Concepts of IPM

Surendra Dara and Navneet Kaur
Latest revision: 
March 2023

The traditional definitions of IPM are based on the ecological foundation of pest monitoring, exploring the potential of multiple control options prior to the application of pesticides. While this approach was critical for maintaining the ecological balance of the crop production system and protecting environmental and human health, the growth of agriculture as a global enterprise, food security and affordability for growing world populations, and other socio-economic factors warranted a new approach of IPM. The new approach, while continuing to emphasize the ecological balance, presents a more practical approach that is inclusive of science and technology, business management and marketing aspects, communication, and other critical components for an economically viable, socially acceptable, and environmentally sustainable crop production system (Dara 2019).

IPM offers multiple benefits as it explores the potential of several control options, optimizes the use and associated costs of pesticides applications, reduces the risk of pesticide resistance and secondary pest outbreaks, extends the longevity of available options, and increases the overall efficiency of pest management. Depending on the complexity of the management system, an IPM program may target a single pest, a pest category (e.g., insects, weeds, diseases or rodents) or the whole pest complex. While traditional pest control considers each pest exclusively, IPM takes into account the interactions among pests, beneficial organisms, the environment, and the crop.

Development of an IPM system requires a thorough understanding of the biology of the crop (or resource), pest complex, mode of action of various control options, and the influence of various factors on each other. The IPM concept was developed from the realization that most pesticide applications affect both pests and beneficial organisms in the crop, sometimes to the disadvantage of the grower.

An IPM system attempts to maintain pest populations below economically damaging levels by using a holistic systems approach that creates synergism by integrating preventative methods that build on agronomic, mechanical, physical, and biological principles, resorting to selective pesticide use when other tools are not effective in addressing the pest situation alone (Barzman et al. 2015). IPM systems are flexible and highly customizable programs that depend on the time of year, location, type of crop, pest problem, available options, and others. Many books, manuals and websites are devoted to discussions of general IPM principles and to the application of IPM to specific agricultural and urban systems. The following components are generally found in IPM programs:

  1. Prevention and suppression Aims to prevent or suppress any single species from becoming most dominant or damaging in a cropping system by using healthy and infestation free planting material, crop rotation, use of adequate cultivation methods, incorporating resistant and or tolerant cultivars, best management practices for fertilization and irrigation etc.
  2. Management units Monitoring is conducted with the aim of providing results for the management of a specific management unit – the part of the system that will receive the same pest control decisions. The unit may be part of a field, a single field, or several fields. Chemical control decisions are sometimes based on the area that can be covered by a single spray tank.
  3. Key pests An IPM program targets specific pests, which may include insects, mites, plant diseases, weeds, or vertebrates. In the development of an IPM program, these pests are identified and monitoring and control programs are designed for each of these pests.
  4. Monitoring Sampling should accurately assess the pest pressure and the abundance of beneficial organisms in the management unit. Monitoring is conducted so that management actions can take place in a timely and effective manner.
  5. Pest action thresholds Keeping fields entirely pest free is neither necessary nor desirable. Most crops can tolerate low pest infestation levels without any yield loss and those low pest populations also support their natural enemies. IPM seeks to reduce pest numbers below economically damaging levels rather than eliminate infestations. Pesticides should be applied only when economically justified by the number of pests present.
  6. Selective insecticides or acaricides Selective or soft insecticide chemistries are designed to target pest species and are life-stage specific while having a minimal impact on the non-target organisms such as beneficial organisms or environment. Use of multiple controls and tactics Control tactics should be employed to make the crop less favorable for pest survival and reproduction, while disturbing the rest of the ecosystem as little as possible. Combining different control tactics into an overall strategy balances the strengths of each against any individual weaknesses. Control tactics should be compatible with beneficial organisms and the environment. Using different techniques also reduces the probability of the development of pest resistance (e.g., rotating chemistries with different modes of action) and application of available anti-resistance strategies to maintain the effectiveness of the products.

Developing or implementing an IPM program for a crop involves a systematic application of knowledge about the crop and the pests involved. The following sources may be useful in acquiring and applying that knowledge:

1 Flint, M. L. and R. Van den Bosch. 1981. Introduction to Integrated Pest Management. Plenum Press. 240 pp.

2 Surendra K Dara. 2019. The New Integrated Pest Management Paradigm for the Modern Age.