Integrated Pest Management

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Integrated Pest Management

Integrated pest management (IPM) is an environmentally responsible and economically practical method of controlling lawn and garden pests. It is a method that has been researched at Texas A&M.

It is based on the belief that most diseases, weeds, insects and other pests can be controlled by employing good management practices and maximizing the many controls already existing in nature.

A pest is defined as any organism that interferes with the growth of a plant or its production of blooms or fruit. We generally think of pests as insects, diseases, and weeds; but there are many other types including nematodes, arthropods and vertebrates. A pesticide is anything that kills the problem pest, and includes insecticides (kills insects), herbicides (kills weeds), and other products such as fungicides, that control plant diseases.

IPM is a nationally accepted practice that reduces the impact on our environment, saves money, and reduces pesticide use. The basic principles of IPM follow an orderly process:

  1. Identify the problem.
  2. Determine the severity of the problem.
  3. Use appropriate controls.

Identify the Problem
Before deciding what type of control to use, first identify what’s harming your plants. Many times, insect infestations and diseases are not the underlying problem; but rather, symptoms of stress caused by poor growing conditions. These include things like compacted soil, nutrient deficiencies, too much or too little moisture, or poorly adapted plant species. Simply correcting these cultural conditions may eliminate the need for any further pest control.

The truth is that many insects you see in your landscape are beneficial. Of the millions of insects in the world, less than two percent are considered harmful. Beneficial insects such as ground beetles, ladybugs, fireflies, green lacewings, praying mantis, spiders, and wasps keep harmful insects from devouring your plants. Indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides may harm beneficial insects more than unwanted pests.

Determine the Severity of the Problem
Do you have a few pests on a few plants? It’s quite possible that the little bit of damage they produce is not worth the risks of using a pesticide. Do you have many pests on one part of a plant? You might consider pruning the plant to remove the pests. Do you have one plant that is being devastated? You might consider replacing the plant. Do you have several plants that are severely affected? Then pesticide intervention may be necessary.

The goal should be to control the pest, not totally eliminate it, which is probably impossible anyway. The key is to achieve a reasonable balance. Treat only the plants that are genuinely suffering. Remember, without a few bad insects, there would be no good insects because they wouldn’t have anything to eat. The key is to achieve a reasonable balance; and in some cases, the appropriate action may be to do nothing.

Use Appropriate Controls
There are several control options that can be used, depending on the problem. These include non-toxic practices such as:

  • Good bed preparation,
  • Application of beneficial insects,
  • Botanical pesticides derived from plants,
  • Mineral pesticides such as horticultural oils, and
  • Synthetic pesticides only as a last resort.

Always use the least toxic product or practice that will effectively control the problem. Remember to start by correcting any cultural practices that may be contributing to the problem, determine the severity of the problem, and apply the physical or biological controls only when they are appropriate. As a last resort, consider pesticides derived from natural sources. Generally, these tend to be less toxic, break down more rapidly, and are more environmentally friendly than their chemical cousins.
Examples are:

  • Insecticidal soaps,
  • Horticultural oils,
  • Neem oil,
  • Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis – there are several types of Bacillus so make sure to use the correct one),
  • Spinosad, and
  • Pyrethrin

If, after all of the other steps are complete, it is necessary to use a synthetic (chemical) pesticide, choose the least toxic product that is targeted specifically to control the problem pest.
Examples are:

  • Carbaryl (e.g., Sevin),
  • Malathion,
  • Pyrethroid,

Avoid usage of broad-spectrum pesticides that kill everything. Follow label instructions carefully. Do not apply more than the label specifies. More is not better. Dispose of any unused pesticides properly. by Carol Welch

For detailed IPM information please use the following link: