• What Is An Integrated Pest Management Program (& Why You Need One)

    October 7, 2016 | Blog | gpldev
  • There are often commercials promoting the buy one get one sales that entice customers to buy a particular product or visit their store. Like the buy one get one sales, there is a similar benefit to having an integrated pest management program (IPM).

    An IPM program is a program that implements several methods of pest management. Often implementing the methods of the program will result in multiple benefits in other areas. For instance, appropriate irrigation practices will not only help with pest management but can produce economical savings for the user through reduced water use.

    A well-developed IPM program basically is the ecological approach to avoiding unacceptable pest presence and damage. This program is the strategy that landscape professionals and even home gardeners can use to prevent pest damage with the least amount of adverse effects posed to the environment, human and other biological life.

    The landscape manager should engineer this program to include thoughtful, and vigilant observation of the landscape environment’s suitability for pest infestation. This takes experience and a good knowledge of plant material and pest biology. Without this experience or knowledge, many adverse and dangerous conditions could incur through the over application, and the inappropriate use of pesticides that could create a multitude of long term problems such as pesticide resistance, and/or potential water contamination.

    Methods of a successful IPM Program include:

    •  Prevention
    • Pest & Symptom Identification
    • Regular Observation
    • Plant Threshold Guidelines
    • Good Landscape Management Practices


    Prevention is the number one and most important component to a good IPM program. This is accomplished through careful and thoughtful plant selection as well good site preparation and other appropriate landscape cultural practices.

    Pests are often the secondary problem when plants begin to decline or die. They are opportunists and look for an “easy” food source which is more than not, plant material that is already suffering from an abiotic condition like poor irrigation or declining due to injury from poor pruning. When bad cultural practices are at play, initial issues should be recognized and remedied first, because steps to reduce pests will more than likely be ineffective and futile.

    Pest & Symptom Identification

    Pest and symptom identification is a key component to diagnosing plant problems. Just as a doctor must determine what illness his patient has to know what medicine to prescribe, so should the IPM administrator in diagnosing plant and tree problems. Knowing what the plant is and what the symptoms are is the best way to correctly prescribe the right management method best suited for that particular plant and pest problem.

    Regular Observation

    Careful and regular observation is beneficial and critical in some cases. This practice helps managers determine what the potential is for pest infestation and/or what stage the pest infestation is in if the plant is declining. Observation allows him or her to decide what the best course of action is for the plant that may include a regular preventive treatment or plant removal if the likelihood that the infestation will spread to neighboring plants and trees.

    Often if problems are not detected until they become obvious many plants and trees could die. Written records should be part of this component as well that includes date, identification, location, and a history of what pesticides have been applied and when they were applied and finally a plan that includes methods to manage the pest problem.  This can also serve as an effective tool to establish a good guideline for future pest management.

    Plant Threshold

    Although all plants are similar biologically each species has its’ own natural mechanisms in place to prevent unwanted pests as well as its own unique susceptibilities. Knowing what those defense mechanisms and susceptibilities are goes a long way in understanding what conditions and environments plants can tolerate well.

    This is particularly helpful in preventing monocultures that can have a devastating loss on a community when too many of one species is wiped out by a predator. The smoke tree sharpshooter for example came to North Central Phoenix and all but eradicated the 40-year-old oleander shrubs and hedges that served as a natural barrier among neighbors, churches, schools, parks and businesses between Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street from Camelback in 2007. It was a distressing loss that was an ultimate smorgasbord for this ¼ inch insect of destruction.

    Understanding plant thresholds and susceptibilities helps IPM directors create a varied plant pallet and management strategy that can guard against this type devastating plant and tree loss.

    Best Management Practices

    It is important to understand that there is more than one management method when preventing and controlling pest problems. Implementing a variety of these methods on a case by case basis provides a more effective and responsible approach then one broad based practice. There are many management methodologies that can be incorporated that can include:

    • Cultural Control - This is simply providing the sustainable landscape practices that implement proper irrigation, pruning and otherwise general care of plants and trees. Many pest problems that occur are often because proper cultural practices were not in place to begin with.
    • Mechanical Control - are controls outside of pesticide application such as controlling weeds with mulch, or clipping and disposing of infected plant material to stop the spread of a particular pest or disease.
    • Environmental Controls - this is used to suppress pest infestation by adjusting light, humidity, and/or temperature that affects the plant or tree. Removing or thinning to let more light in for example could be considered an environmental control.
    • Biological Control - this method would be the introduction of beneficial organisms to naturally control pests. Most pests have a natural enemy and this method has been used for hundreds of years to control and eradicate pest problems.  
    • Chemical Control - finally there is pesticide or chemical control. This control has taken a lot of heat over the last few years because of the damage it has caused over the years. However, it is a great and very effective tool when controlling pest problems. It is unfortunate that certain pesticides were used as a sole means for pest prevention, abused and/or not used according to the label. Because of this many of these great tools for the landscape industry and homeowners have had to either be severely restricted or even banned because of the dangerous and long lasting consequences that affected the environment. Chemical control should only be used as a temporary solution and implemented with other pest management methods mentioned above. Labels should ALWAYS be followed when using pesticides and should be used on a limited basis.  

    Implementing a carefully designed IPM program can minimize serious pest problems, saving the homeowner, and community thousands of dollars in plant and tree loss. Using a combination of plants and methods mentioned above is a sustainable, and responsible pest prevention practice.

    Landscape stewards and professionals have a responsibility to be educated and motivated to implement all types of controls when appropriate. Doing this will provide a multitude of benefits to promoting a healthy environment. Hiring educated and certified professionals like those at Desert Classic Landscaping is a simple and convenient way to get an IPM program implemented in your community.
    Bobbie Potts, SLM, ACLP, MG
    ISA Certified Arborist WE#1574A