IPM or Integrated Pest Management
The farm portion of Bishop’s Orchard started a Community Supported Agriculture Program in 2011. As a part of that program our subscribers are sent weekly farm updates. One of the most important issues addressed by the program director has been the topic of IPM or Integrated Pest Management, organics and how the two relate and how they differ. Based on the type of questions from our Farm Market and PYO customers in regard to pest management and the “why aren’t you organic” issue, we feel an overview of the topic is an excellent educational resource for our customers and employees.
The definition of organics is very simple; only products derived from naturals sources, thereby using no synthetic chemicals of fertilizers.
The definition of IPM is not so simple. The following are 3 definitions of IPM.
From the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations: IPM is an ecosystem approach to crop production that combines different management strategies and practices to grow a healthy crop and minimize the use of pesticides. FAO promotes IPM as the preferred approach to crop production and regards it as a pillar of sustainable crop production.
California Department of Pesticide Regulation: IPM is a pest-management strategy that focuses on long-term prevention or suppression of pest problems through a combination of techniques such as monitoring for pest presence and establishing treatment threshold levels, using non-chemical practices to make the habitat less conducive to pest development, improving sanitation, and employing mechanical and physical controls. Pesticides that pose the least possible hazard and are effective in a manor that minimizes risks to people, property, and the environment, are used only after careful monitoring indicates they are needed according to pre-established guidelines and treatment thresholds.
Environmental Protection Agency: IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the lifecycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.
Early farming was obviously all “organic.” Pest control for Nathan Hale’s family, farmers in the Coventry, CT area in the mid-late 1700’s, was to send crews of people out in the orchard and pick bugs from the trees! Organic compounds continued to be the backbone of most farms into the mid 1900’s. Unfortunately, some of those “organic products” contained lead, nicotine, arsenic, and mercury. Synthetics came fast and furious in the middle of the century without a strong concern for long-term ramifications. Thankfully, things began to change, and in the 1960’s, researchers first used the term IPM. By 1975, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) cooperative extension service had an IPM program in every state. The writing was on the wall; a steady diet of field sanitation was not a sustainable way to go. This is also around the same time the “organic movement” took hold in small pockets through out the country. Both ideas took hold around the same time, both made substantial progress over the next forty years, and both had a goal of long-term sustainability as it related to farming and land stewardship. One, however, was a simple, easy, and highly-marketed (marketable) program, while the other was almost unknown beyond agricultural and university circles and was a more difficult concept. The main difference between them is one chooses organic-only products, while the other can, when needed, incorporate synthetically-produced products.
An organic program is easier to follow in vegetables than in fruit trees, and from a commercial standpoint, easier in the west than east. The east’s humid wet summers make for conditions that make large-scale organic farming economically unviable for us. IPM lets us manage our crops in the most prudent fashion while maintaining an economic viability that allows us to keep an ongoing stewardship of the land. We, in addition to our own scouting, employ an independent pest advisor that surveys the orchard once a week. We look for predators (good bugs) as well as harmful insects.
What does this mean in terms of what we do? Let’s look at a few examples. Pears psylla is, potentially, one of the biggest problems we face with pears, but by monitoring for egg hatch in the spring and spraying oil (organic product) at the time of egg hatch, we can get season-long control.
Many growers use fumigants to prevent soil-borne problems with strawberries. We use Sudan grass which has natural fumigant properties.
Cucumber beetles are a big problem with squash. Crop rotation will minimize the problem, but we have gone further. By planting a perimeter of Hubbard squash (which attracts Cucumber Beetles) around their green and yellow squash, then, using a backpack sprayer, only spray the Hubbard squash, thereby reducing or eliminating sprays on the squash they harvest (and you eat). The Hubbard squash is not harvested, but only used as a tool.
Mites used to be a huge problem (and still are for many growers), but by maintaining predator numbers in the orchard we no longer need to spray for them (and probably have not for over ten years). We achieve this by judicious use and selection of the products we use for other pests.
We are proud of the significant effort we employ to minimize our environmental footprint while balancing the need to be economically viable. We have achieved this using a sound, structured IPM program. We are confident in our products, our safety, and our long-term future as a farm here in Guilford, CT.