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"A Guide to Technical Information for use in Developing an Outdoor Classroom"

What is IPM?

IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management. This is not something new. Kentuckians have been using IPM for more than twenty years. IPM promotes minimized pesticide use. Instead of using only chemicals, IPM emphasizes the use of all available pest control methods- biological, cultural, mechanical and when necessary, chemical for environmentally and economically sound pest control.

Basics of IPM

Fact Sheet #31 developed by Cornell University Program on Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors.

What is a pest?

Pests can be insects, rodents and other animals, unwanted plants (weeds), fungi, or microorganisms like bacteria and plant viruses.

What is a pesticide?

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a pesticide as any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitiagting pests. Pesticides are useful to society because of their ability to kill disease-causing organisms and control harmful insects, weeds, and other pests. By their very nature, some pesticides present potential risks of harm to humans, animals, or the environment because they are designed to kill or otherwise adversely affect living organisms.

Pesticides include insecticides, insect and plant growth regulators, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, and many other household products. Some are specific to certain pests while others are broad spectrum in their mode of action.

What is integrated pest management (IPM)?

The IPM approach is very simple: practice prevention, treat only when necessary, and use the safest available alternative to do the job. The key to IPM is accurate pest identification and the knowledge of the pest's life cycle and vulnerability. IPM involves careful monitoring for pests, and the use of a wide range of methods to exclude, remove, drive away, or kill pests with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment. A combination of cultural, mechanical, biological, and other techniques is used; chemical controls are a last resort.

Cultural management

Cultural methods are often overlooked in conventional pest control programs. They provide many ways to reduce the amount of pesticides used in the home and garden.
Here are some examples:

  • Practice good sanitation by removing infested and diseased plant parts or food sources.
  • Remove and destroy overwintering or breeding sites of pests.
  • Select disease- and insect-resistant plant varieties.
  • Cut turfgrass at the correct mowing height.
  • Use the appropriate amount of water for irrigation of flowers, trees, shrubs and turfgrass.
  • Mulch landscape-planting areas. Mulches can be very useful for the suppression of weeds, insect pests and some plant diseases. If heavy enough, mulch can also conserve water and prevent germination of many annual weed seeds.

Mechanical management

Examples of mechanical (physical) controls are barriers and traps to exclude pests, hand picking of insects, and hand pulling or hoeing of weeds. Although some of these methods may not always be practical on large scale, they can generally be used in small or localized situations.

Biological management

Biological control is the use of living organisms such as parasites, predators, or pathogens. They may occur naturally or be applied. Biological control results when naturally occurring enemies maintain pests at a lower level than would occur without them. Birds, bats, insects, fungi, and bacteria all play a role as predators or parasites in the web of life.

Chemical management

The decision to use chemical controls should be made only when other measures, such as biological or cultural controls, have failed to keep pest populations from approaching damaging levels. When chemical pesticides must be used, it is to the advantage of the applicator to use the lowest labeled rate of the least toxic pesicide that will manage the pest. Always read the product label: signal words concerning toxicity such as CAUTION, WARNING, and DANGER (restricted) can be found there. For the product to be used legally, the target pest and target site must be listed on the label. Follow label directions for correct use, storage, and protective clothing to be worn during application.

What are some of the alternatives to synthetic chemical pesticides?

Botanical pesticides

Because botanical pesticides are derived from natural plant material they are perceived to be safe. However, "natural" does not mean "nontoxic." It is important to be aware that they are still pesticides and fall under the same federal and state regulations as synthetic or chemical pesticides. All pesticides require an EPA pesticide registration number that can be found on the product label. Some examples include ryania, sabadilla, rotenone, neem, pyrethrum, and pyrethrins.

Microbial insecticides

These products combat insects with microscopic living organisms: viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes. Most affect a single species or group of insects, often with minimal impact on beneficial insects and other nontarget organisms. One example is Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacterium that is used to kill the larval stage of the gypsy moth. Another example is Beauveria bassiana (Naturalis-O", Botanigard") a fungus used to control aphids, whiteflies and other pests. New research in this area looks promising for the future of pest control.

Insecticidal soap

Similar to other soaps, insecticidal soap is generally considered to be among the least toxic pesticides available. Soaps are used to control soft-bodied pests such as aphids and mealybugs. Soaps are effective only against those insects that come in direct contact with the spray before it dries. Once the spray has dried, walking over the soap residue will not harm a moving insect.

Horticultural oil

Horticulture oil has gained wide acceptance in recent years in pest management programs because of its environmental safety and effectiveness in controlling many types of insect and mite pests. Dormant and summer oil applications interfere with the pest's respiration and membrane function. For oil to be effective, it must come in direct contact with the pest or egg; therefore, thorough coverage is essential for proper control. Some plants may be sensitive to horticultural oil, particularly when under stress.


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Kentucky IPM

Original document: 10 May 2003
Last updated: 10 May 2003


Scoutcat logo courtesy of C. Ware, copyright 2000

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