In two recent articles, I've examined the basics of Integrated Pest Management, better known as IPM. In a nutshell, this methodology takes a more practical, natural approach to pest control by using pesticides only as a last resort, and even then, using the least toxic pesticide geared toward the specific pest at hand.
IPM has come a long way in recent years...mainly because it had a long way to go before it was embraced by legislators, school districts, farmers and the general population.
In a 1993 report, the New York State Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau revealed widespread use of toxic pesticides in and around schools across New York State. Despite the potential for the exposure of students and staff to toxic pesticides, school administrators often delegated many important decisions to pest control contractors. In addition, the report showed a disappointing lack of communication: students, staff, administrators and parents were often unaware of which pesticides were used, and where and when they were applied.
A lot of time has passed since then, and many things have changed, thankfully. The EPA now has an IPM for Schools program in place which encourages and provides materials to schools wishing to employ Integrated Pest Management in their buildings and on school property. Several states have even made IPM programs mandatory in their school districts. And the resulting steps the schools have taken to implement IPM have not been all that complicated.
Many schools found that sealing cracks and installing weather stripping, along with diligent disposal of trash, went a long way in keeping pests out, thus drastically reducing the need for pesticides. In most cases, schools changed from monthly widespread sprayings of traditional chemicals to low toxicity bait stations and gels more targeted to the specific pests they were trying to control. Often, the switch was not only more effective in controlling pests, but it also resulted in reduced costs.
For example, the Monroe County Schools in Indiana implemented an IPM program throughout their school system and saw pest control costs decrease by 35% and the use of pesticides drop by 90%. Spraying and fogging methods were completely eliminated and replaced with baits and traps.
All types of farmers all over the world have been jumping on the IPM bandwagon and seeing both an increase in crop yields and a reduction in costs. In Indonesia, an insect called the brown rice planthopper developed a resistance to the pesticides being used and threatened to wipe out crops. Beneficial predators of the pest, especially spiders, had long been wiped out from the continual piling on of pesticides, which reached 50 applications a season to no avail. Eventually, the government backed an IPM approach and banned 56 insecticides from being used on rice. Rice yields rose by 13 per cent while pesticide use dropped by 60 per cent in just five years after the approach was widely introduced: in the first two years alone the Government saved $120 million that would otherwise have been spent on subsidizing the chemicals.
When the use of pesticides is curbed, beneficial insect populations rebound and get to work. The natural cycle of life is restored. We all gain.
Previous Articles on IPM: