Green Pencil:
Integrated Pest Management:
Just what is it anyway?

By Rita Weerdenburg

The concept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has been around for many years now, and has long been recognized by horticultural growers in all sectors as a sustainable approach to disease and insect control. More recently, the increased significance IPM has achieved as a landscape maintenance system is directly related to the escalating struggle between environmental activists and industry professionals, and their respective quests to either ban or maintain the use of pesticides in the care of lawns and gardens.

     Despite the wealth of information now available on IPM (a recent Lycos search on “Integrated Pest Management” resulted in over 63,000 related web sites), there seems to be more confusion than ever in the trade about just exactly what IPM is and its role in the industry as a landscape management system.

     Part of the problem is that IPM is a concept that does not clearly define any black and white “thou shall” and “thou shall not” procedures. Instead, a successful IPM program requires sound horticultural knowledge, sensitivity to the environment and above all, some good common sense. This leaves IPM wide open to a wide range of interpretations depending on one’s own personal agenda.

     Over time, IPM has achieved a status as being socially acceptable and politically correct, making it just that much more desirable as a way of promoting a specific, personal agenda. On one end of the spectrum, IPM is often marketed as a chemical-free, organic-only landscape maintenance alternative. Still others would like to have us believe that simply reducing the use of chemical pesticides, even nominally, can be billed as an IPM program. Both of these approaches fail to acknowledge the integrated aspect of the commonly accepted definitions of IPM.

     Perhaps the most obvious limitation of the generally established description of IPM, including the PMRA-developed definition adopted by Landscape Ontario (see sidebar), is that they only hint at the necessity of implementing sound horticultural practices from the design and planning stages, through to the actual construction. Too often, we pre-dispose our landscapes to intensive maintenance procedures because we’ve handed over poorly designed and executed landscape sites to our maintenance crews in the first place.

     Perhaps the most important misconception of which we need to rid ourselves, especially in the landscape sector, is that IPM is a non-chemical process. By following the principles of IPM however, from the planning stages and onward, we can certainly expect a significant reduction in the use of chemicals.