What is IPM?

Rachel Carson (in Silent Spring)

These sprays, dusts, and aerosols are now applied almost universally to farms, gardens, forests, and homes — nonselective chemicals that have the power to kill every insect, the “good” and the “bad,” to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams, to coat the leaves with a deadly film, and to linger on in soil — all this though the intended target may be only a few weeds or insects. Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called “insecticides,” but “biocides.”

Definitions of IPM

IPM is the abbreviation of Integrated Pest Management. Maybe the term IPM should have only one clear definition, but it often has different meanings, depending on the context and the objectives of the user. It is clearly not a static concept, but has been evolving over the years.

In the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides, which was adopted by the FAO Council in November 2002, the following definition of IPM is used:

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) means the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimize risks to human health and the environment. IPM emphasizes the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms.

A short history of the concept of IPM

IPM is a response to problems caused by pesticides. One of the first persons to draw attention to these problems was Rachel Carson in her book “Silent Spring” (see quote above).

The concept of IPM started as Integrated Pest Control. The word “control” refers to solving pest problems after they occur.

Later the word “control” was replaced by “management”. Managing the pest includes avoiding the problem. Managing pests does not aim at eradication but at maintaining pest populations at acceptable levels.

Nowadays, IPM has become more or less synonym with Integrated Crop Management. It does not only include measures aimed at reducing populations of pests, but it includes all activities aimed at growing a healthy crop (e.g. soil preparation, irrigation, fertilization, etc.).

Integrated Pest Management = Integrated Crop Management

Definition of pest

The term “pest” is often used for animals causing damage or annoyance to man, his animals, crops or possessions, such as insects, mites, nematodes, rodents, birds.

In phrases such as “integrated pest management” and “pest control”, the term pest is used in a broader sense to mean all harmful organisms including fungi, bacteria, viruses and virus-like organisms, and weeds.

More definitions of terms and words related to Integrated Pest Management can be found in this Glossary.

The 4 principles of IPM

  1. Grow a healthy crop
  2. Understand and conserve defenders
  3. Visit fields regularly
  4. Farmers become experts in crop management

Grow a healthy crop

Growing a healthy crop is a key step in farming. Healthy plants are stronger and thus better equipped to withstand attacks by pests and diseases. Many crop management practices have an effect on the health of the crop and can thus be used to manage pest problems. For example:

  • Good variety
  • Healthy seeds and healthy seedlings
  • Land preparation
  • Correct spacing
  • Fertilizer management
  • Water management
  • Crop rotation

Understand and conserve defenders

Biological control agents (parasites, predators, antagonists) are the defenders of the crop because they are natural enemies of the pests. IPM farmers know defenders and understand their role through regular observations of the agro-ecosystem. They will try to conserve them by avoiding pesticides and they will create field conditions that favor their development.

Visit fields regularly

Regular field visits by the farmer will keep him/her up-to-date on the condition of the crop. By knowing what is going on in the field, the farmer can take the correct decisions and take swift action when needed.

Farmers become experts in crop management

IPM farmers are experts in their own fields. They understand the agro-ecosystem and are capable of analyzing the field situation. They continue to improve their crop management by experimenting in their own field and share their knowledge with other farmers.

More definitions of IPM

Here are three other definitions of IPM:

Integrated Pest Management is a pest management system that in the socioeconomic context of farming systems, the associated environment and the population dynamics of the pest species, utilizes all suitable techniques in as compatible manner as possible and maintains the pest population levels below those causing economic injury.

Integrated Pest Management is a sustainable approach to managing pests by combining biological, cultural, physical, and chemical tools in a way that minimizes economic, health, and environmental risks.

Integrated Pest Management is an economically justified and sustainable system of crop management, consisting of a combination of cultural, biological, genetic, mechanical and chemical methods. It aims at maximum productivity while at the same time it should be environmentally safe.

The goal of IPM is to produce Safe Food

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