What is IPM?


On this page is an extract from the report of the 1st OECD workshop on IPM, pages 9-10 [ENV/JM/MONO(99)7]

“Virtually all of the definitions describe IPM as an approach that combines a variety of methods to control pests rather than relying on chemical pesticides alone.  The alternative methods most commonly cited are cultural (i.e. using good farming methods and pest-resistant crop varieties) and biological (i.e. using pests’ natural enemies, parasites or pathogens).  Many of the definitions note that IPM seeks to balance environmental and economic concerns, taking into account crop yields, farm profits, health and environmental safety, and resource sustainability.  Many definitions also emphasize that IPM is not just a set of techniques or an “off-the-shelf” package, but is an approach to pest control that is knowledge-intensive, farmer-based, and dependent upon local conditions and the crop being grown.


Some definitions go farther than others in emphasizing the importance of farming methods and the agro-ecological context.  These stress that pest control starts with “prevention,” which means creating conditions needed to grow a healthy crop:  the conditions include, for example, selecting locally-adapted and pest-resistant crop varieties, adapting planting times, maintaining a fertile soil and nutrient balance, preserving biological diversity, and ensuring the presence of natural enemies.  These definitions emphasize the importance of farmer expertise and knowledge about ecological and biological systems.


The definitions vary considerably in their attitude to pesticides, though all identify them as a valid IPM tool.  Some definitions appear neutral about the use of chemical pesticides.  Others say pesticide use should be reduced to a minimum, and some insist that pesticides should be used only as a last resort, after all other approaches have failed to control pests sufficiently.  Some definitions take a middle road, stating that pesticides should be used judiciously and “safer” products preferred (e.g. biopesticides and growth regulators given preference over chemical pesticides, selective pesticides over broad spectrum pesticides, and quickly degradable pesticides over persistent ones).


Several definitions describe the social consequences of IPM, noting the positive effects of “farmer empowerment.”  These definitions note that farmers who use IPM extensively become better farmers, more knowledgeable about the ecology of their farms, better at pest control and crop management, and more likely to be in contact with other farmers and with extension agents and IPM researchers.  By surveying their fields regularly, collecting and analysing data, and making decisions, these farmers themselves become experts who develop technologies that work well on their own farms rather than being on the receiving end of technologies developed by others.”


(IPM Hub Home page)


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