Pest management is often reduced to one of two general approaches: applying pesticides at scheduled times throughout the year, regardless of an existent pest problem, or retaliating with a heavy volume of synthetic pesticides after a problem has been discovered. Unfortunately, both of these practises involve a heavy concentration of pesticides and may not be as effective as believed.
Over the years, as the negative effects that pesticide use has on humans and the environment have become more apparent, it is not surprising that there has been an increased interest in safe forms of pest management. While some have chosen the organic route, disregarding all synthetic pesticides, other businesses have decided to limit their use of pesticides as just one part of a larger pest containment plan.
The Basics of IPM
Integrated pest management (IPM) is a method of pest control that neither relies solely on pesticides nor discourages them all together. The overall goal is to keep pest levels below an economically damaging level while minimizing the side effects that pest control methods have on humans and the environment. To do this, IPM focuses on a detailed understanding of how pests grow and develop, with a particular focus on what determines survival and causes massive outbreaks.
By closely monitoring crops, farmers can abandon traditional spraying schedules that tend to lead to over-application and instead use a limited amount of precisely chosen pesticides to produce desired results before a small pest problem explodes on a large scale. Not only is the practise environmentally responsible, but it can also help you save money. Producers who have enacted such plans have saved as much as 25 per cent on chemical purchases as well as energy and manpower costs associated with pesticide application.
The following five principles may help landowners better understand the key points of IPM:
Principle #1. There is no “one size fits all” strategy.
Over-reliance on any single control measure can have undesirable effects. This is especially true for pesticides, where over-reliance can lead to the "3 R’s"—resistance, resurgence and replacement. IPM considers all possible control actions, including taking no action at all, and fits tactics together into complementary strategies. The idea is to combine different control tactics into an overall strategy that balances the strengths of each against individual weaknesses.
Principle #2. Tolerate, do not eradicate.
IPM recognizes that keeping fields entirely pest-free is neither necessary nor desirable—it is not necessary to totally eliminate pests. Because most crops can tolerate low pest infestation levels without any loss in harvestable produce or quality, the presence of a pest does not necessarily mean that you have a pest problem. IPM seeks to reduce pest populations to levels that are below economically damaging rather than to totally eliminate infestations.
Principle #3. Treat the causes of pest outbreaks, not the symptoms.
IPM requires detailed understanding of pest biology and ecology so that the cropping system can be selectively manipulated to the pest's disadvantage. The idea is to make the crop less favourable for pest survival and reproduction with as little disturbance to the rest of the ecosystem as possible.
Principle #4. If you kill the natural enemies, you inherit their jobs.
Naturally occurring predators, parasites, pathogens, antagonists and competitors (collectively known as biological control agents) help keep many pest populations in check. IPM strives to enhance the impact of “beneficials” and other natural controls by conserving or augmenting those agents already present.
Principle #5. Pesticides are not a substitute for good farming.
A vigorously growing plant can defend itself better against pests than a weak, stressed plant. IPM takes maximum advantage of farming practises that promote plant health and allow crops to escape or tolerate pest injury. IPM begins from the premise that killing pests is not the objective; protecting the commodity is. Pest status can be reduced by repelling the pest; avoiding the pest or reducing its rate of colonization or invasion; and directly killing the pest.
Implement a Plan
A successful IPM plan takes a commitment to institute, and, more importantly, follow good farming practises. It may take some getting used to, but changing the way you use pesticides can benefit the people who handle and eat your produce, along with protecting the health of the surrounding environment. A different approach will also affect your liability for foodborne illness lawsuits and may decrease the number and cost of crop insurance claims. Not only will your land stay healthier year after year, but your decreased reliance on pesticides will also trim your operating costs. In the end, the benefits of adopting a healthy approach to pesticide use will spread far beyond your own fields.
To find out how a custom-tailored insurance program can help mitigate your risk, contact us to speak with one of our dedicated brokers today.