Back to top

Chapter 1: Integrated Crop and Pest Management

1.1 Background

Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension actively promote the use of Integrated Crop and Pest Management by New York farmers in order to address agricultural concerns. In many areas of New York State, there are horticultural, economic, social, and political pressures to reduce environmental impact of and pesticide use in crop production. Public concerns with nutrient and sediment movement into ground and surface water and pressure against pesticide applications is growing. In other regions, agricultural producers are being asked to submit nutrient and soil management plans to address the offsite impacts of their practices. In addition, the development of pesticide resistance in key pests; registration of fewer and more expensive new chemicals for pest control; loss of existing products; and increased competition from other regions continue to push New York agriculture to look for nonchemical alternatives.

Integrated Crop and Pest Management requires a combination of long and short term production strategies to maximize net profit while minimizing risks of undesirable environmental impacts of practices. Some of these practices include site selection, crop specific production strategies, nutrient management, and cover cropping. IPM is a pest control strategy that promotes the use of a variety of tactics including pest resistant cultivars and biological, cultural, and physical controls. Pesticides are a control tactic employed in IPM, but they are only used when needed. Pesticide use is thus minimized without jeopardizing crop quality or yield. Applying multiple control tactics minimizes the chance that pests will adapt to any one tactic and allows farmers to choose the most environmentally sound, efficacious, and economically efficient pest management program for their situation.

This manual provides information and references which will allow New York vegetable growers to practice IPM for many of their crops. While information for the proper use of pesticides is included in the manual, a variety of other information is contained which can help growers reduce reliance on pesticides and take advantage of alternatives to pesticides which may be less expensive, less environmentally harmful, and more acceptable to the nonfarming community.

1.2 Practicing IPM

In an IPM program, it is important to accurately identify the pests (vertebrates, diseases, insects, and weeds) and assess pest abundance. It is important to have knowledge of the biology and ecology of the pest(s) attacking the crop and the factors that can influence pest infestations. An understanding of the influence of factors such as weather and natural enemies on pest abundance will aid the choice of management tactics. IPM programs stress suppression of insect and disease populations to levels that do not cause economic damage, rather than total eradication of a pest. In the case of insect pests, it is important to have at least some pests present to ensure that natural enemies will remain in the crop to suppress subsequent infestations.

1.3 IPM Components

1.3.1 Monitoring (Scouting)

Scouting includes detecting, identifying, and determining the level of pest populations on a timely basis. Insect traps can often be used to detect pests and identify times when scouting should be intensified or control measures should be taken. Scientifically based, accurate, and efficient monitoring methods are available for many pests on vegetable crops in New York. Brief descriptions of the techniques are given in this manual. Consult the listed references for details on scouting and trapping of pests.

1.3.2 Forecasting

Weather data and other information help predict when specific pests will most likely occur. Weather-based pest forecast models for diseases and insects of many crops have been developed in New York. Links are provided in the individual crop sections where forecasts are available. Forecasts are available through the Network for Environment and Weather Applications (NEWA) on a daily basis.

1.3.3 Thresholds

Use thresholds to determine when pest populations have reached a level that could cause economic damage. Following the thresholds indicated in this manual has reduced pesticide use by ten to 50 percent, saving significant money for growers.

1.3.4 Management Tactics

Management tactics to control pests include cultural, biological, and physical controls, as well as chemical controls when they are needed. Taking advantage of some of the simple and relatively inexpensive pesticide alternatives offered here can result in significant savings to growers both in terms of pesticide use and crop loss. Often a thoughtful preventive measure taken before the crop is planted can result in significant savings of crop-rescue treatment dollars later in the season.

1.3.5 Recordkeeping

Records kept from year to year on pest occurrence in fields can be valuable tools for avoiding pests in the future.

1.4 IPM Tactics

An important aim of an IPM strategy is to integrate the available pest management options. Some pests are endemic and usually require pesticide treatment, applied either at planting or during the season. However, the incidence of these pests and the need for pesticides can often be reduced through a combination of control tactics described below. A list of specific management options is included for each crop pest in later sections of this manual.

