfully in different settings.  IPM has evolved over time.  Originally it was used for alfalfa production, then evolved to be applied in produce (with lower tolerance of cosmetic damages) and now is even applied in non-agricultural areas, like schools.


How does IPM fit into efforts to protect beneficial pollinators or the environment?

According to a report prepared by the Western IPM Center, IPM is a scientific approach to pest management that integrates biological, cultural, mechanical and chemical options to control pest problems.  With that said, different efforts can be integrated into IPM.

IPM can be used in organic, bio-dynamic and urban systems.  IPM can be used in different contexts and for different goals, like protection of pollinators.  The key is having a system in place based on current scientific knowledge and best practices to prevent and control pest damage using different practices.


Do you see a growing market for IPM labels and what are your thoughts about it?

There are some efforts, but in general consumers are not aware of this new label/certification option.  The concept of IPM is relatively unknown to many consumers and it may take some time to educate consumers about it.  The IPM label concept may be better in the context of a larger sustainability label.


The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Services collects data on IPM pest-management practices and groups those practices into four categories: prevention, avoidance, monitoring and suppression.  Could you share a few examples of successful practices in each group?

Prevention: Seed certifications have been very successful for many crops and diseases. 
A particular example is the current certification for lettuce seed in Arizona and California, this requires lettuce seed to be tested and found free of Lettuce Mosaic Virus in a 30,000 seed sample per seed lot.

Avoidance: Crop rotation works for several pests and crops.  A particular example is rotating tomato for about 1 year to control bacterial canker.

Monitoring: Scouting and monitoring is a successful and common practice, but frequency varies depending on cropping system.  A particular example is the frequent monitoring and scouting in leafy greens in Arizona and Southern California, state-licensed Pest Control Advisers (PCAs) scout 100% of lettuce acres at least three to four times per week.

Suppression: Two great examples are the use of biological and chemical pesticides and also releasing beneficial organisms to control infestation in several pests and crops.  A particular example is the release of the filbert aphid parasitoid, Trioxys pallidus by Oregon hazelnut growers to control filbert aphids.


What tools are available for producers to determine best IPM activities and specific practices by crop?

IPM practices are already established in every state through land-grant universities.  The Western IPM Center website has links to access different IPM state programs that consider local and crop specific information in California, Arizona and Colorado.  This is the link to access this information:

While using these resources, it is important to keep in mind that an IPM plan does not always use all types of practices (biological, cultural, mechanical and chemical) to control a pest.  For example, the Fusarium wilt of tomato does not have effective chemical practices to use currently.


In March 2015, the Western IPM Center released a report about adoption and impacts of IPM in Agriculture in the Western States.  Could you summarize the key findings of that report in a few words?

In sum, IPM is widely adopted in agriculture in the West.  This benefits producers, consumers and the environment.


What are some of the steps producers should consider to implement a new or evaluate an existing IPM program?

Here are a few considerations: 1) know your crop and potential pests, this means to know how to identify pests and their damages as well as to understand their life cycle, 2) plan ahead to prevent and avoid pests, 3) get in the field and monitor regularly, 4) use multiple suppression practices; 5) assess your plan, verify you are doing well with your controls; and 6) work with experts on particular crops/pests if possible.