Adams County Master Gardener
Integrated pest management (IPM) is a common sense approach to pest control. It is a sensible alternative for home gardeners who may have always
attacked a pest problem with pesticides in the past. Recognizing the environmental hazards of pesticide use, many home gardeners are integrating various strategies to keep pest populations at tolerable levels while preserving our environment.
Integrated Pest Management is not organic gardening. IPM practices the use of pesticides on a limited basis in situations where other environmentally friendly methods are not appropriate. The successful use of IPM requires the gardener to be
knowledgeable of plants and plant pests, keeping a watchful eye for changes in plant health and production. Early warning signs that point to a problem tend to allow for a more successful, less potent method of treatment; advanced plant damage is more likely to require a
more drastic method of treatment.
There are several components of IPM:
- Promote plant health Choose the right plant for the right place; consider light requirements and soil preference. Maintain healthy plant growth by watering, weeding, and fertilizing.
- Monitor landscape plants Watch for holes in the leaves, leaf discoloration, wilting or leaf drop.
- Identify plant pests Scout for insects and use a garden reference to identify. It is important to scout for beneficial as well as harmful insects. Beneficial insects help to control plant pest populations. An application of insecticide
could kill the natural predators as well as the harmful insects. Once identified, it is important to know the insects life cycle to decide if and when control measures should be taken.
- Determine threshold level -This is the number of pests present in numbers large enough to require treatment. An unacceptable level of pests present requires treatment. If the damage is minimal and the pests few, it may be wise to take a
"wait and see attitude". The bad bugs may leave, or be eaten by their beneficial enemies!
A number of safe, environmentally friendly pest control options should be considered prior to using an insecticide. For example, use a cultural control method such as crop rotation, tilling, pruning, thinning and good sanitation. Mechanical
controls include removing pests by hand or the use of traps, nets or other barriers. Biorational controls consist of living organisms that kill plant pests. There are also naturally occurring biochemicals that are harmful to the pest yet harmless to other creatures. Genetic
controls involve plants that are bred to be disease-resistant. Chemical controls involve the use of naturally derived or synthesized chemicals called pesticides. Horticultural oils and insecticidal soap are two synthesized pesticides that are least disruptive to beneficial
If these pest control options are either unavailable or impractical, you may need to carefully select and use the least toxic and most specific pesticide available. Select a pesticide that will do the job with the least impact on the
environment. Always identify the active ingredient and read the label to be sure that it will control the pest.
Remember that the registration and use of pesticides are regulated by the EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, it is illegal to use a pesticide on a crop unless the
crop is listed on the label. Also, you may not exceed the given rate of application on the label. Fines and other penalties are a real possibility if these warnings are ignored.
Recognizing the environmental hazards of pesticide use, many home gardeners are integrating various strategies to keep pest populations at tolerable levels while preserving our environment. Because most pesticides are toxic and many animals rely on
insects in their diet, pesticides can alter the natural balance in your yard and adversely affect wildlife. To protect the environment and wildlife, ask yourself these questions:
- Have I properly identified the problem?
- Is the problem serious enough to warrant the use of pesticides?
- Have I considered a non-chemical alternative?
- Are beneficial insects present? (Lacewings, ladybugs, etc.)
If after careful consideration you decide to us a chemical treatment, it is important to follow some important guidelines to protect wildlife. Make sure the pesticide is labeled to control the problem pest. Choose the least toxic pesticide available.
Avoid spraying any area where animals are nesting. Read the entire label before using the product. Mix according to directions. Spray only the parts of the plants affected by the pest. Dispose of pesticides properly never pour them onto the ground!
The demand for an environment that is clean and safe continues to grow. Pesticide use, an activity that has been taken for granted, is now being carefully examined for potential damage to the environment. All pesticides can cause environmental
damage, but if handled properly they can control pests with minimal environmental impact.
Pesticides become problems when they move off target. This may mean drifting in the form of dust or mist, moving with soil particles by erosion, being carried out as residues on crops or livestock, or evaporating and moving with air currents.
Pesticides may also move from the target area by leaching through the soil with rain or irrigation water. An understanding of our groundwater resources and their protection will help one to become a better gardener and land manager.
Groundwater is a crucial natural resource. One third of the people in Pennsylvania up to 95% of those in some rural areas, must rely on it as a source of drinking water. Groundwater is also essential to industry and agriculture. Groundwater is the
water that lies below the soil surface and fills the pore spaces in and around rock, sand, gravel, and other materials.
For years it was believed that the natural filtering of water during its slow movement through soil, sand, gravel and rock formations was adequate to cleanse it of contaminants before it reached groundwater. Today many chemicals can be detected in
groundwater. Maintenance of livestock facilities, storage of chemicals and fuels, disposal of wastes, and the land application of manures, fertilizers, and pesticides are all potential contributors to groundwater contamination.
It is very difficult to purify or clean groundwater that has become contaminated. Treatment is complicated, time-consuming, expensive, and often not feasible. The best solution to groundwater contamination is to prevent the problem in the first
place. The following pesticide-handling practices can be used to reduce the potential for ground and surface water contamination:
- When mixing, applying, or disposing of pesticides, consider the location of groundwater-sensitive areas.
- Transport pesticides safely.
- Store pesticides properly. Buy only what is needed for a season or a specific spray job.
- Mix carefully The mixing process is possibly the most critical step in avoiding pesticide contamination.
Use safety precautions and common sense. Read the label on the pesticide container. Take safety measures recommended: use special equipment suggested, wear protective clothing, and consider any restrictions on use as well as environmental precautions
listed on the label.
Remember that it is illegal to use any combination of unregistered chemicals or household products for pesticide purposes. Such use may be dangerous to plants, people, animals and the environment.
The registration and use of pesticides are regulated by the EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Under the amended Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, it is illegal to use a pesticide on a crop unless the crop is listed
on the label. You may not exceed the given rate of application on the label. Fines and other penalties vary according to laws broken.
Yes, there are an awfully lot of rules and regulations associated with pesticide use - and yes, there may be a real need to resort to pesticides in the care and management of your landscape. However, use a common sense approach to pesticides, only as
a final step after other environmentally friendly methods have been exhausted. Integrated pest management works and helps you to stay grounded in your garden!
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