Integrated Pest Management

Following on from a recent Tweet, I’ve had several messages asking for some commentary to explain a bit more about Integrated Pest Management( IPM).

IPM Tweet

IPM Tweet

The term Integrated Pest Management (IPM) evolved over time from different terminology centred on pest management and integrated control, finally becoming accepted in 1972. The original emphasis of IPM was on insect pests and how to reduce their negative economic impact on crops, however, this term has developed to include fungi, bacteria, weeds and other organisms within the term pests. [1]

It is also sometimes referred to as Integrated Turf Management, or Integrated Pest-Turf Management, or similar, but for this article I’ll stick with the original of IPM.

Weeds, pests and diseases can develop resistance to pesticides and this is a concern for the turfcare industry’s ability in being able to effectively managing turfgrass surfaces and also to continue to develop new and more effective ways of controlling pests. [2]

It is not acceptable (plus it can be illegal to exceed recommended usage rates) to apply heavier doses of a substance in an effort to control pests (in this context meaning insect pests etc. weeds and diseases), as this will only further increase the ability of organisms to withstand even heavier doses and increases the potential of further environmental pollution and harm being caused to humans and wildlife. Evolved resistance is possibly the most serious problem from the routine usage of pesticides. [3]

A significant way to reduce this likelihood is to focus maintenance efforts on cultural and physical control methods – this is good groundsmanship and greenkeeping which is practiced by many, but certainly not by a significant number in the industry. A focus on these methods towards the base of an IPM triangle is what should occur within an appropriate IPM programme, yet it would appear that in many cases the emphasis is on the top of the triangle with the use of a pesticide. This is all wrong and illustrates in those concerned a lack of understanding of how to effectively maintain turf grass surfaces in a sustainable way.

Integrated Pest Management
IPM is primarily an economic model, with social and environmental implications and which has numerous definitions, although the emphasis in all of them is on the desire to combat harmful pests.

In 1996 English Nature provided a definition of IPM, which emphasised the need to reduce the impact of pests on a crop as the

“Minimisation of crop losses to pests through a combination of cultural, biological and genetic methods in order to reduce requirement for chemical control, which is optimally applied on the basis of forecasting, monitoring and other techniques to maximise selectivity and minimise use.” [4]

A more encompassing definition which also emphasises the wider impacts and interactions of the crop was developed and presented in the 2009 European Directive on establishing a framework for the sustainable use of pesticides .

This defines IPM as meaning

‘careful consideration of all available plant protection methods and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of populations of harmful organisms and keep the use of plant protection products and other forms of intervention to levels that are economically and ecologically justified and reduce or minimise risks to human health and the environment. ‘Integrated pest management’ emphasises the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms.’ [5]

IPM Principles
Eight general IPM principles have been identified as a minimum approach to the sustainable use of pesticides: [6]

1. Measures for prevention and / or suppression of harmful organisms;
2. Tools for monitoring;
3. Threshold values as basis for decision-making;
4. Non-chemical methods to be preferred;
5. Target-specificity and minimisation of side effects;
6. Reduction of use to necessary levels;
7. Application of anti-resistance strategies;
8. Records, monitoring, documentation and check of success.

Annex III of the EU Directive provides a more detailed description of these principles and how they might be addressed.

General principles of integrated pest management

1. The prevention and/or suppression of harmful organisms should be achieved or supported among other options especially by:

— crop rotation,
— use of adequate cultivation techniques (e.g. stale seedbed technique, sowing dates and densities, under-sowing, conservation tillage, pruning and direct sowing),
— use, where appropriate, of resistant/tolerant cultivars and standard/certified seed and planting material,
— use of balanced fertilisation, liming and irrigation/drainage practices,
— preventing the spreading of harmful organisms by hygiene measures (e.g. by regular cleansing of machinery and equipment),
— protection and enhancement of important beneficial organisms, e.g. by adequate plant protection measures or the utilisation of ecological infrastructures inside and outside production sites.

2. Harmful organisms must be monitored by adequate methods and tools, where available. Such adequate tools should include observations in the field as well as scientifically sound warning, forecasting and early diagnosis systems, where feasible, as well as the use of advice from professionally qualified advisors.

