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Integrated Pest Management

Written By

C.O. Ehi-Eromosele, O.C. Nwinyi and O.O. Ajani

Submitted: 13 June 2012 Published: 14 March 2013

DOI: 10.5772/54476

From the Edited Volume

Weed and Pest Control - Conventional and New Challenges

Edited by Sonia Soloneski and Marcelo Larramendy

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1. Introduction

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has had a varied history, with different definitions. It has been implemented under an array of different connotations (Lewis et al., 1997). The term was earlier used as ‘‘integrated control’’ by Bartlett (Bartlett, 1956) and was further elaborated on by Stern and co-workers (Stern et al., 1959). In reference to the concept of integrating the use of biological and other controls in complementary ways, the term was later broadened to embrace coordinated use of all biological, cultural, and artificial practices (van den Bosch and Stern, 1962). The term ‘‘IPM,’’ under various authors have advocated for the principle of incorporating, the full array of pest management practices with production objectives in a total systemic approach. Nonetheless, there is no universally agreed definition of IPM.

Alastair (2003) conceived IPM as a method of rationalizing pesticide use to prevent or delay the resurgence of pest populations, that had become resistant to pesticides, and to protect beneficial insects. Today, concerns about pesticide residues in the food chain and in the environment have led to alternative definitions that exclude the use of conventional pesticides. Nevertheless, there are broad agreements on the core principles of IPM. These include IPM being:

  • An integrated scheme due to the methods of control that are seen as component technologies rather than alternatives.

  • emphasizes pest management, within a balanced system whereas control strategy suggests direct intervention with little concern for sustainability (Alastair, 2003).

In principle, IPM may be defined as a flexible and holistic system. This views the agro-ecosystem as an interrelated whole, that utilizes a variety of biological, cultural, genetic, physical, and chemical techniques that hold pests below economically damaging levels with a minimum disruption to the cropping ecosystem and the surrounding environment (Malena, 1994). In the definition of FAO (2012), integrated pest management (IPM) is an ecosystem approach to crop production and protection that combines different management strategies and practices to grow healthy crops and minimize the use of pesticides. IPM therefore, utilizes the best mix of control tactics for a given pest problem when compared with the crop yield, profit and safety of other alternatives (Kenmore et al., 1985). Other definitions of IPM according to the United States Environment Protection Agency (2012), involves an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM could be a broad based ecological approach to structural and agricultural pest control that integrates pesticides/herbicides into a management system incorporating a range of practices for economic control of a pest. In addition, IPM, attempts to prevent infestation, to observation of patterns of infestation when they occur, and to intervene (without poisons) when one deems necessary. Finally, IPM is the intelligent selection and use of pest control actions that ensures favourable economic, ecological and sociological consequences (Sandler, 2010).

1.1. Succinct history of IPM

IPM is not a new philosophy. The concept has been around since the 1920’s when cotton pest management program was developed. Under this scheme, insect control was "supervised" by qualified entomologists, and insecticide applications were based on conclusions reached from periodic monitoring of pest and natural-enemy populations. This was viewed as an alternative to calendar-based insecticide programs. Supervised control is based on a sound knowledge of the ecology and analysis of the projected trends in pest and natural-enemy populations. In supervised control, (integrated control) the best mix of chemical and biological controls is sought and identified for a given insect pest. The chemical insecticides are used in a manner that is least disruptive to biological control. The chemical controls are applied only after regular monitoring indicates that a pest population had reached an economic threshold level. Thus, such treatment is required to prevent the population from reaching an economic injury level where economic losses would exceed the cost of the artificial control measures.

Typically, the main aim of IPM programmes is on agricultural insect pests (IPM Guidelines, 2009). Although, originally developed for agricultural pest management, IPM programmes are now developed to encompass diseases, weeds, and other pests that may interfere with the management objectives of sites such as residential and commercial structures, lawn and turf areas, and home and community gardens. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.

The IPM approach can be applied to both agricultural and non-agricultural settings, such as the home, garden, and workplace. IPM takes advantage of all appropriate pest management options including, the judicious use of pesticides.


2. IPM – A philosophy

2.1. A pest management strategy

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a philosophy that involves the management of a pest instead of controlling or eradicating a pest. It requires a greater knowledge of the pest, crop and the environment. Therefore, its strategy focuses on harnessing inherent strengths within ecosystems and directing the pest populations into acceptable bounds rather than toward eliminating them. This strategy avoids undesirable short term and long term ripple effects and will ensure a sustainable future (Lewis et al., 1997).

