August 4, 2004 | By: Ellen Brightwell

Integrated pest management is an economical and environmentally sound way to manage pests by using many control strategies, followed by judicious pesticide use if necessary. In IPM, the term "pest" may refer to insects, weeds, disease-causing fungi and microorganisms and other pests such as birds and mammals.

"IPM is a three-fold approach that involves practicing prevention, treating only when necessary and using the safest available alternative," said Ric Bessin, Extension entomologist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "Accurate identification and knowledge of pests is critical to successful pest-control practices. Regular monitoring keeps potential pest problems from getting out of hand so decisions can be made on what actions are necessary."

IPM may involve a combination of cultural practices, biological, genetic and physical controls, with chemical treatments as a last resort.

Many county research and educational projects have demonstrated the economic and environmental value of this approach to Kentuckians in recent years, according to Patty Lucas, Extension specialist for IPM.

Sweet corn producers saved about $280 to $500 in chemical and operating costs per farm and cut three to four pesticide applications in early corn by using a monitoring and spray program. Farmers identified their most important pests at a scouting demonstration. Producers learned how to protect a valuable genetic pest-management
tool. Commercial apple producers relied on IPM practices to predict certain disease and insect problems rather than spraying on a calendar schedule.

In other county IPM projects, retirement community residents used predatory beneficial insects, rather than insecticides, to eliminate plant pests in atriums. About 75 percent of the people at home landscape programs planned to use a new technique or management practice based on the material they learned. Non-commercial apple growers learned IPM practices to reduce pesticide use in urban environments. The backyard garden at a historic home in an urban area is an outdoor classroom to demonstrate various IPM options.

Landscape managers at several public facilities use IPM to maintain the grounds. These include amusement parks, botanical gardens, zoos, exposition centers, municipal areas and horse facilities.

IPM cultural methods offer many ways to reduce pesticide use and generally involve selecting the best plant materials for a location and proper care after planting.

"To avoid pest problems, use plants that are native to your area or an area with similar growing conditions," said Rick Durham, UK Extension horticulturist. "Also select plants suited to environmental conditions such as shade, soil fertility acidity or alkalinity, and drainage. Plants set out in a poorly suited location become stressed making them more vulnerable to pest problems. These plants usually require more care to survive."

Inspect plants before buying or planting them to keep from introducing new pests into the area, Durham said.

Other cultural practices may include sanitation to remove infested and diseased plant parts or pests themselves; mulching landscape planting areas to suppress weeds, insects and some plant diseases; mowing grass to the proper height; and using crop rotation to maintain or improve soil conditions and reduce pest populations.

"Biological control uses living organisms such as parasites, predators or pathogens to reduce or maintain pest populations," Bessin said. "For example one parasitic wasp attacks the tomato hornworm, a major pest of tomatoes and tobacco, and ladybird beetles feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects. Birds and bats also help control some pests."

Genetic control is provided by plants selected or manipulated for reduced pest susceptibility or resistance, according Durham.

"Natural pest resistance is one of the easiest, most effective pest control strategies in the IPM arsenal," he said. "Plant breeders continually work to make varieties more pest resistant. Tomatoes are a good example. Seed packets have letters showing resistance to a specific disease. F or FF indicates resistance to race 1 and races 1 and 2 of fusarium wilt; N, nematodes; and T, tobacco mosaic virus."

Other plants bred for genetic control include Oriental dogwoods with resistance to powdery mildew, and anthracnose and crabapple varieties resistant to scab disease and Japanese beetles.

Physical, or mechanical, controls involve barriers or traps to prevent or reduce problems, hand removing pests, and hoeing weeds. These methods may be used in small or localized situations, but might not be practical on a large scale.

The decision to use chemical controls should be made only when other measures fail to keep pest problems below damaging levels. To manage the pest, use the lowest-labeled rate of the least toxic pesticide.

"Always read the pesticide label for signal words about toxicity and instructions on correct use, storage and applicator protective clothing," Bessin said. "Both the target pest and site must be listed on the label."

There are several alternatives to synthetic chemical pesticides. These options, which generally are more environmentally friendly than the synthetics, include botanical pesticides, microbial insecticides, insecticidal soap and horticultural oil.

County offices of the UK Cooperative Extension Service have educational materials about IPM. Telephone numbers and addresses are listed under the local government offices in telephone books. Information on all county CES offices also is available under the "Extension, CES County Offices" headings on the UK College of Agriculture Web site at

Sources: Ric Bessin 859-257-7456
Patty Lucas 270-365-7541 Ext. 218 859-257-3249


Writer: Ellen Brightwell 859-257-4736 ext. 257