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Integrated Pest Management

An integrated pest management (IPM) system is an approach to controlling pests that is environmentally sensitive. The goal of IPM is not to totally eradicate pests but to prevent unacceptable levels of damage to plants.

IPM uses environmentally sound management tactics and frequent monitoring of plants to determine when intervention is needed. It requires assessing plant needs by determining the impact of insects, mites, weeds, and diseases; and using biological, cultural, mechanical and chemical methods to control damage. IPM can reduce pesticide use in the landscape by at least 50% without sacrificing the appearance or productivity of plants (Pacific Northwest Landscape IPM Manual).

History of IPM

IPM originated in the early twentieth century when pesticides were not yet well developed. A boll weevil outbreak in the southern United States that was damaging cotton crops made it necessary for entomologists to become involved in helping to control damage. They discovered that by having a detailed understanding of the life cycle of the boll weevil they could interrupt its growth and spread. and reduce damage to crops. Now, the understanding of a pest’s life cycle and its relationship to the environment is a fundamental element of IPM.

IPM in Washington

An IPM program in the fruit orchards of Washington reduced the organophosphate use in apples and pears by 75%. The program interrupted the mating cycle of codling moth and increased the efficacy of biological controls for secondary pests. IPM certification is offered to landscape and turf professionals so that they can understand the cultural needs of plants and the biological cycles of key pests. IPM references and materials are also available for the home gardener.

Common IPM Terms

  • Cultural control – involves improving plant health and decreasing the impact of pests and weeds by improving soil, providing adequate light, water, and nutrients, and combining plants.
  • Mechanical control – involves the use of traps, barriers, hand picking, and even sounds to control pests, weeds and diseases.
  • Biological control – involves the use of beneficial insects and natural predators to control pest populations.
  • Chemical control – involves the use of chemicals to eradicate pests or weeds. This is the last resort in an IPM approach.

Learn More

  • IPM Practitioners Association
  • Pacific Northwest Landscape Integrated Pest Management Manual. Washington State University Cooperative Extension (1999).