Integrated Pest Management
Integrated Pest Management or IPM for short is a fancy term for biological and other cultural (using non diseased plants), genetic (using pest resistant species), and physical (such as a barrier) methods of getting rid of pests. Biological IPM is accomplished by introducing into the garden beneficial insects, birds, reptiles, and animals that prey on the insects or "pests" that you do not want growing or living in your garden.
IPM methods vary according to the type of garden you have. In other words no single approach works best. What works for a vegetable garden might not work for a fruit orchard for instance. Likewise, IPM is not just for insect control, weeds can also be controlled using IPM, reducing the need for herbicides as well.
The first step in IPM is to identify the type of pest and understand its biology, lifecycle, and habit preferences. It may be possible to eliminate a pest simply by watering less for example or providing a thick mulch layer to prevent weeds from germinating.
For insect pests, once the insect that is wreaking havoc in the garden is properly identified the next step is finding a natural predator. Examples of natural insect predators include ladybugs, nematodes, lacewings, Braconid wasps, and the appropriately named assassin bug.
Many of these insects are available commercially and some of course will already be present in your garden. Planting shrubs and flowers that attract birds, butterflies, and other wildlife will provide habitat for other natural predators that will be beneficial in the pest control process.
Benefits of IPM to the Environment
There are many benefits to the environment form using IPM. Insects build up a tolerance to pesticides so that after a period of time greater concentrations or stronger types of pesticides are required to eliminate the problem. IPM allows you to eliminate or reduce the toxicity of the pesticides you use in the garden to eliminate pests.
IPM is a long-term method of controlling pests, not a quick fix. Another benefit of using IPM methods is that it contributes to a reduction in the amount of toxic chemicals that leach into surface and groundwater used as a source of drinking water. IPM methods are self-sustaining and once established, a less expensive alternative to pesticides and other chemical controls.
Related Article: 5 Earth Friendly Gardening Tips
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