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IPM on Farms

IPM—integrated pest management—is your choice for solid science, sound solutions in dealing with pests. We promote safe, least-toxic solutions to both pest and pesticide problems.

IPM Basics:

Know your pests: it’s essential to IPM. If you treat for the wrong pest, you waste time, money—and might lose your crop. Abiotic problems can mimic pest damage too. Don’t spend money and time on treatments that don’t work or may damage your operation.

Relying too heavily on just one tactic makes for adaptable pests. Pests can become resistant to pesticides. The battle against pests costs money—which you should weigh against what you might lose from a pest. The balance point, or threshold, varies from crop to crop, from situation to situation. This is where scouting, a cornerstone of IPM, kicks in. Meanwhile, maintaining tolerable levels of pests helps keep their natural enemies—the insects or diseases that prey on them—on location and working for you.

Start to finish, good IPM is based on these seven steps:

Prepare: Be aware of the potential problems and opportunities at your site. Know your pests—and keep good records.

Prevent: Protect your crops, barns, and livestock for the long term.

Monitor: Scout your fields and buildings to find out which pests are on your crops, your livestock, or in your space.

Analyze: Your threshold data will tell you if it’s time to act.

Manage: Choose among tactics that provide the best balance of economic and environmental cost and effectiveness while reducing risk.

Apply: When management is justified, do it right.

Reevaluate: Look at your results, fine-tune your response—and make proactive plans for next time.

Seven steps to agricultural IPM

Step 1: Prepare.

Know your pests.

Which pests can you expect? What do they look like? What kind of damage do they cause? When and how should you watch for them? What can you do to avoid them? Which tactics should you use to manage them? What are your strengths and limitations in terms of labor, equipment, and markets? What beneficial species will help you? Last year’s records will help you stay on top of the game.

Learn about pest and beneficial organisms’ populations. Populations have

  • density (how many are in your fields or barn?)
  • age distributions—a pest may be susceptible to treatment at one point in its life cycle (or your crop’s growth stage) but not at another

Step 2: Prevent.

Protect your crops for the long term.


  • promote biological diversity around the farm to give beneficial organisms a helping hand
  • rotate your crops to break pest life cycles—which improves soil tilth and fertility too
  • plant varieties that resist common disease and insect pests
  • remove, compost, or destroy diseased plants and other sources of pest infestation… or use plant debris in tillage plans that build healthy soils
  • plant only on sites that meet your crops’ needs
  • build soil health—healthy crops tolerate pests better

Step 3: Monitor.

Scout your fields to find out what pests are in your crops. Proper sampling quickly tells you both "what" and "how many.” Collect this valuable information in time to use it! Use our trap networks, blight forecasts, and Network for Environment and Weather Applications (NEWA) pest forecasts to help you decide if, when, and where to scout.

Step 4: Analyze.

Your scouting data—your IPM threshold*—tells you if it’s time to act. Every tactic costs something. Many crops can tolerate some pests before you incur losses. Will your benefits justify the costs? Know all the options before you commit.

Step 5: Manage.

If action is called for, choose among those that provide the best balance of economic and environmental cost and effect while reducing risk.


  • rotate crops to avoid damage from corn rootworm, onion thrips, swede midge (cultural)
  • cultivate to kill lambsquarter, pigweed, and other annual weeds; use row covers to keep flea beetles off early spring crops (mechanical)
  • release parasitic wasps to manage stable flies, corn earworm, or greenhouse crops (biological)
  • plant disease-resistant vegetables, grains, forages, bedding plants, and fruits (genetic)
  • judicious, careful use of herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides (chemical)

Our EIQ (Environmental Impact Quotient) helps you weigh environmental costs and benefits when choosing among chemical controls, whether conventional or organic.

Step 6: Apply.

When management is justified, do it right.

For instance, cultivation usually works best before weed seedlings are even visible above the soil surface. Biological control agents—parasitic wasps and other “good bugs”—need to be released in the proper place, at the proper time. Pesticides may only work during a certain part of a pest’s life cycle. If you use a pesticide, be sure you READ THE LABEL, follow the directions, and wear protective clothing.

Step 7: Reevaluate.

Short term, long term…

Did you make the right decision; did you get the results you wanted? How much has the situation changed since last week? Different tactics might work better in the long term. What worked well during the season, and what did not? Is the alfalfa stand healthy enough to keep in another year? Should the tomatoes be rotated out? Is a soil insecticide necessary? Good records will help next year!

Good science. Good sense. IPM.