Integrated pest management can save money

Looking for ways to save money on pest management? Review the integrated pest management (IPM) program on your farm to see that it is being utilized to the fullest.

Integrated pest management (IPM) involves more than just pesticides. When an IPM program is fully functional, farmers take a balanced approach to managing pests. This approach can save money, maintain a healthy agro-ecosystem and keep pests at bay.

There are just five basic steps recommended by Michigan State University Extension to implementing an IPM program:

  1. Identify the pest and understand its biology.
  2. Monitor the pest to be managed.
  3. Develop the pest management goal.
  4. Apply control measures at the appropriate time.
  5. Record and evaluate the results.

While all of this seems easy enough, let’s think about what an IPM program looks like on the farm.

Identify the pest

This is the all-important first step. To properly identify a pest you must be in the field and have access to identification resources. Not everyone is proficient at identifying all kinds of pests that may be present in their field. For that reason, professional pest identification is readily available through MSU Diagnostic Services. Pest samples can be submitted by completing a form available on their website or submitting digital pictures to Having an accurate identification and knowing that the organism you have found is indeed a pest is key to successful control.

Set up a monitoring program

As mentioned earlier, gathering information about a pest is necessary before considering control. Walking the fields yourself, hiring to have it done or sending the kids out can all be effective methods of monitoring. The important thing is to catch the problem early to increase your options for control.

Know the pest level that triggers control

Knowing a farm’s history of weeds, insects and diseases will help managers develop plans to reduce the risk of pest populations causing economic damage. These may include growing varieties that are resistant to disease or insects, utilizing tools to gauge the risk of a disease developing or using thresholds to determine when it is economical to chemically control a pest.

Know what control methods are available

Although chemical sprays are often thought of as the first line of defense against pests, there are many tools in the IPM toolbox. Some examples that can be part of an IPM plan include crop rotation, seed selection, biological controls and more. While no one pest management tool will be the best solution for all cases, a combination of these tactics is often very effective in the long-run.

Evaluate the benefits and risks of each method

There are many IPM tactics that can be used to control pests. Pesticides are one method; non-chemical methods may also provide good control and should always be considered. Each case is different and each potential control should be considered for the associated costs, benefits and potential liabilities. Once a control measure is selected and applied, the results should also be evaluated and recorded for future reference.

IPM Academy

To brush-up on pest management skills, improve IPM practices and learn about MSU’s resources, consider attending the 2014 IPM Academy, Feb. 18-19, at the Okemos Conference Center in Okemos, Mich.

This two-day workshop includes presentations and sessions from a number of MSU’s research and Extension faculty, offering a rare opportunity to hear from experts working in a variety of disciplines and cropping systems at a single event.

The academy costs $225 and offers Michigan pesticide recertification credits. For more information on the program, a full agenda or registration, visit To register by phone, contact Betsy Braid at or 517- 884-7081.

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