The goal of the University of Wisconsin IPM Program is to increase agricultural profitability while minimizing environmental effects associated with pest management practices, grow safe food and feed, and to provide IPM educational programs to consumers. These goals are in concert with the National Roadmap for IPM (USDA 2004).

Achieving these goals requires stakeholder vision and the programming efforts of experienced UW IPM Program staff. Traditional extension activities include several classroom and infield, hands-on training sessions for students, growers and crop advisors that serve both the agronomic and specialty cropping systems areas. Equally important is the dissemination of current pest management information to growers and crop advisors through electronic newsletters, blogs, telephone applications and the traditional factsheets.

Definition of IPM

(A good example of IPM in practice is provided by the UW-Madison Vegetable Crop Entomology webpage.)

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can mean different things to different people. As a result, definitions are diverse and have ranged from those which advocate mostly organic control to those which focus on chemical control. One commonly used definition that is easy to understand is that “IPM is a decision-making process that utilizes all available pest management strategies, including cultural, physical, biological and chemical control to prevent economically damaging pest outbreaks and to reduce risks to human health and the environment.”  Three important concepts of this definition include:

IPM is a decision making process…
IPM is a continuum of management practices that range from simple field scouting to biointensive IPM which utilizes a systems approach to crop and pest management. Action thresholds have been incorporated into many IPM programs to assist with the decision making process. Two types of thresholds are commonly used:

  • Economic thresholds have been developed for crops where yield in the primary concern. The economic threshold is that pest level at which control practices must be implemented to prevent economic damage (i.e. cost of control is less than expected damage).
  • Aesthetic thresholds are used for crops such as fresh market vegetables, fruits and ornamentals where appearance plays a critical role in the crop’s marketability. Aesthetic thresholds are subjective and not absolute. They are driven by consumer preference.

IPM utilizes all available pest management tactics…
IPM utilizes all available pest control tactics. IPM does not rely on a single tactic to control pests. Some of the problems that result when a single management tactic is used include pest resistance and secondary pest outbreaks. However, preventative non-chemical control tactics should be used, whenever feasible, as a first line of defense.

IPM is used to prevent economically damaging pest outbreaks and reduce risks to human health and the environment…

IPM must continue to focus on economic, public health and environmental goals. Public health and environmental protection have been the foundation of IPM since its inception. However, the producer’s profitability and livelihood has to considered in all management decisions. Finding the appropriate mixture can be difficult.

History of IPM

Although IPM has become a “buzz word” in recent years the concept has been evolving for a long time. In the early years of IPM, pest management was centered around the control of a single pest. This concept , called “Integrated Control”, was introduced in the 1950’s and used similar philosophies that are used today (i.e., conservation of natural enemies, proper selection of pesticide and host plant resistance). However, IPM differs from Integrated control in at least two areas: IPM focuses on management not control.

The word control seems to imply that you have power over something and to many people means total eradication. Conversely, management implies a less threatening method of dealing with pests. IPM is concerned about the whole cropping system.

Integrated Control dealt with the management of a single pest species. Consideration must be given to how one management practice impacts other components of the system. For example, crop managers are concerned about the frequent use of fungicides for disease control in potatoes because their use can increase aphid populations by inhibiting natural fungal pathogens of the aphids.

Components of an IPM Program

Crop scouting is one of the major components of an IPM program, if not its foundation. The goal of crop scouting is to provide accurate and unbiased pest and crop development data. Without this information an intelligent pest management decision cannot be made. A crop advisor must have a thorough understanding of crop growth/development, key pests and their life cycles. Additionally, the crop advisor must know how the environment affects each of these components. Only after this information is collected can an appropriate pest management decision be made.
Pest prevention is another key component of an IPM program. This implies that action be taken against the pest before economic damage is reached and in some cases before a pest problem is even detected. This can be accomplished in a number of ways including physical, cultural and biological controls. These practices should be implemented prior to the use of therapeutic controls (i.e. chemical control). Therapeutic controls are recognized as a necessary component of IPM programs. However, all appropriate non-chemical control options should be implemented before pesticides are recommended.

Multi-disciplinary research and education, are also necessary components of an IPM program and are required to move IPM along the continuum. Although IPM has achieved significant accomplishments, it has a long way to go. Without the above components, IPM will continue to be a management system that is chemically based. As new management methods become available they mustbe worked into existing programs through education.

IPM programs should not be viewed as static; they are constantly changing. What is considered an IPM program today may be considered out dated technology in three years. Growers and crop advisors must be ready and willing to adapt new technologies into their farming enterprise.