What does IPM mean to you?

Few grounds-care managers haven't at least heard of integrated pest management, or IPM, as it's familiarly known. But do you know what IPM means?

Some people vaguely equate IPM with "environmentally friendly" or "less pesticides." This isn't surprising in light of the innumerable IPM programs that have been set up, especially in government agencies and schools, for the stated purpose of reducing pesticide use.

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Many people freely distort the concept of IPM to suit their agendas. However, a look at the phrase itself - the last two words of which are, after all, "pest management" - helps us refocus on what IPM is all about. Consider this definition from L.B. McCarty's text, Best Golf Course Management Practices (Prentice Hall publishers): "Combining methods to control pests, such as resistant plant varieties, chemical and natural or biological pesticides, pest exclusion, and plant health management techniques." This straightforward definition is a fairly typical textbook description of IPM and omits the judgment-laden language so often associated with the concept.

In practice, the net effect of an IPM program may very well be a reduction in pesticide use. And that's fine. But this may be where the confusion creeps in. For although pesticide reduction may result from IPM, that doesn't make it synonymous with IPM. IPM simply means using all the tools at your disposal and implies that no single control - chemical or any other - is the best and only answer to every pest problem.

It almost makes you wonder why we even need a name for IPM. It sounds suspiciously like simple common sense.

It didn't take long for IPM to take root in the field of turf and landscape maintenance. And why not? It's a great idea. These days, it's also a necessary idea. For better or worse, some of the most effective insecticides have become, or soon will be, unavailable.

They're being replaced by other products that are fine in their own right but will require landscape managers to rethink some of their traditional strategies. IPM is becoming a more necessary part of these strategies.

Implementing IPM is more complicated than defining it, so this issue of Grounds Maintenance focuses on controlling insect pests, usually the main target of IPM programs.

Our featured article, which covers grub controls, discusses these new (as well as older) "grubicides." Ironically, the newer products are best used in a manner that runs counter to classic IPM thinking. They're best used in a manner that is, essentially, preventive. However, they offer outstanding narrow-spectrum control of their targets, are effective at extremely low rates and offer relatively good flexibility for application timing. The University of Nebraska's Fred Baxendale and John Fech discuss these interesting products in "Give grubs the boot," on page 12.

Threshold levels are an important aspect of IPM. You don't always have to treat pests just because they're there. Are they numerous enough to cause noticeable damage? If not, why treat? Fredric Miller discusses such decision-making processes in this month's "How to: Determine threshold levels for turf pests," on page 32.

Another important aspect of IPM is using resistant plant varieties. Endophytic turfgrasses are an excellent example of this. These turfgrass varieties are "infected" with beneficial fungi that impart significant resistance not only to insect pests, but also to environmental stresses. NTEP's Kevin Morris explains how in "A good infection" on page 20.

This is just a sampling of what you'll find in this month's issue. It's loaded with many other features that focus on controlling pests, including our annually updated Insecticide Update, on page 52.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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