Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a way for farmers and gardeners to manage pests by using pesticides only when necessary. Rather than just spray a field for prevention of pests, an IPM grower would use pesticides as a last resort. First, they prepare their soil and make sure it is sufficiently prepared for the crops. Next, they plant tolerant crops. Then they use weather forecasts to predict if there might be a pest outbreak. They set out pest traps to determine if pests are present, and also monitor the pest found to determine what damage is being done.
Once the damage meets or exceeds the threshold for that pest to do significant damage to the crop, the farmer or gardener takes action. They decide if the problems can be controlled by methods such as early harvesting or sterilizing equipment. If those methods do not work, they try to use biological controls such as the pest’s natural enemies. As a last resort, pesticides are used only after everything else has failed and the entire crop is at risk. Before anything is sprayed, weather and the extent of the problem is taken into account so that the correct amount of pesticide is used, and there is minimal drift to other areas. Finally, all of the steps taken above are recorded to help with future decisions.
When IMP is used effectively it can prevent pesticides from being used except when necessary to preserve the crop and the farmer’s economic interest. The farmer has the advantage of using a pesticide only when his crop is threatened, and the consumer knows that the farmer they buy from has taken steps necessary to reduce their pesticide use to a minimum. IMP is often used with organic farming as well, the only difference being that the pesticides used are derived from natural materials.