Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is one of the major strategies used by PARD in the maintenance of public lands. There are many definitions of IPM, the following is from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its publication, “EPA Integrated Pest Management for Turfgrass and Ornamentals:”
“IPM is the coordinated use of pest and environmental information with available pest control methods to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage by the most economical means with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment. The goal of IPM is to manage pests and the environment so as to balance costs, benefits, public health, and environmental quality. IPM systems use all available technical information on the pest and its interactions with the environment. Because IPM programs apply a holistic approach to pest management decision-making, they take advantage of all appropriate pest management options, including, but not limited to pesticides. Thus, IPM is:
- A system using multiple methods;
- A decision-making process;
- A risk reduction system;
- Information intensive;
- Cost-effective; and
- Site specific.”
IPM makes use of cultural practices, environmental factors, pest growth patterns and life cycles, ecological interaction, human contact, mechanical removal and, finally, pesticides to control harmful organisms.
The COD defines Integrated Pest Management as the coordinated use of pest and environmental information along with available pest control methods, including biological, cultural, physical, and chemical methods, to prevent unacceptable levels of pest damage by the most economical means and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.
Based on the above, the IPM plan consists of the following steps:
- Integrated means that all feasible types of control strategies are considered and combined as appropriate to solve a pest problem.
- Pests are unwanted organisms that are a nuisance to man or domestic animals, and can cause injury to humans, animals, plants, and property, and have a significant economic impact. Pests reduce yield and/or quality in vegetation ranging from flower beds, to lawns, trees, and sports fields.
- Management is the process of making decisions in a systematic way to keep pests from reaching intolerable levels. Small populations of pests can often be tolerated; total eradication is often not necessary, or feasible.
- Identification of the issue. Identification of the pest, level of infestation, and an evaluation of the site will determine what action is needed, if any.
- Consultation. This involves defining the roles of the people involved in the pest management equation (i.e. Certified Pesticide Applicator, Park Manager, Urban Forester, Park Supervisor, Superintendent, and Department Director) to assure understanding and communication between them.
- Management objectives. Staff must determine the management objectives for a given site in order to solve the pest problem(s). This can be done by establishing maintenance classifications and standards with an outlined schedule to meet maintenance needs. Project and property priorities relevant at the time must also be considered. A Strategy review includes determining if a species is native or exotic, locating the management zone, and evaluating the chances of successful management.
- Set the action thresholds. These are points when pest populations or environmental conditions indicate that action must be taken in order to prevent the pest population from crossing a pre-determined injury threshold; no action is taken until the threshold is reached unless it is determined that conditions pose a threat to health and safety or the infestation is detrimental to plant material / vegetation.
- Non-chemical control. In this step, action is taken to modify the pest habitat to reduce the carrying capacity of the site, exclude the pest, or otherwise make the site’s environment incompatible with the needs of the pest. This step, which involves applied ecology with support from cultural and biological methods.
- Pesticide action. If no-pesticide actions are not available or insufficient, the appropriate pesticide action is taken. All efforts should made to (a) use the least toxic, most effective, most efficient application technique that provides the longest dwell time in contact with the pest, (b) apply when the pest is in its most vulnerable stage, and (c) carry the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.
- Evaluate. This means checking the post-treatment results of the habitat modification or pesticide treatment actions by periodically monitoring the site and pest populations.
- Records. For each site, records should be kept of pest management objectives, monitoring methods and data collected, actions taken, results obtained, and pesticides used. Records of actions taken will be documented in the appropriate record management system.
IPM is a decision-making process to determine if, where, when, and how pest control practices should be applied. And, in the short term, modification of direct pest control practices (such as reducing pesticide use through spot spraying strategies and replacing undesirable chemicals with more environmentally friendly materials) can provide valuable benefits in reducing the use of pesticides.
The IPM process first determines if a pest needs to be managed, and if so, how best to do it. Key elements are information gathering, well-informed decision making and monitoring of results. The IPM process promotes effective, low-risk management strategies to manage pests. The controls used in this plan include biological, cultural, physical, and chemical methods and materials; often a combination of methods is used. Methods selected to manage specific pest populations are evaluated by licensed and trained professionals. The methods employed conform to recognized standards established and endorsed by state and federal regulatory agencies, state educational institutions and organizations.
Key elements of an IPM program are information gathering and informed decision-making. Horticulturists, botanical specialists, park technicians, foresters, and arborists are skilled in identifying and evaluating pest problems. When pest problems occur that are unusual or beyond the scope of in-house experts, advice is obtained from other qualified sources such as state universities, Texas Department of Agriculture, and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts. Texas Pesticide Applicators License continuing education courses reinforce employee skills and provide current information concerning laws, safety, pests, and current IPM methods.
COD employees monitor levels of pests to arrive at the best solution for managing a pest problem. When pest management methods are implemented by trained IPM personnel, the results are solutions that are economically and environmentally responsible. This provides the public with safe, healthy, and aesthetically pleasing park areas.