IPM: The Struggle in Defining a Strategy

If you are in the world of pesticides, you have likely heard of “IPM” Integrated Pest Management and probably have some sense of what it is. If you were asked to fully define it though, could you? Would your definition be outdated? Would your definition be correct? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone, defining IPM can certainly be a struggle. Since IPM’s general acceptance as a pest control strategy and adoption as a household term in the second half of the 20th century, there have been hundreds of definitions. New ones are proposed all the time. If you asked 10 different pest management professionals for their definition, you’d probably get at least 14 different answers. The definitions of IPM presented have been quite diverse and reflect each individual experiences, personal beliefs, and philosophies, especially when talking about how pesticides are incorporated into an IPM program. What are we to do, and how do we get a better understanding of the evolution of the IPM definition? To begin we must look at the change in chemical control in pest management to really understand what IPM is and isn’t today.


What is IPM?

The current definition of IPM was accepted in 2018 by the IPM Institute of North America and published within the National IPM Roadmap:

“Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a sustainable, science-based, decision-making process that combines biological, cultural, physical and chemical tools to identify, manage and reduce risk from pests and pest management tools and strategies in a way that minimizes overall economic, health and environmental risks.”


In other words, an IPM program uses a combination of techniques to suppress pest populations. IPM relies on the knowledge of pest life cycles, and their interactions with their environments to choose the combination of the most current methods that will improve the overall management, reduce costs, and reduce risk to people and the environment. By carefully selecting both preventative and curative treatments, the reliance on any one tactic will be reduced, and this in turn, will increase the likelihood of a successful pest management program in the short and long term.

What IPM isn’t?

What you might have noticed in the most current definition of IPM does not include the order of placement of one IPM technique over another, such as pesticides being a last resort. This may come to you as a surprise, as you may have learned in the past that pesticides, albeit an important part of IPM, are considered a last-ditch effort, only after all other options fail. Historically, this was the definition of IPM into the 1990s. For example, Olkowski and Daar’s (1991) definition in the Compendium of IPM Definitions states:

“Integrated pest management, or IPM is an approach to pest control that utilizes regular monitoring to determine if and when treatments are needed and employs physical, mechanical, cultural, biological and educational tactics to keep pest number low enough to prevent intolerable damage or annoyance. Least-toxic chemical controls are used as a last resort.

This definition, like others that consider the use of chemical control as a last resort, is outdated and this terminology should be reconsidered if appropriate in modern day teachings of IPM.

The “pesticides as a last resort” idea goes back to the days when highly toxic and broad-spectrum pesticides, such chlorinated hydrocarbons, organophosphates, and methyl carbamates, were more widely used. However, many pesticides are less toxic and more narrow in their applications today. They could be used as a first method of pest management, for example in Bt cropping systems, as seed coatings, or as pre-plant herbicides, and more. (Leppla, personal communication).

With or without chemicals, the theme of IPM persists: Managing pests effectively and with minimal side effects and costs requires considerable knowledge and experience. (Leppla, personal communication).

Indeed, there are many ideas out there about IPM, and the “pesticides as a necessary evil” quotes still float around.

However, at it’s core IPM is about analyzing each scenario while trying to bring as many different tools together to most effectively manage a pest problem.

Hopefully, you will share this new knowledge and the next time we ask “What is IPM” more will have the same answer, and most importantly most will know EXACTLY how to do it!

To learn more about how to implement IPM effectively, visit the UF/IFAS Pesticide Information Office’s website: https://pested.ifas.ufl.edu/integrated-pest-management/



This blog was written by Dr. Bonnie Wells, Commercial Horticulture Agent UF/IFAS Brevard County.

Bonnie Wells Blog






Bajwa, W. and M. Kogan. 2002. Compendium of IPM Definitions (CID): What is IPM and how is it defined in the worldwide literature? Integrated Plant Protection Center (IPPC). Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon. Publication Number 998. http://rl.zf.jcu.cz/docs/ruzne/ruz-IOR-IPM-definice-58e12d8762.pdf

Kogan, M. 1998. INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Developments. Annu. Rev. Entomol. Vol. 43: 243-70

Stern, V., Smith, R., van den Bosch, R. and K. Hagen. 1959. The Integrated Control Concept. Hilgardia. Vol. 29 (2): 81-101.

Leppla, Norm. 2021. Professor and Director of IPM Program, University of Florida. Personal Communication.


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Posted: August 11, 2021

Category: Agribusiness, Agriculture, Blog Community, Conservation, Crops, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Fruits & Vegetables, HOME LANDSCAPES, Horticulture, Invasive Species, Lawn, NATURAL RESOURCES, Pests & Disease, Pests & Disease, Turf, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension
Tags: Bonnie Wells, Brett Bultemeier, Brevard County, Chemicals, Integrated Pest Management, IPM, Management, Pesticide Information Office, Pesticides, PIO

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