Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the coordinated use of pest and environmental information to design and implement pest control methods that are economically, environmentally and socially sound. IPM promotes prevention over remediation and advocates integration of multiple control strategies to achieve long-term pest management solutions.

IPM consists of gathering information, interpreting data, creating a flexible management plan, making timely decisions and taking the proper action. Information gathering and decision-making techniques include: accurate pest identification, learning about the weak link in a pest’s life-cycle or biology, scouting and monitoring crops in fields and greenhouses, using action thresholds to minimize spraying, and keeping records of findings to assess the effectiveness of management decisions.

  • Accurate pest identification is a crucial first step on the road to a solution. Misidentification of pests is a common cause of pest control failure and crop damage. For help with identification, bring a pest and/or plant sample to one of the following diagnostic clinics:
UConn’s Home & Garden Center
Ratcliffe Hicks Building, Room 4
1380 Storrs Road, Unit 4115
Storrs, CT 06269-4115
(toll free) 1-877-486-6271
The Plant Disease Information Office
The CT Agricultural Experiment Station
123 Huntington Street, P.O. Box 1106
New Haven, CT 06504
(203) 974-8601
  • The biology and life-cycle of a pest often reveals the key to successful control measures. Detailed, pest-specific information is available in fact sheets in this and other IPM web sites (see links) or in crop-specific publications and manuals.
  • Scouting involves using systematic methods of inspecting the crop on a regular basis to quantify pest populations or crop injury/damage. Scouting techniques vary considerably depending upon the type of pests (weed, insect, disease or other) involved. Details are available in pest and crop-specific IPM fact sheets and manuals.
  • Monitoring weather conditions or trapping pests can be used to assess or predict current or future pest problems and help to prevent crop damage. Equipment and procedures vary by pest (for details see references mentioned above).
  • Action thresholds are usually expressed as a fixed number for individual pests (i.e. 7 moths or 2 weeds/foot of row) or crop injury (i.e. 20% defoliation), or as a rating for weather conditions (15 Disease Severity Units). Thresholds tell you when to control the pest(s) to prevent or minimize economic damage to crops. Some thresholds are given for pests in the individual crop sections of the New England Vegetable Management Guide and others vary by state or region and are available in local or regional Extension publications. Contact your state’s Extension IPM personnel for relevant local action thresholds.
  • Proper record-keeping involves recording data on weather, pest populations, crop conditions and control procedures all season. Good records help determine which pest control strategies are working and where improvements should be made in the future.

Along with information gathering and decision-making techniques, a variety of preventative and curative control methods are used to construct a complete IPM management plan for each pest, crop and farm. Cultural, mechanical, physical, genetic and biological controls help prevent severe pest problems, while pesticides are used when additional control measures are required.

  • Cultural controls are modifications of the crop production systems which suppress pest populations and occurrence. A few examples include: the use of better site selection, crop rotation, modifying planting times or plant spacing, improved water and nutrient management for better crop health or to limit weed competition, breaking up plow pans, cleaning soil from machinery between fields, and the use of cover and smother crops.
  • Mechanical and physical controls consist of using supplies, equipment, or some component of the environment, such as temperature, humidity or light, to disrupt pest life cycles and/or suppress populations. Mechanical and physical controls function by cutting, crushing, burying or excluding pests with implements and barriers, or by heating, cooling, drying, wetting, or regulating light in some way. Some examples include: the use of hot-water-treated seed, plowing, cultivation, flaming, plastic or organic mulches, row covers, greenhouse ventilation, washing, cold storage and roguing infected plants.
  • Genetic controls are produced by using radiation, traditional breeding programs and biotechnology to modify the genetic make-up of crops or pests. Some examples include: disease, insect and nematode-resistant varieties, physiological disorder-tolerant varieties, herbicide resistant crops and insect sterilization programs.
  • Biological control is the use of naturally-occurring or introduced beneficial organisms to control or suppress pest populations. Biological control agents come in all shapes and forms including: beneficial insects, mites, spiders, nematodes, fungi, bacteria, viruses, protozoa and plants. In the broadest interpretation, they would include things like microbial pesticides and the use of trap crops. Common examples range from parasitic wasps, entomophagus and space-competitive fungi and bacteria, to predacious bugs, beetles and spiders. Natural enemies of pests exist everywhere in nature and should be preserved whenever possible. Many beneficials can be purchased for use in the greenhouse or for specific crops.
  • Pesticides should be used in conjunction with the control measures previously mentioned and only when pest population densities will cause economic damage, or environmental conditions favor disease. Selective pesticides are products which primarily target the pest(s) you wish to control, with few or no detrimental effects on most beneficials. They may also have other attributes making them less harmful to the user and the environment and may be lumped into a larger category of Biorational pesticides. If the use of a pesticide is required, choose a selective product or another biorational pesticide if possible. Selective pesticides usually spare biological control agents, reduce the risk of secondary pest outbreaks, reduce the impact on the environment, improve farm safety, and minimize the number of applications needed. Broad-spectrum pesticides usually kill many different kinds of pests and beneficial organisms. The use of broad-spectrum pesticides can often lead to resurgence of primary pest populations due to a lack of natural controls, or to secondary pest outbreaks and additional applications. Broad-spectrum pesticides should only be used if no other viable options exist to manage the pest(s). Proper pesticide application and resistance management techniques should be used to maximize the effectiveness and preserve the useful life of the available products.

For a list of effective pesticides that are registered to use on specific commodities and pests see the current New England Vegetable Management Guide. However, always remember that effective pest management involves much more than using pesticides.

Information on our site was developed for conditions in the Northeast. Use in other geographical areas may be inappropriate.

By: T. Jude Boucher, UConn IPM

Reviewed by: Mary Concklin, UConn IPM. 2012

The information in this document is for educational purposes only.  The recommendations contained are based on the best available knowledge at the time of publication.  Any reference to commercial products, trade or brand names is for information only, and no endorsement or approval is intended. The Cooperative Extension System does not guarantee or warrant the standard of any product referenced or imply approval of the product to the exclusion of others which also may be available.  The University of Connecticut, Cooperative Extension System, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is an equal opportunity program provider and employer.