Integrated pest management is a holistic, broad-based approach for managing pests. The goal of IPM is to keep the population density of pests at the lowest possible level to prevent damage to crops without completely eradicating them. Additionally, IPM strives to maintain healthy crops without disrupting the ecosystems in agricultural land using natural pest control methods like weevil traps and sterile insect technique (introducing sterile males to an environment to trick females into mating with them).[1]

Since the 1970s, ecologists have urged farmers to implement IPN as a way to safely control pests. Discouraging the use of traditional pest control techniques like pesticides and using IPM minimizes adverse effects to humans and the environment.[2] Pesticides are temporary solutions and can be ineffective in the long run as it ignores the cause of infestations. There are six characteristics of good IPN: monitoring, record-keeping, action levels, prevention, tactics criteria, and evaluation.[3]

Monitoring includes routine inspection of the land and collecting samples to figure out the types and levels of pest infestations. Record-keeping involves keeping track of the identification, size, and distribution of outbreaks to establish trends. An action level is how large the pest population needs to be for something to be done about the infestation. Prevention is the main factor of IPM, and preventative measures are crucial when planning head for existing or future structures. Tactics criteria mean that with IPM if chemicals must be used, the least toxic and smallest amount can be applied. And, lastly, evaluation, which means that routine checks to determine the success of IPM must be performed.[4]

Farmers all over the world have adopted various forms of IPM to get away from the damaging use of chemicals in agriculture. In the United States, the 1970s saw a switch from the emphasis of synthetic chemical pesticides and insecticides to IPM techniques. 75% of the US’s farmland incorporated some degree of IPM in 2000 under the Clinton IPM Initiative which passed in 1993. And since the creation of Regional IPM Centers in 2000, the use of pesticides has declined from 430 million kilograms to 398 million kilograms in 2007.[5]

In Europe, orchards and other perennial crops saw the adoption of IPMs in the 1950s. Since then, the EU and organizations within various countries have worked to incorporate more plant protection products and reduce the amount of pollution in water, soil, and air stemming from pesticides and other chemicals. France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the UK account for 75% of 220,000 plant protection chemical use as of 2007. And in India, IPMs have slowly been introduced to ease the dependence of pesticides and insecticides on cotton, rice, and other vegetable crops.[6]

IPM has several advantages besides being an environmentally friendly farming technique. For instance, by refraining from the use of chemicals, pests’ resistance to pesticides slows. Repeated and regular spraying can cause the emergence of “super pests.” Over some time, natural selection causes pests to develop resistance to chemicals, which can lead to pest populations that are immune to many types of sprays.

Secondly, while pesticides may temporarily get rid of pests, there is a chance that non-target species will also be killed. IPM helps eliminate pest populations while keeping the ecosystem balanced.[7]

A third advantage of IPM is its cost-effectiveness. Instead of having crops sprayed regularly when there may not be a need, IPM controls surges in pest population as they occur, saving money in the long run.[8]

But what are the disadvantages of IPM? First, it is a much more involved and technical method of pest prevention than just spraying. It requires a degree of knowledge about IPM and the available techniques, which takes time. Besides the involvement that goes into IPM, it requires a high degree of time and energy. It requires close monitoring of an area, as it is a collection of techniques that make up one effective method. There are different ways to control different populations, and it takes a careful eye to make sure the best method for the situation is chosen.[9]

However, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. While it does require a degree of training, some countries have organizations that will help in training farmers to effectively implement IPM. And as the practice continues to expand and more people become aware of its benefits over time, the applications will become easier.[10]

IPM isn’t necessarily an innovative farming method, but it is beneficial to the environment. Numerous farms around the globe have adopted this practice as early as the 1950s, and as technology continues to improve and become easier to share, its use will become more popular. IPM’s eco-friendly approach to controlling pest populations can aid in reducing the number of chemicals that go into growing food and maintain the delicate balance in agricultural ecosystems.