Setting an action threshold determines the point at which pest control action becomes necessary. This step prevents unnecessary use of pesticides when the number of pests remains below threat levels. It also helps determine levels at which pest populations interfere with economics and environmental conditions. Results from Step 1 play a critical role in guiding future pest control studies and decisions.
Integrated pest management (IPM) takes a common-sense approach to pest control. Comprehensive pest information helps reduce hazards to people, animals and the environment. IPM works well for agricultural, home, garden and workplace environments. Most approaches to pest management make use of a single method, whereas IPM consists of a series of evaluations, decisions and controls within a four-step program.
The identification and monitoring of insect, weeds and other pests determines the need for control. Many organisms are beneficial, and in some cases control procedures could do more harm than good. This step helps stop the destruction of vital living things. Studies conducted during this step provide information on how insects and weeds interact with the environment to devise safe methods of control when needed.
The first line of defense is prevention. IPM programs focus on how to prevent pests from becoming a threat. In agriculture, planting pest-resistant crops is a cost-effective method of prevention that presents little, if any, danger to humans or the environment. Crop rotation safely reduces abundant weed growth and insects that feed on them.
Results from steps 1, 2 and 3 provide information necessary to determine whether a situation requires pest control. Once preventive methods become ineffective or unavailable, the establishment of a proper control method becomes necessary. Low-risk methods --- such as pheromones, trapping and weeding --- are the safest options and are generally used first. Only after low-risk methods have proven unsuccessful are targeted pesticides used. Broad spraying of pesticides, a high-risk method, should only occur as a last resort.
Landscaping companies and plant nurseries that provide regular maintenance for residential, commercial or agriculture areas start an IPM program by following proven procedures and guidelines. Each person in the program should have a specific role with exact responsibilities. All members should be trained to recognize pests and consequential damage. Knowledge of pest life cycles helps determine the best time to use control methods. Using pesticides times when they are least effective places undue risk on the environment. Look for a set of IPM guidelines and strategies at your local extension service.
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