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Home > Plants, Pests & Pest Control > Pest Management > Integrated Pest Management Program > Definition of IPM

Definition of Integrated Pest Management

Integrated pest management (IPM) is an approach which first assesses the pest situation, evaluates the merits of pest management options and then implements a system of complementary management actions within a defined area. The goal of IPM is to mitigate pest damage while protecting human health, the environment and economic viability. Integrated Pest Management is a dynamic system that is adaptable to diverse management approaches. Pest management decisions are made by the individual producer, business entity or government agency but are influenced by the diversity of public and private values.

Components in an IPM Program:


A proactive approach of anticipating problems takes people out of the reactive mode and allows them to take advantage of all available management options.

IPM depends on the "big picture." By knowing what your objectives are, you will be able to plan accordingly. It is important to be proactive. Well informed decisions depend on collecting both current and historical information about the situation including the site and the pest(s). This process will also identify where additional education or expert advise is needed. Equipped with this knowledge, pest management strategies can then be developed for short- and long-term pest mitigation.

Setting Action Thresholds

Values, priorities, economics, health issues, and environmental impacts all determine when intervention will occur.

Pest managers walk a tight rope when striving to balance prospective pest damage, control costs and any health or environmental liabilities of management actions. Setting a realistic trigger, or action threshold for management actions, mitigates the emotional, reactive response to managing pest problems. Unnecessary management efforts waste time, energy, and money and may create potentially undesirable health or environmental consequences. On the other hand, inaction can result in excessive pest damage and loss. Defining action thresholds begins with a frank assessment of what constitutes unacceptable damage. Unacceptable damage varies with each pest situation and incorporates both personal and social values, such as economics, plant or animal health, aesthetics, nuisance, human health concerns, and prospective environmental impacts. A variety of data, both qualitative and quantitative, that is gleaned from on-site monitoring, site history, weather, computer models and personal experience, may trigger pest management actions when levels exceed action thresholds.

Monitoring and Detection

Ongoing monitoring and timely detection to minimize loss and/or safeguard human health and the environment are critical.

Monitoring of a site allows for the early detection of pests and aids in the accurate assessment of the current situation. Ongoing observation of the pest, the host, the site, and related environmental factors are necessary in order to detect and assess emerging problems. Through timely monitoring, pest numbers and distribution patterns can be determined. Focusing on the key pests and mapping out problem areas is the only way to understand the extent of the problem so that timely pest management decisions can be initiated.

Proper Identification

The cause of the problem must be correctly identified.

Incorrect pest identification leads to misdirected management efforts or ineffective control. Knowledge of a pest's biology, habits, and life cycle will aid in identifying the weak link in the pest's life cycle. Differentiating between beneficial organisms and pests is essential in making treatment decisions that recognize the role of beneficials. Information gathered through monitoring coupled with correct identification is utilized when deciding on a plan of appropriate actions.

Action / Implementation

Actions depend upon the pest problem, site situation, and the available management options.

Decision making is complex and many factors are considered before implementing an action. Knowledge of the site, the pest involved and the options available form the basis for IPM decisions. All management options have "good" and "bad" impacts. Decisions are tailored to minimize risk to humans and the environment and at the same time maximize benefits. Management options include any one of the following used alone or in combination. Using a combination of management options, where and when appropriate, is the foundation of IPM.

  • Biological Control:
    1. Release and/or rely on natural enemies and beneficial organisms
    2. Create a situation favorable to beneficial organisms
  • Cultural Control:
    1. Crop rotation and cover crops
    2. Cultivation, tillage, and mowing
    3. Trapping animal pests
    4. Proper landscape design
    5. Destruction of pest habitat
    6. Proper sanitation
  • Chemical Control:
    1. Insect pheromones
    2. Biologically produced toxins
    3. Pesticides
  • Genetic Control:
    1. Resistant plant varieties
  • Legal:
    1. Quarantines

Evaluation of Results

Assessing outcomes provides opportunities to improve an IPM program.

Evaluation begins with a review of the original goals of the IPM program. The next step is to examine the records kept throughout the season in order to identify the management options which were implemented. Finally, outcomes are evaluated based on the effectiveness of IPM activities through an assessment of current pest, host, and site status. Questions which should be asked when evaluating an IPM program include: "Are management options effective or does something else need to be done now? Did any unintended or unanticipated problems occur? How should the IPM program be modified to address these issues?"


Integrated pest management is an information based learning process driven by the question: "How can pests be managed to mitigate their effects?" IPM incorporates a broad based examination of pest management. Decisions are predicated on three very important considerations including economics, environment, and human health. The choice of management tools rests with the value assigned to each of these three considerations. The key to using IPM is being flexible and planning for adjustments or fine-tuning. The more flexible the IPM program, the greater the chances of finding an effective solution which will provide long lasting benefits.

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