Integrated pest management (IPM), is a strategy to sustainably control weed or insect pests by utilizing cultural, biological, mechanical, and chemical methods. It is an economically and ecologically beneficial approach to pest management that reduces reliance on short-term chemical applications and makes landscapes more resilient to invasion long-term.
Biological controls can be used to achieve the larger goal of ecological restoration and long-term ecological health for the benefit of agriculture as well as the environment.
The goal of the Insectary is to promote the use of beneficial self-sustaining biological controls throughout Colorado as a basis for IPM across all landscapes.
What is a Pest Species?
Plants or insects that are considered pests can be native or non-native species that cause economic or ecological damage. The economic impacts can include reduced forage, reduced crop yields, interference with irrigation systems or harvesting, and damage to equipment or infrastructure.
Pest species can have major ecological impacts, including an increase in the risk of frost damage early in the season, harboring pests and spreading pathogens, competing with native species for water and nutrients, altering water flows or soil structure, and may cause cascading effects in food chains.
IPM strategy combines multiple control methods that promote the diversity and resiliency of landscapes.
- Awareness and preventing is the best first step in an IPM strategy
- Know your pests, be able to identify invasive weeds or insects in your area
- Monitor and inspect landscapes regularly for new or changing pest issues
- Manage and contain the spread of existing pest problems
- Minimize disturbance of landscapes that may provide an opportunity for new pests
- Establishing and maintaining healthy landscapes improves resiliency to invasion
- Biological control utilizes the long established relationships between pest species and their natural enemies to provide an ecological balance that keeps weeds at an acceptable level. Identifying the presence or absence of a pest species’ natural enemies can be considered the first step of an IPM plan.
- Classical Biocontrol is the introduction of host-specific biological enemies of plant or insect pests. These enemies, or agents, are carefully selected and studied to prevent non-target effects and when established provide long-term suppression of introduced weed species. The Insectary’s main focus and area of study is classical biocontrol.
- Augmentative biocontrol is the large release of beneficial organisms at crucial times during the growing cycle.
- Conservation biocontrol is the focus on preserving and integrating native beneficial insects into cropping systems. Strategies include providing habitat for insects, minimizing life cycle disturbance and increasing biodiversity.
- Cultural controls take advantage of the natural growth cycles of weeds and insect pests to give a competitive edge to desirable species.
- Mechanical control is usually the most labor intensive control strategy. It includes hand pulling or collection, tillage, burning, mowing or any other physical removal of pest species.
- Chemical controls are important facets of a good integrated pest management strategy but their use should be carefully implemented and weighed against the ecological impacts. Improper use may have long-term consequences, such as pesticide resistance, a reduction of native and desirable species, or soil and water contamination.