During the growing season, we use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to manage our conventional fields.  A consultant comes every month to give us advice on how we can reduce our pesticide application. For now, IPM is the best possible practice for the majority of our conventional field crops.


In agriculture, IPM is a pest control strategy that uses an array of complementary methods: mechanical devices, physical devices, genetic, biological, legal, cultural management, and chemical management. These methods are done in three stages: prevention, observation, and intervention. It is an ecological approach with a main goal of significantly reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides.

An IPM system is designed around six basic components:

  1. 1.Acceptable pest levels: The emphasis is on control, not eradication. IPM holds that wiping out an entire pest population is often impossible, and the attempt can be more costly, environmentally unsafe, and frequently unachievable. It is better to decide on what constitutes acceptable pest levels, and apply controls if those levels ('action thresholds') are exceeded.

  2. 2.Preventive cultural practices: Selecting varieties best for local growing conditions, and maintaining healthy crops, is the first line of defence, together with plant quarantine and 'cultural techniques' such as crop sanitation (e.g. removal of diseased plants to prevent spread of infection).

  3. 3.Monitoring: Regular observation is the cornerstone of IPM. Visual inspection, insect and spore traps, and other measurement methods are used to monitor pest levels. Record-keeping is essential, as is a thorough knowledge of the behaviour and reproductive cycles of target pests. Since insects are cold-blooded, their physical development is dependent on the temperature of their environment. Many insects have had their development cycles modelled in terms of degree days. Monitor the degree days of an environment to determine when is the optimal time for a specific insect's outbreak.

  4. 4.Mechanical controls: Should a pest reach an unacceptable level, mechanical methods are the first options to consider. They include simple hand-picking, erecting insect barriers, using traps, vacuuming, and tillage to disrupt breeding.

  5. 5.Biological controls: Natural biological processes and materials can provide control, with minimal environmental impact, and often at low cost. The main focus here is on promoting beneficial insects that eat target pests. Biological insecticides, derived from naturally occurring micro organisms (e.g.: Bt, entomopathogenic fungi and entomopathogenic nematodes), also fit in this category.

  6. 6.Chemical controls: Synthetic pesticides are generally only used as required and often only at specific times in a pest’s life cycle. Many of the newer pesticide groups are derived from plants or naturally occurring substances (e.g.: nicotine, pyrethrum and insect juvenile hormone analogues), and further 'biology-based' or 'ecological' techniques are under evaluation.

"Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a decision-making process that anticipates and prevents pest activity and infestation by combining several strategies to achieve long-term solutions. Components of an IPM program may include education, proper waste management, structural repair, maintenance, biological and mechanical control techniques, and pesticide application." Control is the action we take to have an effect on something. It is not extermination.  It is not fumigation. These terms are almost obsolete in the pest control industry today.