Pest Control – Putting Integrated Pest Management Into Perspective
Virtually all horticultural experts today adopt the holistic approach to pest control known as Integrated Pest Management or IPM. This article explains what it is, and how it can be applied.
Perhaps a couple of generations ago, the most widespread method of dealing with the pests and disease that affect garden plants, was to apply some chemical poison to “deal with“ the pathogen. Today, Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is the approach to pest control that is almost universally accepted by both academics, and serious landscape professionals. The essence of IPM can be boiled down to two basic principles from which all other considerations flow.
The essence of IPM
The first is that plant resistance to pathogens cannot be separated from the state of the habitat in which the plant grows. A garden should resemble as far as possible a natural eco-system where the vast number and variety of organisms, ranging from microbes, fungi and insects, to birds, lizards and small mammals, balance each others population levels, to the point where pest or disease organisms are not eliminated, but kept under numerical control. The second cardinal principle of IPM is that the health and vitality of the plants is an integral part of the habitual horticultural practices adopted in the garden.
Aiming towards a balanced eco system
Inducing a massive flora and fauna to develop is a case of knowing what to do and perhaps more critically, not what to do. The greater the use of pesticides, the less the quantity of organisms and the range of species. Similarly, the more chemical fertilizers are applied as the chosen method of feeding, the fewer earthworms and other essential organisms will be able to survive in the soil.
IPM, regards the health of the soil, as a major priority in this holistic approach to pest management. Organic matter in the form of compost or humus should be consistently added to the soil, not simply to supply nutrients to the plants, but to improve its aeration and increase the biomass present. (i.e. the number and variety of organisms)
Irrigation and other gardening tasks.
Here are some examples of how seemingly unrelated gardening jobs, affect the degree to which plant pathogens can be controlled.
*Sprinkling lawns in the early evening creates optimal conditions for the development of harmful fungi. Sprinkling should be carried out as close to dawn as possible so that the early morning sun will reduce the air’s humidity level.
*The frequency by which lawns are watered also has consequences for pest control. Deep but infrequent watering, (where feasible) encourages roots to grow further down into the soil, thereby increasing their resistance to drought and disease, while reducing the population of pests such as Mole Crickets, which thrive in constantly moist conditions.
*On the other hand, some pest organisms, particularly spider mites prefer dry conditions. Occasional washing down of the plants’ foliage with a garden hose can go a long way in controlling them. Remember though, that the increased humidity that is detrimental to spider mites is beneficial to fungi such as rust, black spot and powdery mildew. Again, the hosing down should be carried out in the early morning. Similarly, fungal infestations occur when there is insufficient movement of air between the plants. Therefore, the distance at which shrubs such as roses are planted from each other is important for reducing such outbreaks.
*Prevention is always better than cure. Ornamental and edible species that are known to be highly vulnerable to attack should not be planted in the first place. An IPM approach to pest control places a particular plant’s susceptibility as a criterion for choosing it, as much as a plant’s suitability for a climate or for shade and sun.
IPM and organic gardening
Clearly, Integrated Pest Management shares a lot of common ground with organic gardening. They are not identical positions however. IPM adopts an essentially pragmatic approach to pest management, which while championing the reduced use of pesticides (including weed killers) to a minimum, does not exclude their application entirely.
Organic gardening on the other hand, rejects the use of pesticides in any circumstance, no matter how compelling the professional reasons for doing so. The organic approach, in so far that it is absolutely “rejectionist”, is therefore moral in nature. Considering that all poisons are tested on laboratory animals as a condition for acquiring a license for marketing the products, the position so adopted is completely understandable.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Jonathan Ya'akobi.I've been gardening in a professional capacity since 1984.I am the former head gardener of the Jerusalem Botanical Garden, but now concentrate on building gardens for private home owners.I also teach horticulture to students on training courses.I'd love to help you get the very best from your garden,so you're welcome to visit me on http://www.dryclimategardening.comor contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org