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Integrated Pest Management
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AFT's Ann Sorensen Working in the FieldWe are helping farmers find new ways to comply with expanded regulations through integrated pest management (IPM).

Working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, we've managed small grants programs since 1997 that have helped 11,000 producers on 720,000 acres reduce their use of highly toxic pesticides by 30 to 50 percent while remaining profitable. As a result of this partnership, pesticide use has been reduced by more than 2 million pounds.

AFT supports the adoption of IPM programs as a crucial step toward improving environmental stewardship on the farm. The focus of IPM programs on maintaining profits while protecting human health and the environment contributes to the long-term viability of farms and makes it more likely that farmland will remain in agriculture.

What is Integrated Pest Management?

Since the 1970's, researchers have been exploring safer, more ecologically sound ways to manage pests. IPM is a sustainable approach to pest management that draws from a variety of disciplines. IPM combines biological, cultural, physical and chemical tools in ways that minimize economic, health and environmental risks.

Pests can include insects, rodents, plant diseases, weeds and nematodes. Methods of control range from reinforcing a pest's natural enemies to disrupting a pest's life cycle, careful weather monitoring and scouting. If necessary, pesticides are also used, but only those that do not harm the environment. Although IPM programs vary on a crop-by-crop and region-by-region basis, key principles include:

  • Prevention — using practices like good sanitation or eliminating alternate pest hosts to keep pest populations from infesting a crop or field in the first place;
  • Avoidance —  using cultural techniques like timing of planting or rotating crops to avoid losses to pests that could be present in a field;
  • Monitoring — observing pest populations, weather and nutrients to make sound treatment decisions; and
  • Suppression — using cultural, physical, biological or pesticidal means to suppress pest populations so that they don’t reach damaging levels.

Benefits of IPM

IPM has been proven to maintain or increase grower profits while positively impacting the environment and human health. IPM typically reduces the use of highly toxic pesticides and fertilizer. Increased crop yields, decreased soil erosion and increased profits are just some of the rewards farmers can expect when they implement wise management practices. Other environmental benefits of IPM include:

  • Protecting the natural resource base
  • Protecting wildlife, beneficial insects and endangered species
  • Preventing the degradation of soil, water, and air quality
  • Ensuring a safe supply of agricultural products
  • Safeguarding the health of agricultural workers and their families

You can learn more about IPM by visiting USDA’s four regional IPM Centers.  The regional centers have collected examples from around the country of ways that IPM pays off for farmers.

The USDA Extension Service has collected examples from around the country of ways that IPM pays off for farmers.

  • IPM saved New Hampshire apple growers $450,000 in spraying costs in 1999.
  • In Mississippi, where IPM is used on all of the state's 18 acres of greenhouse tomatoes, growers saw a 30 percent yield increase and an additional $828,000 in income.
  • Growers of a number of crops in Delaware used IPM to reduce pesticide costs: pickling cucumber producers saved $15 an acre, or $75,000; potato farmers reduced fungicide use by $60,000 on 3,000 acres; and watermelon growers cut costs by $12,000 on 400 acres.

Contact Us

For further information on AFT's contributions to the research on IPM, contact us:

Ann Sorensen
Director of Research
American Farmland Trust
c/o Northern Illinois University
P.O. Box 987
DeKalb, IL. 60115
Phone: (815) 753-9347
Fax: (815) 753-9348
American Farmland Trust