Integrated pest management planning and implementation for real-world field crops systems

Integrated pest management (IPM) makes sense on paper, but how do you fit this broad philosophy into a real-world cropping system?

The concept of integrated pest management (IPM) first developed during the 1950s and 60s out of concern among scientists and the public that overreliance on pesticides was creating secondary pest management and environmental problems. Foremost among these concerns was, and is, the evolution of pesticide resistance among target species. However, negative impacts on human and environmental health related to pesticide use have also motivated efforts to minimize pesticide use.

No single agreed-upon definition of IPM exists, though many have been proposed. Rather, the theory of IPM is united across disciplines by a deceptively simple set of goals including:

  1. Viable pest control based upon determined economic injury levels rather than eradication.
  2. Curbing overreliance on pesticides through the application of agroecological knowledge in the use of a suite of preventative, cultural, physical, biological, chemical and information management practices.
  3. Minimized negative social and environmental impacts.

Furthermore, pest management experts suggest that in order to be successful and sustainable, IPM should achieve three embedded levels of integration. First, integrated knowledge of individual pest and farm system ecology must be applied to the selection of pest management technologies. Second, selected pest management technologies, each exhibiting relatively weak individual selection pressure, need to be integrated into a suite of practices that provides economically viable pest control without contributing to the development of resistance or environmental degradation. Finally, pest management must be integrated into day-to-day management of the farm system as a whole.

While the principles of IPM as stated above may be logical and supportive of goals for economic, social and environmental well-being that all of us share, application in the field can be quite complex. IPM requires extensive knowledge of pest and crop ecology, available management options and the economic implications of pest management. With experience, many growers develop the expertise in their systems necessary to be effective IPM practitioners. The lifelong challenge is being timely enough with every aspect of your production and pest management system to get it all right. Even the most dedicated manager can’t control the weather.

Planning pest management actions before the growing season begins is one way to improve outcomes. Commodity specific pest identification resources available from Michigan State University Extension can help growers understand the key pests likely to impact their crop and allow them to time management activities appropriately. Guidelines such as the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) Crop-A-Syst for field crops, which outlines Michigan’s Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPs) related to pest management, are also available for use as a reference in IPM planning.

Experienced growers with valuable pest management know-how are another excellent resource when considering a farm IPM plan. If you would like to learn more about IPM planning and implementation in field crop systems from MSU Extension educators and Michigan growers, consider attending the 2014 IPM Academy Feb. 18-19 in Okemos, Mich. The afternoon of Feb. 19 will include a session titled Solving the Puzzle: IPM Planning and Implementation for Real-world Field Crops Systems. In this session, participants will discuss how to develop a farm IPM plan that encourages sustainable pest management decisions which maintain efficiency and maximize profitability.

For more information on the IPM Academy, contact Betsy Braid at or 517-884-7081, or visit

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