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Integrated Pest Management--Using Common Sense

The goal of any pest management program is to prevent pests from damaging or reducing the value of your crop, lawn, home or person. Pest management does not necessarily mean the complete elimination or eradication of a pest. It can mean controlling pest numbers before they build up to a point at which they can cause you real problems.

Integrated Pest Management, or "IPM," is a type of pest management. IPM is a decision-making process that anticipates and prevents pest activity and infestation by combining a number of different strategies to achieve long-term solutions to pest problems. In IPM, pest management decisions are based on need and effectiveness rather than a schedule. One goal of IPM is to solve pest problems in the least toxic manner possible. A key element of IPM is planning ahead. You must anticipate and prepare for pest problems before they occur.

IPM does not mean simply switching from chemical pesticides to organic pesticides. Nor does it mean eliminating the use of all chemical pesticides completely. IPM can and may include the use of some chemical pesticides. According to the National Coalition on IPM, 1994, "IPM is a strategy that uses various combinations of pest control methods, biological, cultural, and chemical in a compatible manner to achieve satisfactory control and ensure favorable economic and environmental consequences." IPM is not one single action, it is a process, a series of steps that must be carefully thought out ahead of time. Each step depends upon the given situation, the given pest and your given ability, both physically and financially, to accomplish all of the steps.

The beauty of IPM is that you plan ahead and often can employ strategies that actually prevent pests from ever building up to a level where they may cause you trouble.

Examples of preventive IPM strategies:

  • Reducing moisture in and around your home and keeping it in good repair to prevent termite and other pest infestations;
  • Keeping your lawn healthy and growing pest-resistant varieties in your gardens to prevent or reduce the chance of infestations of harmful lawn and garden pests;
  • Removing pet food overnight to keep pests such as cockroaches, skunks, opossums, raccoons or rats from invading in search of food;
  • Weeding around your garden and your home to remove cover for insect or animal pests; and
  • Watering your lawn in the morning instead of the evening to reduce the chance of turf diseases.

Any IPM program should include four basic components:

  • Pest identification
  • Pest monitoring
  • Determination of economic injury level
  • Pest control strategies

In IPM, you must determine at what level a pest or pests actually become a problem. This is often called the "economic injury level." This level can be a certain number of insects or weeds in a specific area. It may be a certain amount of feeding damage on plants. Whatever this level is, it should be decided on before the pests reach it. Your county Extension agent can help you decide at what level additional control is needed to prevent the pest from causing economic or aesthetic damage.

Finally, you must decide what you will or will not do in the way of pest control if you believe that pests will go beyond your economic injury level. If you do end up with a pest problem, often non-chemical methods may be used to control these pests. Sometimes you can simply remove them or remove the source of the problem. In some situations, if preventive measures or non-chemical ways of controlling pests do not work, you may need to use a pesticide to prevent pests from reaching economic injury levels.

IPM includes a combination of pest control methods, including:

  • Plant selection.
  • Physical removal of pests and their residues.
  • Biological controls such as the introduction of pest parasites or predators. Cultural practices for maintaining health and vigor such as proper watering, fertilizing, pruning or mulching of plants.
  • Traditional pesticides and alternative chemicals such as pheromones and insect growth regulators.
  • Insecticidal soaps or "natural" pesticides.

IPM is a system that:

  1. Eliminates or mitigates economic and health damage caused by pests;
  2. Minimizes the use of pesticides and the risk to human health and the environment associated with pesticide applications; and,
  3. Uses integrated methods, site or pest inspections, pest population monitoring, an evaluation of the need for pest control, and one or more pest control methods, including sanitation, structural repairs, mechanical and living biological controls, other non-chemical methods, and, if nontoxic options are unreasonable and have been exhausted, least toxic pesticides.

Least toxic pesticides include:

  1. Boric acid and disodium octaborate tetrahydrate;
  2. Silica gels;
  3. Diatomaceous earth;
  4. Nonvolatile insect and rodent baits in tamper resistant containers or for crack and crevice treatment only;
  5. Microbe-based pesticides;
  6. Pesticides made with essential oils (not including pyrethrums) without toxic synergists; and,
  7. Materials for which the inert ingredients are nontoxic and disclosed.

The term 'least toxic pesticides' does not include a pesticide that is:

  1. Determined by EPA to be a possible, probable, or known carcinogen, mutagen, teratogen, reproductive toxin, developmental neurotoxin, endocrine disruptor, or immune system toxin;
  2. A pesticide in EPA's toxicity category I or II; and,
  3. Any application of the pesticide using a broadcast spray, dust, tenting, fogging, or baseboard spray application.

If you do decide to use a pesticide, IPM encourages you to choose the pesticide that is least toxic. Find out which products will control your pest and use one with the signal word of CAUTION instead of WARNING, if possible. Your County Extension Office can help you select the most effective and least toxic pesticide.


Taken from a fact sheet by Robert G. Bellinger, Extension Pesticide Coordinator, and Rachel C. Rowe, Pesticide Information Program Assistant, Clemson University.

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"When uranium mining and processing became big business during the Cold War, the federal government subsidized the industry. Most of the United States' uranium came out of Navajo ground. The Navajo people had a nominal say in the process at the time, but have endured all of the consequences since then. The land was torn open for our nuclear arsenal and the Navajo people are still dying from the cancers and illnesses that it caused.

I do not want a fourth generation of my people to suffer from the physical, psychological and cultural devastation caused by predatory energy practices. The lack of tribal consent contained in the Indian Energy title means that the federal government could override the Navajo law that prohibits uranium-mining activities on our land."
–Joe Shirley, Jr. President, Navajo Nation
"Senate Energy Bill Exploits Indian Resources"
Albuquerque Journal, July 18, 2003



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