What is IPM (Integrated Pest Management)?


Integrated Pest Management IPM

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We do offer a choice of certified organic produce as much as possible, but for those families that aren’t interested in or able to afford organics all of the time, we have an alternative: minimally sprayed fruits and vegetables, known as Integrated Pest Management or IPM.

A sticky apple-shaped trap in the orchard.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a method of reducing pests, and the diseases they cause, using a combination of common-sense techniques. When the amount of pests in an orchard is reduced naturally, there is less need to apply pesticides. And even when the natural methods fail to some degree, IPM growers are careful to limit their spraying to areas that really need the pesticides, rather than spraying the whole orchard.

 Here are some of the techniques used in an IPM system:

Planting pest and disease resistant varieties in the orchard helps to minimize the need to control pests.

Scouting & written record keeping is the foundation of a good IPM program. Growers regularly inspect their crops for signs of harmful insects, disease and weeds. Records that note which pests were sighted and how they were dealt with help the grower make future decisions to prevent damage to his crops.

Mechanical control such as trapping insects or weeding: Through careful timing and monitoring of temperatures, many harmful insects are eliminated by the use of visual traps, sticky traps, and pheromone traps. (Pheromone traps emit attractive odors to lure male insects.)

Degree Days: By calculating the “degree days” based on daytime and nighttime temperatures, a grower can pinpoint exactly when a certain insect will hatch. This enables our IPM growers to spray once, exactly on the day the insects hatch, and wipe out a vast majority of the problem insect population in their orchard.

Mating Disruption is a strategy that uses pheromones to confuse male insects and limit their ability to find females for mating, which in turn, reduces the next generation’s population.

A pheromone trap among the apples.

Targeted spraying is spot treating a problem area of the orchard rather than spraying all the trees, and it’s only done as a last resort, after natural means have failed. Even though IPM orchards use chemical sprays, they are careful to use “gentle sprays,” pesticides that conserve natural enemies of pests and pose the least amount of risk to the farmer and the environment.

Other common-sense practices include cleaning up dead trees, pruning, weeding, mowing and mulching.

Basically, IPM uses a lot of prevention and only a little bit of cure. No, it’s not organic, but it’s a lot better than carelessly spraying on schedule. We think buying from IPM growers makes a lot of sense. Even though it’s a step away from being organic, IPM prices make this natural produce available to many more people at a fraction of the price of organic fruit.

What do you think?

Photo credit: heraldnet.com