IPM programs should be operated with “pest management objectives” rather than “pesticide management objectives”. Integrated pest management is a comprehensive long term pest management program based on knowledge of an ecosystem that weighs economic, environmental, and social consequences of interventions (Flint and van den Bosch, 1981). The foundation for pest management in agricultural systems should be an understanding and shoring up of the full composite of inherent plant defenses, plant mixtures, soil, natural enemies, and other components of the system. These natural ‘‘built in’’ regulators are linked in a web of feedback loops that are renewable and sustainable. The use of pesticides and other ‘‘treat-the-symptoms’’ approaches are unsustainable and should be the last option rather than the first line of defense. A pest management strategy should always start with the question ‘‘Why is the pest a pest?’’. It should also seek to address underlying weaknesses in ecosystems and/or agronomic practice(s) that have allowed organisms to reach pest status (Lewis et al., 1997).

2.2. An integrated process

Integration or compatibility among pest management tactics is central to Integrated Pest Management. Simply mixing different management tactics does not constitute IPM. Mixing the tactics arbitrarily may actually aggravate pest problems or produce other unintended effects. IPM recognizes there is no “cure-all” in pest control (dependence on any one pest management method will have undesirable effects). Reliance on a single tactic will favor pests that are resistant to that practice. In IPM, integrated control seeks to identify the best mix of chemical and biological controls for a given insect pest. The term "integrated" is thus synonymous with "compatibility."

2.3. Understanding pest biology and ecology

The determination of the correct cause of pest problem (understanding pest biology) and ecology is essential in manipulating the environment to the crop’s advantage and to the detriment of the pest.

2.4. Acceptable pest levels

IPM recognizes that eradication of a pest is seldom necessary or even desirable, and generally not possible. The primary objective in pest management is not to eliminate a pest organism but to bring it into acceptable bounds (Lawal et al., 1997). The emphasis is on control, not eradication. IPM holds that wiping out an entire pest population is often impossible, and the attempt can be expensive and environmentally unsafe. IPM programmes initial task is to establish acceptable pest levels, called action thresholds, and apply controls where the thresholds are crossed. These thresholds are pest and site specific, meaning that it may be acceptable at one site to have for instance a weed such as white clover, but at another site it may not be acceptable. By allowing a pest population to survive at a reasonable threshold, selection pressure is reduced. This stops the pest gaining resistance to chemicals produced by the plant or applied to the crops. If many of the pests are killed, then any that have resistance to the chemical will form the genetic basis of the future, more resistant, population. By not killing all the pests there are some un-resistant pests left that will dilute any resistant genes that appear (Wikipedia, 2011).

2.5. IPM a continuum, not an end

Agriculture is a dynamic system that continually changes to changing crop production practices. IPM must continually change to meet pest management challenges. IPM is a continuum that will change with time. Every farmer practices some type of IPM, as long as they make progress to better its management. As new pest control techniques are discovered, the producer and crop advisor must adapt their pest control program to reflect these changes. What is considered a good IPM program today may be considered a chemical intensive program in a few years. Additionally, some good advice to the producer and crop advisor is to try the new changes on a limited scale, while becoming comfortable with the suggested practices before wide-scale changes are made.


3. IPM process

IPM is applicable to all types of agriculture and sites such as residential and commercial structures, lawn and turf areas, and home and community gardens. The process includes:

3.1. Proper identification pest damage and responsible pests

Identification must be the first objective. When the identity of a pest is not known, then, a strategy built to control the pest cannot be transferred from one site to another, primarily, because the pest species or strain (biotype) might behave differently. Thus, a solid foundation must be built on systematic, taxonomy, etiology, and spatial distribution (Irwin, 1999). Cases of mistaken identity may result in ineffective actions. If plant damage is due to over-watering, it could be mistaken for fungal infection, since many fungal and viral infections arise under moist conditions. This could lead to spray costs, but the plant would be no better off.

