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Competency Area 1: Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

PO 3. Know the typical steps inthe integrated pest management process. These include:
A. Proper identification of problems
B. Sampling to determine the extent of the problem
C. Analysis to assess problem importance
D. Selection of appopriate management alternative
E. Proper implementation of management action
F. Evaluation of effectiveness of management action

Preparation and planning:
Key Issues / Questions…
What should you expect?
Crop agronomy, growth and development?
Pest Management Needs, Options?
Previous field history? Common (annual) pest problems for the crop being produced?
When and how to look to the pest or signs of pest / damage?
Identification – what are key characteristics to correctly identify the pest?
New problems – Are there new, emerging, invasive pest species of potential concern?
Other factors to consider?
Field History – Is there a documented field history with information on previous crop and pest
management actions or concerns?
Farm Management – understand the farms resources, strengths, opportunities / constraints, etc.
Resources: Where can you find information?
Cornell Cooperative Extension, Certified Crop Advisors, Company Representatives, other Growers
Trade Journals, etc.

A.Proper identification of problems
The IPM approach promotes “proactive” rather than “reactive” management. Correct identification is the first and most important step in controlling a field problem. This first step is critical to future success, since an incorrect diagnosis leads to mismanagement. What is causing the problem? A pest? An environmental stress? A nutritional deficiency? Or some another factor or combination of factors. Mistaking a disease problem for an insect problem, for example, can lead to an unnecessary use of an insecticide or continued planting of disease-susceptible crop varieties. Confusing a nutritional deficiency for herbicide injury or a disease ailment can likewise lead to incorrect actions. Also, learn to identify parasites and predators that help keep harmful pests in check. Although many insects and other organisms can be observed in fields, relatively few actually harm crops.
Obtain as much information about the problem as possible to determine its cause. Answering several questions will help in this process. What type of damage is observed? Check field history information if available to determine if it is a historical problem? Is the problem found only in particular locations, rows, soil types, drainage patterns, or at certain times during the growing season? What part or growth stage of the plant is affected?
Dig up plants showing symptoms. Check roots and the surrounding soil for evidence of pests. If in doubt about correct identification of the problem collect representative samples and field information to share with other knowledgeable persons or submit to a diagnostic clinic. There are many resources available to provide helpful information on identification of common pest problems of crops. Some suggested resources are listed in the resource section.

Key Issues / Questions…
Mis-identification = mismanagement
Who is your enemy & who is your friend
Be familiar with common, expected problems
Know where on/in the plant / in the field and when (growth stage of crop, time of the season) to anticipate common pests
Know how to distinguish pest damage from other injury (soil compaction, nutrient deficiencies, frost)
Know vulnerable stages of crop and pest, compensation and yield capabilities, potential pest impacts
Know when and how pests can hurt you the most
Be proactive. What crop conditions might favor pest problems?
Some examples :
Wet soils = Phytophthora root rot
Continuous corn – corn root worm, foliar diseases
Poor weed control – armyworm, stalk borer
High crop residue - foliar diseases
Know key beneficial and indicator species, signs of crop health and stress

B.Sampling to determine the extent of the problem
Once the pest is correctly identified, the next question arises: Is there a risk of significant loss? Is the problem occasionally seen? Localized? Or commonly found throughout the field? What is the extent of the damage? Is the problem a growing threat? Scientific sampling / crop monitoring techniques have been developed for assessing the damage potential of many pests. Correct sampling helps eliminate the guesswork in pest control by providing a means to quantify an old problem or discover a new one. Use sampling knowledge and information on pest and crop biology to make better management decisions. Accurate sampling, or scouting, is systematic and methodical. Examine and quantify all important field information needed to make a sound pest management decision. Information on specific sampling strategies for specific pests on crop of interest can be found in resources such as the Cornell Guide to Integrated Field Crop Management or the New York State IPM website (

Pest Forecasting - For some pests forecasting methods have been developed to aide in determining when a pest is likely to be a problem. Weather data and other information help predict when these specific pests will most likely occur. Weather-based pest forecast models for diseases and insects of many crops have been developed in New York.

Key Issues / Questions…
How many pests? General Crop Condition?
What is the extent of the damage throughout the field? Few plants or areas affected throughout the field?
Localized? General problem throughout field? Problem associated with any obvious field factor?
Quantifying an old problem or discovering a new one?
Are pests a “growing” threat? Large cutworms may soon pupate alleviating a problem naturally
Examine and quantify all parameters necessary to make a sound decision
Refer to IPM Guidelines for sampling recommendations and monitoring techniques

C. Analysis to assess problem importance
The third step in the pest management process is analyzing the identification and sampling information and evaluating the need for a pest control action. Decide how bad the problem really is. Is the potential control measure more costly than the damage potential? Weigh economic, environmental, and time concerns. What impact will current pest control decision have on future crop management decisions? Compare the observed frequency of a given pest to its “action threshold.” An action threshold is the level at which action must be taken so that the pest will not significantly damage the crop. Action thresholds are based on research and growers’ experiences with similar problems.