1.4.1 Pest Resistant Cultivars

If available, insect and disease resistant or tolerant cultivars can reduce losses to pests. Recommended pest resistant/tolerant cultivars and the pests they are tolerant or resistant to are listed for each crop. Using these cultivars can be one of the simplest methods of reducing costly management procedures and negative environmental impacts during the growing season.

1.4.2 Cultural and Physical Controls

  • Rotate crops to reduce the buildup of weeds, disease pathogens, and insect pests. Crop rotation is useful for those pests that do not move far from their overwintering sites.
  • Remove overwintering sites, such as cull piles, damaged and volunteer plants, and alternate hosts, to minimize damage by insects and diseases.
  • Use techniques that expose pests to natural enemies or environmental stress, or that make the crop less susceptible to insects or diseases.
  • Adjust planting times to avoid periods of peak pest abundance.
  • Plant disease-free seed and transplants.
  • Ensure vigorous crop growth through proper nutrition and weed removal to avoid stress that may predispose crops to attack by insects, diseases, or physiological disorders.
  • If irrigating, manage irrigation schedules to avoid long periods of high relative humidity which encourage disease pests to develop.
  • Avoid planting susceptible crops into areas of known, high pest pressure.
  • Orient fields to provide maximum air drainage and circulation and use recommended between and in-row spacing.
  • Where cultivation or nitrogen sidedressing is routine, use cultivation for weed control in combination with banding of herbicides over the row. This technique can reduce herbicide costs by as much as 60 percent while achieving good weed control.

1.4.3 Biological Control

  • Conserve natural enemies of insect and mite pests by only using fungicides and insecticides when needed.
  • Provide refuges of flowering plants and shrubs to supply nectar, alternative hosts, and shelter for natural enemies.
  • Make use of inundative releases of predators and parasites if available and effective.

1.4.4 Chemical Control

  • Only use pesticides if monitoring, economic thresholds, or disease forecasts indicate a need.
  • Choose pesticides according to efficacy, previous use patterns, the incidence of resistance, and the impact on the environment and natural enemies.
  • Ensure full and uniform spray coverage by using recommended spray rates and accurately calibrated equipment that targets key crop locations that need to be protected (i.e. the ears of sweet corn plants).
  • Do not apply pesticides when wind velocity is more than five miles per hour to avoid drift to nontarget sites.

For more details about chemical use, see Chapter 6, Pesticide Information and Safety.


Maintained by Abby Seaman, New York State IPM Program. This page last modified 2018.

This information is based on the Cornell Integrated Crop and Pest Management Guidelines for Commercial Vegetable Production, Cornell Cooperative Extension.


Stephen Reiners, SIPS Horticulture Section, Cornell AgriTech at Cornell University; Editor; cultivar selection and fertility
Lynn Sosnoskie, SIPS Horticulture Section, Cornell AgriTech at Cornell University; weed management
Bryan Brown, NYSIPM Program, Cornell AgriTech at Cornell University; weed management
Paul D. Curtis, Natural Resources, Cornell University; wildlife management
Michael Helms, Pesticide Management Education Program, Cornell University; pesticide information
Margaret T. McGrath, Plant Pathology, Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center, Riverhead, NY; disease management
Brian A. Nault, Entomology, Cornell AgriTech at Cornell University; insect pest management
Abby Seaman, NYSIPM Program, Cornell AgriTech at Cornell University; integrated pest management

Special Appreciation

Special appreciation is extended to the following for their contributions to this publication: George S. Abawi, Robin Bellinder, Helene R. Dillard, Donald E. Halseth, Michael P. Hoffmann, Andrew J. Landers, Curt Petzoldt, Anu Rangarajan, Anthony M. Shelton, Christine D. Smart, John Wallace, and Thomas A. Zitter.