IPM developed in response to steadily increasing pesticide use that resulted in pest control crises (outbreaks of secondary pests and pest resurgence following development of pesticide resistance) and increasing evidence and awareness of the cost to health and the environment of intensive use of pesticides.
Introduction of IPM does not necessarily involve sophisticated information gathering and decision-making. As a problem solving approach to pest control, IPM can be introduced at any level of agricultural development. For example, improvement of basic crop management practices, such as planting time and crop spacing, can often be effective in reducing pest attack. Often, a useful beginning can be made with relatively limited specialized information or management input. Later, additional information, technologies, and mechanisms can be developed to enhance its effectiveness.
The following main steps can be considered as typical for an IPM approach:
- Prevention and/or suppression of harmful organisms. This is often best achieved by a combination of the following options:
- crop rotation; inter-cropping
- use of adequate cultivation techniques (e.g., seedbed sanitation, sowing dates and densities, under-sowing, conservation tillage, pruning and direct sowing);
- where appropriate, use of pest resistant/tolerant cultivars and standard/certified seed and planting material;
- balanced soil fertility and water management, making optimum use of organic matter;
- prevent spreading of harmful organisms by field sanitation and hygiene measures (e.g., by removal of affected plants or plant parts, regular cleansing of machinery and equipment);
- protection and enhancement of important beneficial organisms, e.g. by the utilisation of ecological infrastructures inside and outside production sites.
- Harmful organisms must be monitored with adequate methods and tools, where available. Such adequate tools should include observations in the field and where feasible warning, forecasting and early diagnosis systems (e.g. traps).
- Based on the results of the monitoring it is decided whether and when to use what pest management inputs. Sustainable biological, physical and other non-chemical methods must be given priority over chemical methods if they provide satisfactory pest control.
- Pesticides should only be applied as a last resort when there are no adequate non-chemical alternatives and use of pesticides is economically justified.
- The pesticides applied shall be as specific as possible for the target and shall have the least side effects on human health, non target organisms and the environment, while their use should be kept at minimum levels, e.g. by partial applications.
- Monitor the success of the applied pest management measures.