3.2. Pest and host life cycles biology

Understanding crop growth and development is an underlying principle of IPM. We cannot just focus on the pest. The interactions between crop and pest (as well as the environment) are very important. To deplore an efficient IPM programme, literature and other data sources about the pest, the pest’s life cycle, host range, distribution, movement, and basic biology will have to be researched. At the time you see a pest, it may be too late to do much about it except maybe spray with a pesticide (Metcalf and Luckmann, 1994). Often, there is another stage of the life cycle that is susceptible to preventative actions. For example, weeds reproducing from last year's seed can be prevented with mulches and pre-emergent herbicide. Also, learning what a pest needs to survive allows you to remove these.

3.3. Monitor or sample the environment for pest populations

After the pest has been correctly identified, monitoring must begin before it becomes a problem. Sampling and monitoring methodologies must be designed and tested to provide the ability for assessing instantaneous and dynamic aspects of the pest’s density, activity, or incidence (Irwin, 1999). Understanding how the environment affects pest and crop development is very important. Understanding interactions with the environment allows crop advisors to react to changing conditions. Environmental influences like drought stress influences pest management recommendations. When a crop is under stress it can be less capable of dealing with the stress caused by insects that extract plant sap (e.g. aphids, leafhoppers) and this stress may slightly lower the economic threshold. Weed populations which would not normally cause an economic loss may do so under drought conditions when they compete with the crop for limited water.

The weather is notorious for affecting pest development and survival. Certain weather patterns may affect weed seed germination and explain why certain weeds are more abundant during wet fall or springs.

3.4. Establish action threshold (economic, health, and aesthetic)

The question here is: how many are too many or how much can be tolerated? In some cases, there are standardized numbers of pests that can be tolerated. Soybeans are quite tolerant of defoliation, so if there are a few caterpillars in the field and their population may not be increasing dramatically; thus, no urgent action may be necessary. Conversely, there is a point at which an action must be taken to control cost. For instance the farmer can control cost at the point when the cost of damage by the pest is more than the cost of control. This is an economic threshold. Tolerance of pests varies according to the health hazard (low tolerance) or merely a cosmetic damage (high tolerance in a non-commercial situation). Different sites may also have varying requirements based on specific areas. For instance, white clover may be perfectly acceptable on the sides of a tee box on a golf course, but unacceptable in the fairway where it could cause confusion in the field of play (Purdue University, 2006).

3.5. Choose an appropriate combination of management tactics

The word ‘integrated’ in IPM initially referred to the simultaneous use or integration of any number of tactics in combination, with focus on maintaining a single pest species below its economic injury level. Although, in theory a single strategy results from the simultaneous integration of several tactics, in practice, the integration actually occurs in a step-wise, time-delayed fashion. Several of the tactics are compatible, but some are not. Certainly the tactics of biological control, habitat manipulation, and legal control go alongside. The tactic of host resistance can stand alone or be combined with the other tactics just mentioned. Chemical control is generally compatible with host resistance. Thus, a management strategy integrates one or several compatible tactics into a single package (Irwin, 1999).

3.6. Evaluate and record results

Evaluation is often one of the most important steps in Integrated Pest Management (Bennett et al., 2005). It is the process of reviewing an IPM program and the results it has generated. Asking the following questions is useful: Did the steps one took effectively control the population? Was this method safe enough? Where there any expected side effects? What is the next step? Understanding the effectiveness of the IPM program allows the site manager to make modifications to the IPM plan prior to pests reaching the action threshold and requiring action again.


4. Pest management tactics

There are different pest management tactics to suppress pests. They include host resistance, chemical, biological, cultural, mechanical, sanitary and mechanical controls. The primary pest management tactic involves maximization of built-in pest reduction features of an ecosystem. Molecular or genetic mechanisms are potentially manifested in a number of these more specific tactics. Each category, discussed below, employs a different set of mechanisms for suppressing populations.

4.1. Chemical control

The therapeutic approach of killing pest organisms with toxic chemicals has been the prevailing pest control strategy for over 50 years. Safety problems and ecological disruptions continue to ensue (Wright, 1996), and there are renewed appeals for effective, safe, and economically acceptable alternatives (Benbrook, 1996). Synthetic chemical pesticides are the most widely used method of pest control. The four major problems encountered with conventional pesticides are toxic residues, pest resistance, secondary pests, and pest resurgence (Lewis, 1997). The use of natural pesticides and organophosphates that are more environmentally friendly are encouraged and synthetic pesticides should only be used as a last resort or only used as required and often only at specific times in a pests life cycle.

