The How and Why of IPM
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a term we see everywhere today. But what does it mean, exactly? And how do you apply this method successfully?
There are many definitions for IPM, but most important is its aim: Use biological control when you can, chemical control when you must. The toolbox that brings us there has many different instruments. This makes the work of the IPM consultant so versatile, interesting, and sometimes complicated. The simplified main idea behind IPM is that the greenhouse or field forms an ecosystem. The mutual relationships between crops, their attackers, and the natural enemies are of crucial importance. There's a kind of triangular relationship, and each of the three sides of the triangle must receive the same amount of attention:
- You strengthen and protect the crop.
- You tackle diseases and pests.
- You strengthen and protect the population of natural enemies.
Plant growth promotion and crop resilience
Plant growth promotion and crop resilience is a critical success factor within IPM. A healthy soil or substrate is the basis for a healthy crop. Think about soil or substrate health not only in the biological sense: minimal presence of soil borne pests or diseases. But also, from the chemical point of view: well-balanced minerals in the soil matrix or nutrient solution. Do not forget the physical aspects: a porous structure of soil or substrate that allows gas exchange between the root zone and the air above.
You also need to consider your choice of crop variety. Crop varieties can differ significantly in their susceptibility to pests and diseases. And that goes beyond the resistances they have in their genetics. The difference in leaf tissue and plant sap composition between varieties also plays a role in the way pests or diseases develop.
As a grower, you can also improve the resilience of crops below and above the soil surface in various ways, for example with plant enhancers and useful soil fungi and bacteria. Plant growth promoting microorganisms can be applied from the start of the cultivation. These enrich the microbial composition of the rhizosphere. The consortium of beneficial microbes induces systemic resistance and helps the plants to grow better.
Tackle diseases and pests
You should try to prevent infection with diseases and attack by pests as much as possible. If problems do occur, you can solve it using natural enemies.
Preventive releases of natural enemies
Natural enemies must be introduced early in the development of the pest population to be most effective. In some cases, release of natural enemies even before the pest is present is possible or required for optimal efficacy. Some beneficial mites can feed on pollen or food mites; some beneficial bugs on special food based on moth eggs.
Augmentative releases of beneficial insects/mites
When preventive releases are not possible or feasible, scouting data help steer the timing and rates for the introduction of natural enemies.
Strengthen and protect the population of natural enemies
In the case that you do resort to the use of chemicals, make sure that you are informed about the side-effects and the impact it will have on the ecosystem you have built up so carefully with IPM. We have made this easy for you – you can just head over and use our Koppert Side-Effects Database and App!
To ultimately have a holistic approach to IPM and continue to strengthen and protect the population of natural enemies, you must work to have sufficient knowledge of diseases and pests on the one hand and the natural enemies on the other. A big part of a holistic approach is also to continuously monitor how both aspects develop in your crop - monitoring is crucial. Early detection of pests and diseases leads to timely action when pest or disease levels are low and actions most effective. Observing eyes, sticky traps, pheromone traps and magnifying glasses are indispensable tools for scouting and monitoring. Proper scouting also provides data that help to quantify the development of pests and natural enemies.
The good news is that you do not have to take a single step of this IPM journey alone – contact your nearest Koppert consultant right here – we cannot wait to help you to become Partners with Nature!