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date: 20 August 2017

Integrated Pest Management

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science. Please check back later for the full article.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an ecosystem management operational framework to make ecologically and economically sound environmental management decisions in ways that are selective for the pest encountered while minimizing effects not related to the problem at hand. The strength of IPM research and use is to constantly adapt methods and applications of the science behind adaptive decision making to ensure that the most modern and comprehensive problem-solving skills and techniques will be used to manage pest issues. Pests are ubiquitous in every human-managed ecosystem, most commonly encountered in production agriculture and forestry. Pests are also encountered by homeowners and in other environmental management regimes related to ecological restoration, just to name a few IPM use situations. IPM has been practiced by humans throughout the development of human agricultural practices, for major stable food and fiber crops since the advent of agriculture. However, the specific scientific discipline of truly integrating multiple management techniques, from pesticide application, to fertilizer regimes, to resistant plant variety selection, to ecological and cultural management, and finally to cost-benefit analyses to ensure the techniques used are comprehensive for the pest and the rest of the agricultural production system is a relatively new science, first rigorously tested and reviewed in the 1940s. The greatest strengths of the discipline are also its weakness; by being pest-taxon, crop specific, and flexible for a given environmental or management situation, there is a constant need for refinement of IPM decision making processes in very specific situations to be the most efficient and useful in a given pest situation. Given the number of sub-discipline inputs into the robust decision-making framework, many specialists need to be invested in the specific IPM program, or a highly trained and dedicated group must be accountable for wrangling diverse disciplines into a cohesive management regime. Finally, given the vast number of pests and pathogens that affect a production system, it is nearly impossible to have an IPM program for every crop, for every pest, in every system; yet this is what is called upon from the farmers or land managers in nearly every situation. Given the modern push to have answers ready at the push of a button, the discipline of IPM will continue to be refined to remain relevant and at the forefront of safe, efficient, environmentally accountable, and ultimately sustainable sciences in modern ever-changing agricultural production systems.