Integrated pest management (IPM) is a multifaceted approach to pest control which can be implemented on everything from small backyard gardens to large scale commercial agriculture. The basic idea is to use several different management strategies in cohesion to knock out the pests in every way possible. It takes into consideration prevention, avoidance, monitoring, and suppression.
For example a gardener uses cedar to create raised bed gardens since its a natural bug deterrent, then plants the crops intermixed with chives, marigolds, and garlic all of which repel pests. Instead of putting all the same vegetables next to each other they are spread throughout the garden so that if one squash gets infested, all of the squash don’t get it. The plants are spaced far enough apart so that the pests cant easily move from one plant to another. Sunflowers are planted near enough to the garden but not in it to attract aphids (which love them) and other insects away from the vegetables that are to be harvest. The gardener takes care not to walk in the beds so that the natural pathogen community growing in the soil isn’t compacted and damaged and also takes the time to learn the different kinds of bugs so that they know whether the insect is good to have around or something that needs to be eliminated. While spending time in the garden plants are carefully checked for initial signs of problems so that it can be prevented before an infestation gets out of hand by diligently removing caterpillars and squishing aphids by hand (which repels other aphids from the area) when they are in small numbers. If the gardener notices ants on the plants, which protect aphids from predators, they will draw the ants away with a bit of honey near the plant and sticky tape around the stem so the ants get stuck trying to get up the plant. If there is an infestation they may purchase a batch of green lacewing larvae and release them into the garden to quickly take care of the problem. Since marigolds were planted in the garden, once the larvae mature, the adults have something to feed on and will thus stay in the area to lay their eggs creating a self sustaining population of lacewings for the future.
It may sound complex at first but all it takes is a little education by the grower initially and is then mostly self regulated after that. Although the overall concept of using multiple approaches is not difficult to understand, the various strategies are so numerous that I will cover each portion in greater detail as separate posts over the coming weeks. Stay tuned!