4.2. Biological control

This involves the use of other living things that are enemies of a pest in order to control it. Sometimes, the term ‘‘biological control’’ has been used in a broad context to encompass a full spectrum of biological organisms and biologically based products including pheromones, resistant plant varieties, and autocidal techniques such as sterile insects. IPM is mainly aimed at developing systems based on biological and non-chemical methods as much as possible.

4.3. Host plant resistance

This involves breeding varieties with desirable economic traits, but less attractive for pests, for egg laying and subsequent development of insect, disease or nematode. It also involves withstanding the infestation/infection or the reduction of pests to level that they are not large numbers during the plant growth period (Sharma, 2007).

4.4. Cultural measures

This involves practices that suppress pest problems by minimizing the conditions that favour their existence (water, shelter, food). Some of these factors are intrinsic to crop production while making the environment less favourable for survival, growth and reproduction of pest species. If followed in an appropriate manner, the cultural practices can provide significant relief from pests. The selection of appropriate site for the cultivation of field crops and fruit trees can reduce future infestation from insect pests. The culture should be selected in such a manner that it should be suitable for growing in the area and tolerant to important pests diseases of the area.

4.5. Mechanical control

This is the use of machinery and other tools to control pests. It involves agricultural practices like tillage, slash and burn, and hand weeding. The pruning of infested parts of fruits and forest trees and defoliation in certain crops help reduce the pest population. Chaffing of sorghum/maize stalks and burning of stubbles kills maize borer.

4.6. Sanitary control

Preventive practices are important part of an IPM programme. These include cleaning field equipment (i.e., tillage equipment, haying equipment, etc.), planting certified seeds and quarantine of infested crops or farmlands. These are methods used to prevent the introduction of a pest into the field.

4.7. Natural control

Natural control involves the enhancement of naturally occurring pest management methods to combat pests like using beneficial insects and diseases. Here, insecticides will only be used when they are economically feasible and it is apparent that natural enemies will not control the pests.


5. IPM: A multi-disciplinary approach

IPM is a management intensive philosophy which stresses a multidisciplinary approach. Pests interact with each other, the crop, and the environment. Similarly, pest and crop management disciplines must work together to develop control recommendations that reflect these interactions.

For example, management of the Soybean aphid includes entomologists who study the insect and their damage to soybean, agronomists that identify crop stage which are most vulnerable to soybean aphid damage, plant pathologists who study the viruses transmitted by aphid feeding, and soil scientists who study the aphids interaction with nutrient deficiencies.


6. Benefits of an IPM programme

The benefits of Integrated Pest Management are immense directly to farming and indirectly to society.

  1. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) protects environment through elimination of unnecessary pesticide applications. In IPM, pesticides are used at the smallest effective dose when other methods of pest control have failed. Also, they are used in bringing a pest organism to acceptable bounds with as little ecological disruption as possible.

  2. IPM improves profitability. Since IPM programme applies the most economical management pest tactics, profitability is ensured for the grower or farmer.

  3. It reduces risk of crop loss by a pest. Applying pest management and monitoring tactics will also ensure the reduction of crop loss or damage by pests.

  4. Long term sociological benefits of IPM would also emerge in areas of employment, public health, and well being of persons associated with agriculture.


7. Disadvantages of an IPM programme

In spite of the numerous benefits of IPM stated so far, there are also some drawbacks to it:

7.1. An IPM program requires a higher degree of management

Making the decision not to use pesticides on a routine or regular basis requires advanced planning and therefore, a higher degree of management. This planning includes attention to field histories to anticipate what the pest problems might be, selecting crop varieties which are resistant or tolerant to pest damage, choosing tillage systems that will suppress anticipated pest damage while giving the crop the greatest yield potential.

7.2. IPM can be more labor intensive

Consistent, timely and accurate field scouting takes time. However, it is this information that is necessary and is the corner stone of IPM programs. Without this information you cannot make intelligent management decision.

7.3. Success can be weather dependant

Weather can complicate IPM planning. For example you might want to lower herbicide rates and use row cultivation to manage weed pressure. However an extended wet period may reduce (or eliminate) the effectiveness of row cultivation. Therefore, good IPM planners will have a alternate plan for when these problems arise.


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Written By

C.O. Ehi-Eromosele, O.C. Nwinyi and O.O. Ajani

Submitted: 13 June 2012 Published: 14 March 2013