During the analysis stage, consider the relative vigor of the plants, plant populations, and value of the crop and potential yield. Depending on the crop and pest type, light pest populations may actually increase yields by causing the plant to compensate. Poor stands (less than 75% alfalfa) may not return management dollars since thresholds are based on research with clear stands. For alfalfa stands, crowns should have many lush stems, and little or no signs of root or crown injury, and clear stands probably should have a minimum of five healthy crowns per square foot to justify pesticide application.

Key Issues / Questions…
Evaluate risk. Is there a significant problem? If so, how bad?
Consult threshold guidelines that are built on research and experience with similar problems
Weigh economic, environmental, & time concerns.
Is damage potential more costly than the control?
What happens if you do nothing? What happens if you apply control(s)?
Which would cost more - damage or control?

Decision aides (See previous Performance Objective 2):
o Economic Injury Level (EIL): Pest densities (number of pests per unit area) at which control measures are economically justified.
o Cost of pest control = Savings from damage avoided / crop protected (break-even point).
o Economic Threshold: Pest density at which action must be taken to prevent an impending pest outbreak.
o Action Threshold: The level of pest infestation at which management action is justified.
o At or above this level, the likely loss from crop damage is greater than the cost of control.
o Below this level, the cost of control is greater than the savings from crop protection.

D. Selection of appropriate management alternative
When an action is needed, choose a strategy that fits with the short- and long-term plans, labor force, capital, equipment, and finances of the farm. Evaluate the costs, benefits, and risks of employing various management options. Look for opportunities to integrate different pest control strategies. What are the cultural, mechanical, biological and chemical control options? Which is the most practical, economical, effective choice?

Example of Management Tactics:
Biological - Parasites, predators, pest
Chemical - Pesticides, pheromones, baits, attractants
Cultural - Rotation, planting date, site selection, fertility, pH, plant populations, sanitation
Host Resistance - Resistant Varieties, Transgenic Crops
Mechanical - Cultivation, Tillage, Rotary Hoe, Fly Swatter, Traps, Screen, Fence
Physical -  Rain, Freezing, Solar Radiation

Key Issues / Questions…
What can be done to control this pest problem?
Cultural, mechanical, biological, chemical control options? Economics?
Are there windows of opportunity to disrupt the pests life cycle or potential impact?
Does the total management system allow for some options? Such as: Will early alfalfa harvest to control weevil interfere with crucial corn planting?
Given time and the farm’s resources what’s the optimum IPM option(s)?
Should option selected be reevaluated? - influence of weed size, insect age, crop growth stage, etc.

E. Proper implementation of management action
Implement the control carefully and at the right time. If pesticides are used, always follow label recommendations. Cultivation or using herbicides on weeds must be done at the right stage of weed and crop development for greatest impact. Pay close attention to the quality control of pest control actions, such as correct calibration of the application equipment and label recommendations. If appropriate, leave small, untreated areas to evaluate control effectiveness. Conduct management action with precision and thoroughness.

Key Issues / Questions…
Timely application of management procedures. Such as using herbicides on weeds at the right stage of development.
Use Quality control. Correct calibration of the sprayer
Integrated approach. Avoid the tendency to use chemicals when effective cultural controls or natural enemies are present.
Keep records of actions taken.
Once you have chosen your course of action: Be precise, Be thorough, Be timely, Use quality control.

F. Evaluation of effectiveness of management action
After a pest control action is taken, review what went right—and equally as important, what went wrong or could be improved. Did the control work? Scout the field again and compare pest activity before and after treatment. Was the problem identified properly? Was the field sampling unbiased? Was threshold guideline used and was it used correctly? Was the choice of control based on sound judgment or outside pressure? What changes to the system would make it better? Enter this information as part of an updated field history. This evaluation step is a very important part of the IPM process since it enables you to learn from experience and find ways to improve management skills and impact.

Key Issues / Questions…
Review what went wrong - what went right
Did you trip up the steps, or climb gracefully? Was the “problem” identified correctly?
Sampling unbiased? Threshold guideline followed?
Choice of control based on sound judgment or salesperson pressure?
Check (no treat) plots to evaluate the action
What changes to the system would make it better?