Integrated Pest Management

John Unsworth
2nd April 2010


About the time humans started aggregating into villages and began planting selected food crops in clusters near rivers in fertile valleys, pests became an increasing challenge. They had to live with the ravages of pests of all types that attacked them and their crops. Through trial and error, humans began to learn how to improve conditions and control the environment. People learned to perform cultural and physical control practices for crop protection. Methods such as destroying or using crop refuse, roughing diseased plants, tillage to expose an eliminate soil insects, removal of alternate hosts off pathogens and insects, timing of planting, crop rotation, trap crops, determining optimum planting sites, pruning, dusting with sulphur, and others reduced damage potential to many crops from many pests. These cultural and physical control methods are still viable today1. The roots of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), as it is today, can be traced to the late 1880s when “ecology” was identified as the foundation of scientific plant protection2. However, it was not until the 1960s when the idea of developing more environmentally benign crop protection methods began1.

There have been many definitions for Integrated Pest Management3but has been defined by the FAO Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides4 as “the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimize risks to human health and the environment. IPM emphasizes the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms”.

IPM requires competence in three areas: prevention, observation and intervention. The first includes a range of practical strategies that can be rationalised to suit local conditions. Observation links monitoring with decision making, often together with “expert systems”. Intervention involves a range of physical, biological and chemical methods optimally employed to preserve the economic value of the crop with minimal effects on the environment5.

IPM is not a single pest control method but, rather, a series of pest management evaluations, decisions and controls. In practicing IPM, growers who are aware of the potential for pest infestation follow a four-tiered approach. The four steps include6:

Set Action Thresholds - Before taking any pest control action, IPM first sets an action threshold, a point at which pest populations or environmental conditions indicate that pest control action must be taken. Sighting a single pest does not always mean control is needed. The level at which pests will either become an economic threat is critical to guide future pest control decisions.

Monitor and Identify Pests - Not all insects, weeds, and other living organisms require control. Many organisms are innocuous, and some are even beneficial. IPM programs work to monitor for pests and identify them accurately, so that appropriate control decisions can be made in conjunction with action thresholds. This monitoring and identification removes the possibility that pesticides will be used when they are not really needed or that the wrong kind of pesticide will be used.

Prevention - As a first line of pest control, IPM programs work to manage the crop, lawn, or indoor space to prevent pests from becoming a threat. In an agricultural crop, this may mean using cultural methods, such as rotating between different crops, selecting pest-resistant varieties, and planting pest-free rootstock. These control methods can be very effective and cost-efficient and present little to no risk to people or the environment.

Control - Once monitoring, identification, and action thresholds indicate that pest control is required, and preventive methods are no longer effective or available, IPM programs then evaluate the proper control method both for effectiveness and risk. Effective, less risky pest controls are chosen first, including highly targeted chemicals, such as pheromones to disrupt pest mating, or mechanical control, such as trapping or weeding. If further monitoring, identifications and action thresholds indicate that less risky controls are not working, then additional pest control methods would be employed, such as targeted spraying of pesticides. Broadcast spraying of non-specific pesticides is a last resort.

Integrated Pest Management can contribute importantly to pesticide risk reduction by7 :

Reducing reliance on chemical pesticides and encouraging the use of alternatives

Encouraging the use of reduced risk pesticides when pesticide treatment is necessary

Preventing pest problems through better crop management and maintenance of natural resources

Increasing farmer knowledge about agricultural pests and ecosystems


A Global IPM Facility has been established by FAO, UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank which supports IPM field programmes as well as advising governments, international organizations, NGOs and donors on pest management programmes and policies8. Another useful resource is The Database of IPM Resources9.


A great deal of information about IPM is available on the internet and many universities, institutes and other bodies give practical advice and aid on various IPM programmes. This information can be of a general nature or relate to specific areas or crops10-14.




1.  The History of Integrated Pest Management, International Pest Management Institute


2.  Radcliffe’s IPM World Textbook, University of Minnesota, USA


3.  Compendium of IPM Definitions, Integrated Plant Protection Center, Oregon State University, USA


4.  International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides, FAO, Rome, 2003


5. Integrated Pest Management, CropLife International


6.  IPM and Food Production, Pesticides : Topical and Chemical Fact Sheets – US EPA


7.  OECD Series on Pesticides No. 8, Report of the OECD/FAO Workshop on IPM and Pesticide Risk        Reduction, OECD, April 1999$FILE/04E94320.PDF


8.  Food and Agriculture Organisation, AGP – Integrated Pest Management, FAO 2004


9. The Database of IPM Resources, Integrated Plant Protection Center, OIRD, University of Illinois, Oregon State University, North Carolina State University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


10.  Guidelines for Promoting Safer and More Effective Pest Management with Small Holder Farmers, S. Gladstone and A. Hruska, CARE – USA, USAID (refers to Latin America)


11.  Indigenous and Modern approaches to IPM in Latin America, M.A. Altieri and C.I. Nicholls, 2000


12.  Ten Years of IPM Training in Asia – From Farmer Field School to Community IPM,

         J. Pontius, R. Dilts and A. Bartlett, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, 2002


13.  Database of IPM Resources, IPM or Related Technical/Professional Organisations and their Websites in Africa


14.  The World Bank, Integrated Pest Management,,contentMDK:20631451~menuPK:1605318~pagePK:64168445~piPK:64168309~theSitePK:584320,00.html




Last modified 2nd April 2010





Date added: 2009-11-03 18:56:05   
Last Updated 2010-05-10 02:54:13   
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