University of Illinois

No. 13/June 20, 1997

IPM Adoption: How Far Along the Continuum Are We?

Several years ago, the Clinton Administration challenged the IPM community to implement pest management practices on 75 percent of the nation's managed acres by the year 2000. How well are agricultural clientele doing in meeting this objective? The answer to this question depends to a large extent on how IPM is defined. In the Consumers Union Report, Pest Management at the Crossroads, authored by Charles Benbrook and others, IPM is defined along a continuum. Each of four categories describing the management of pests has its own unique characteristics. After reading the descriptions provided below, ask yourself which category describes most accurately pest management actions in Illinois field crops?

proper calibration, operation, and cleaning of spray equipment
scouting for pests
sanitation and good agronomic practice

Low-level IPM
scouting plus application in accord with thresholds
avoid or delay resistance and secondary pest problems
optimally time applications
some preventive practices (short rotations, resistant
varieties, cultivation)

Medium-level IPM (Multitactic approaches)
limit or remove pest habitat and augment biodiversity
resistant varieties, use of cover crops and longer rotations
enhance beneficials, use of soil amendments, disease
forecasting models

Biointensive IPM (Reliance on preventive measures to limit pest pressure and enhance beneficials)
multiple steps to enhance plant health and soil quality
focus on conservation of beneficials and habitat
microbial biocontrol of root pathogens
release of beneficials

Specific recommendations were made in the Consumers Union report regarding IPM adoption along this continuum.

By the year 2010, 75 percent of cropland should be under Medium or High (biointensive) IPM, including nearly 100 percent of fruit and vegetable acreage.

By the year 2020, all acreage in American agriculture should be managed under biointensive IPM.

In urban, suburban, household and other indoor pest management, biointensive IPM should be nearly universal by the year 2010.

By using the IPM continuum provided by the Consumers Union, most Illinois growers fall into the No IPM or Low IPM categories. A survey of central Illinois growers in eight counties raised for me several questions that I offered in an issue (no. 24, 1996) of this Bulletin last year. Those questions were as follows:

  1. Why are more than one-third of central Illinois farmers scouting their fields only two or three times per growing season?

  2. Why are two-thirds of central Illinois farmers not using economic thresholds for insect management decisions?

  3. Is the use of economic thresholds a viable weed-management approach if so few farmers (9 percent) ever use them?

Are the goals set forward by the Consumers Union realistic? Are the goals worth striving for? Questions to ponder.

Mike Gray, Extension Entomologist, (217)333-6652