Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach to prevent or control pests in a less harmful way than just reaching for a toxic chemical. It was developed by scientists in the 1970s and the University of California program began in 1979.
IPM helps homeowners, horticulturists and farmers control pests in the least harmful way to human health and our environment. IPM probably got its impetus from Rachael Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring,” which gave serious consideration to the effects of widespread pesticide use on our environment, wildlife, and us. As a graduate student, I was also inspired by this book.
IPM has several components, hence the term integrated. First of all is the correct identification of the pest and monitoring of its effects. You need to know what creature or disease you are dealing with to choose a winning strategy to control it. Pests can include weeds, vertebrates, invertebrates, insects, bacteria, viruses, and fungi. If the plague does not cause economic damage, is it a plague? If it is not harmful then nothing needs to be done.
Prevention by selecting plants that are resistant to diseases or pests is a good starting point. For example, older cultivars of crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia spp) are highly susceptible to powdery mildew, but newer cultivars, some with Native American names, have been bred for resistance and require no powdery mildew treatment, especially when kept in the sun and properly be planted. pruned to keep them open. Some resistant varieties are: Catawba, Kiowa, Hopi, Natchez and many others see: https://bit.ly/3OMNKjA.
Most peaches are susceptible to peach leaf curl, a fungus that should be sprayed preventively during the dormant season. Most people forget to spray, or they lazily hope for the best – like a dry spring that inhibits the fungi.
There are a few varieties that are resistant to peach leaf curling and those are Frosty, Black Boy, Muir, Avalon Pride, and Indian Free. If these varieties don’t fit, plant others and promise to spray for peach leaf curl. Plant breeders are busy growing disease resistant roses, tomatoes and many plants that we can enjoy and avoid pest situations. This is the first line of defense against pests.
Another IPM practice is biological control, which should encourage the enemies of pests. Creating a diverse landscape that provides habitats and food for natural enemies of pests is good practice, and it is paramount not to indiscriminately spray pesticides that kill them. Some beneficial insects that are predators on pests include ladybugs, lacewings, spiders, soldier beetles, syrphid flies, and mini parasitic wasps. The mini wasps parasitize aphids and caterpillars. For more info about beneficial insects, see: https://bit.ly/3NQcB4R.
For many pests, physical barriers or mechanical removal will work to keep them at bay. For example, ants will invade your house for water and food. One way to keep them out is to eliminate any access by closing gaps or removing vegetation that they use as a highway to your home. Ant traps that work to kill ant colonies are another method. For aphids, a stream of water will wash them off rose buds or plant leaves without resorting to pesticides. Since aphids can return quite quickly, this should be done at least twice a week as often as needed.
Barriers like using old toilet paper rolls wrapped around young plant stems work for cutworms if you had that problem. Likewise, bird netting works to prevent birds from picking your fruit before you have the chance.
Another way to control pests is to follow good gardening practices. Clearing debris and composting will eliminate shelters for pests and controlling weeds will prevent the build-up of weed seeds in the soil. Soil solarization can also reduce the weed problem, see: https://bit.ly/3AuZvXG. Be hygienic and remove infected plant material such as black spot infected leaves from under roses or petal infected camellias blossoms to reduce sources of disease-causing organisms.
If all else fails, you can use pesticides, but use the least toxic ones to get the job done. Follow label directions and use in a way that reduces exposure to people, pets and the environment. IPM works well and I hope you will learn more gardening tips on this informative website for gardeners: https://bit.ly/3nJhoKG.
There was a time when I used a few pesticides, but with age comes wisdom and I have organically gardened for over 45 years without resorting to pesticides. Happy IPM gardening.
If you have a garden-related question, please contact the UC Master Gardeners at (209) 953-6112. More information can be found on our website: http://sjmastergardeners.ucanr.edu/CONTACT_US/