What is IPM?
A question we get asked a lot at HomeFresh Organics is what is IPM? You see it listed beside a selection of fruit and vegetables available online. But what does it really mean? Do we need to know? Well that’s what I’ve set out to look at – so let’s have a look…
Integrated Pest Management
To put it simply, IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management. This is a combination of farming techniques designed to reduce or limit the insect pest population on crops. The purpose of IPM is to naturally tackle the problem of harmful pests without causing harm to the produce or environment.
Using synthetic sprays and pesticides as biological control is not seen by many farmers today as a sustainable farming practice in the long-term. However, the threat of pests, parasites and pathogens is very real and can be destructive. So IPM was created as way to measure what controls are considered acceptable and what isn’t. To do this we must correctly identify biological control agents, health risks, environmental risks and efficacy. The result will safely minimise the exposure and toxicity to produce, people and the environment.
By introducing a predatory insect to help keep another species numbers in-check is like fighting fire with fire. But it’s not that simple. The more I read about it the more complex it seems. An environmental balance is essential if the system is to work. If there are too my flies buzzing about you don’t merely throw spiders at them. There’s a great deal of research and understanding that is done. You need to properly value your natural enemy, know what they eat, what the environmental impact is, and what are the benefits of reducing them are.
There are plants and even weeds that can help fight pests. Pathologists work alongside entomologists (bug experts) to make the right decisions. Even changing environments can greatly help. This is called cultural control. This method can discourage pest from establishing early. Modest practices such as the timing of crops and planting location can sometimes disrupt predator breading and shelter! Cultural control is often one of the first things considered.
The mistaken identification of a pest can keep a crop at risk. There might be pest resistant varieties that might be hard to manage under most conditions. Another method will need to be looked at.
Are Chemicals Used?
When it comes to IPM, chemical use can happen but is a last resort only. The implementation of IPM does not grant the right to spray pesticides after identifying a pest problem. A proper IPM system will identify toxic materials and their impact. If biological and cultural control has not been enough to protect a crop they might deploy a specific chemical to target selected insecticides or parasites so long as there is no harm to the area, humans and all non-target organisms.
The IPM Model
Experts and consultants in their fields will look at steps for evaluating and implementing Integrated Pest Management. To ensure that balance is correct, they often break it down. Here are 5 steps they consider.
1. Knowledge: Identify pets, lifecycles, natural enemies, breading areas.
2. Prevention: Farming location, variety, planting & rotations, water, nutrition, farm hygiene, pest host management.
3. Observation: Crop monitoring, pest prediction, traps (such as pheromones & yellow sticky)
4. Intervention: Mechanical, Biological and Chemical controls.
5. Evaluation & Planning: Review monitoring records, talking, listening, reading, consult & adapt.
Is IPM Better Than Organic?
We write IPM on all HomeFresh Organics and Market Organics produce where appropriate. We want you to know that it is not the same as organic. Certified Organic practices are different. And while IPM does not discourage use of selected chemicals when it’s absolutely necessary, it generally means that less pesticide is used and more thought has been put into it than Certified Organic.
So the next time you see IPM written, I hope you understand just how much work and thought farmers put into their Integrated Pest Management methods.
Healthy eating everyone