IPM is a pretty big buzz phrase out there in agriculture right now. It stands for Integrated Pest
Management. Integrated means that you employ several different types of strategies. Pest in this case
can refer to insects, diseases, weeds, or any other thing out there that you don’t want messing with your
plants. Management is important. It’s not Integrated Pest Eradication. Management means that an
acceptable threshold is found for the pest. Depending on what the pest is and what type of damage its
doing affects what is an acceptable threshold. For example, the threshold for kudzu growing in a gully or
ditch will be much higher than kudzu encroaching on your yard.
Management in IPM comes by a combination of biological, cultural, mechanical, and chemical means. By
using a combination of these practices, the idea is that pests can be managed to minimize economic,
environmental, and public health risks. IPM is a long term management strategy where chemical control
is used as a last resort.
Biological control is using natural enemies of a pest for control. Ladybugs are an excellent example
because they eat a lot of other insects that feed on garden plants. Another example is that UGA is
conducting research on beetles that will control the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid that is ravaging our
hemlocks. Cultural controls can include watering practices. A lot of fungal diseases are encouraged by
wet conditions. Another example of cultural control is selecting disease resistant varieties to plant. An
example of mechanical control is using traps for rodents or other pests to remove them. Mulch to
prevent weeds from popping up is another example. Finally, chemical control involves spraying
pesticides. When pesticides are applied they are used only where needed. Selective pesticides that are
safest for the surrounding organisms are used.
Prevention of pest problems is a big part of IPM. When IPM is used on a large production scale
quantitative thresholds will be set so that chemical sprays are used only when necessary. Spraying
chemicals is not bad or disallowed when using IPM, you just try to much more conscientious of using
sprays and use them sparingly. There are times and situations when biological, cultural, and mechanical
aren’t effective and spraying is the only effective option of control available. The goal with IPM is to
reduce the reliance on chemical applications for successful control.
You may already be using IPM without even realizing it. Using mulch around flower beds or drip
irrigation to water can be IPM. If you have a fence around your garden to keep deer and other pests out
that is part of IPM. Some ways that you could improve your use of IPM could be spraying insecticides
when beneficial insects aren’t active. When planting look to see what disease resistance your seeds have
or use plants that are from our area, oftentimes those will have natural resistance and be adapted to
The key to being successful with IPM is to be more conscientious of your surroundings and thinking long
term. If you have questions about IPM contact your local county Extension Office or send me an email at