• About IPM

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the successful integration of all available methods of controlling pests, rather than just relying on pesticides. An IPM strategy deals with all pests, harnessing biological and cultural controls as the first line of defence, and using compatible chemicals (those which are least disruptive to the key biocontrol agents) as a support tool only when necessary.

Advantages of IPM

  • Reduced reliance on insecticides
  • Better pest control
  • Increased quality and yield
  • Ability to control insecticide resistance pests
  • Improved worker, consumer and environmental safety
  • Helps to delay development of insecticide resistance

Biological control

Biological control refers to beneficial insects, mites and spiders that eat invertebrate pests. In general beneficial species are naturally occurring and can be found wherever there is a suitable food source and a suitable habitat. An IPM strategy takes advantage of beneficial species by making sure that they are not disrupted by the use of pesticides and that farm management practices allow the crop to become a suitable place for them to live.

Both pest and beneficial invertebrates can be divided into two categories, transient and resident. Transient refers to species that move into the crop from outside the farm. This often happens in spring and autumn which are peak times for many species to become active. Some examples of transient beneficial species are ladybirds, brown lacewings and hoverflies. Some transient pests are Diamondback moth, Heliothis and Rutherglen bugs. Resident species are invertebrates that are often found in the soil and live year-round on the farm.  Examples include species such as predatory ground beetles, predatory soil mites as well as pests such as slugs, snails and earwigs.

Some beneficial species are commercially available and are released into crops when naturally occurring species are not enough on their own. They are more commonly used in protected cropping and some outdoor crops such as strawberries, macadamias and citrus than in vegetable production.

Cultural control

Cultural controls are any management methods that either enhance populations of beneficial species or disrupt populations of pest species. In some cases cultural controls can be the most effective control of all and eliminate the need for pesticides all together.

Some examples of cultural controls are variety selection, time of planting, weed control, crop rotation and irrigation. The list of options is endless and is often determined by the individual requirements and possibilities on each farm.

Chemical control

Chemical control in an IPM system means that the choice of which pesticide to use is not only based on the efficacy on the pest but also on the impact the product might have on beneficial species. There are many selective pesticides available but that does not mean that they are all safe to all beneficial species.

It is important to understand the impact that each product will have on the key beneficial species for each crop type. The aim of IPM is not to eliminate all pesticide use, but to use pesticides as support tools for when biological and cultural controls are not enough on their own. Some pesticides are not synthetic chemicals and include bacterial, viral and fungal pathogens that are formulated to be sprayed in the same way as chemical insecticides.

Monitoring

The aim of monitoring is to decide if a crop needs a pesticide application or not, and if so, which one.

For IPM crop monitoring this involves looking for both pest and beneficial species. The best way to do this is by direct searching and using a hand lens. Pheromone traps and sticky traps can also be useful tools. The frequency and intensity of monitoring is determined by many factors including time of year, pest pressure, value of the crop and the needs of each farm.

It is important that the monitoring program is simple and practical and achievable, it is better to a do a little bit often than none at all.