3. Based on the results of the monitoring the professional user has to decide whether and when to apply plant protection measures. Robust and scientifically sound threshold values are essential components for decision making. For harmful organisms threshold levels defined for the region, specific areas, crops and particular climatic conditions must be taken into account before treatments, where feasible.

4. Sustainable biological, physical and other non-chemical methods must be preferred to chemical methods if they provide satisfactory pest control.

5. 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.

6. The professional user should keep the use of pesticides and other forms of intervention to levels that are necessary, e.g. by reduced doses, reduced application frequency or partial applications, considering that the level of risk in vegetation is acceptable and they do not increase the risk for development of resistance in populations of harmful organisms.

7. Where the risk of resistance against a plant protection measure is known and where the level of harmful organisms requires repeated application of pesticides to the crops, available anti-resistance strategies should be applied to maintain the effectiveness of the products. This may include the use of multiple pesticides with different modes of action.

8. Based on the records on the use of pesticides and on the monitoring of harmful organisms the professional user should check the success of the applied plant protection measures.
(EN 24.11.2009 Official Journal of the European Union L 309/85)

'Optimum' turfgrass surface?

‘Optimum’ turfgrass surface?

Benefits of IPM
IPM is a practice that can provide benefits to the management of turf, however, it does need to be actively supported by management and decision-makers within an organisation if it is to prove effective. Some identified benefits, in a horticultural context, can include [7]:

  • Reduced health and safety risks;
  • Cost savings;
  • Reducing closure times of, or limiting access to, public areas;
  • Increasing biodiversity;
  • Reducing pest and plant resistance to a chemical;
  • Improving the industry’s image;
  • Improving knowledge, understanding and skills of employees where cultural and physical practices are applied effectively.

Whilst IPM provides a significant step in the right direction to reduce and minimise pesticide consumption, it should be seen as part of a hierarchy and “a first step in a process striving for an ambitious environmental level of protection that should be further elaborated.” [8]

The focus of attention has to be on the cultural and physical aspects – the use of any pesticide is a last resort. Even then it may be decided that the level of damage caused to turf is not particularly significant, being below a warning threshold and this Ian indicator that pesticide use is not desired. This results in zero pesticide application with the acceptance that a turf surface is a natural environment which ebbs and flows regards surface quality.

Depending upon the threshold set, if the undesirable pest damage is to exceed this, then as a formal IPM programme has been documented and agreed within an organisation it can trigger the use of a pesticide to control the pest. This is the purpose of an IPM programme – to help reduce and minimise pesticide use to agreed (within an organisation) levels.

Trying to impose a pristine 100% surface quality throughout the year is just going to increase costs unnecessarily and give false aspirations to users. The desire to deliver this is fine, but we need to be flexible and understanding of nature and accept perfection (whatever that actually means as it is a contested term) is a human construct which cannot be applied to the natural world.

The use of pesticides to help create ‘optimum’ playing surfaces can be very successful, however, this needs to be balanced against the impacts this has on nature and also organisational operating costs. It might be found that acceptance a small increase in pest damage saves several thousand pounds per year and in practice has minimal if any impact on playability. Don’t set thresholds too low, be realistic with expectations and what is an achievable and fit for purpose threshold.

Beyond IPM
A holistic site wide approach, which includes considering the impact and integration of animals (but in our case primarily wildlife) into decisions to complement that of the specific crop (but in our case a turf grass surface), represents a systems approach to managing farms, or entire land areas. This is often referred to as an integrated farming system or integrated farming management and provides a concept that can be developed by the horticulture industry.

The holistic approach would include not just the land up to the boundary that is being managed, but would include the local community environment that surrounds the managed land area as well as corridors of green space that interconnect with other green space areas beyond the local community. This extends the ecological community-level protection approach proposed by Levins in his hedgerow problem model, which others may wish to explore. [9]

This wider holistic community-level protection approach is considered a more accurate interpretation of trying to address the wider issue of sustainability, which is taking the concept of IPM that stage further, rather than limit it to an often more local site-specific approach.

The Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations 2012 emphasises the use of IPM, however, this needs to be developed and more thoroughly implemented by the turf care industry to reflect a wider holistic approach.

The underlying reason for a more holistic approach is the need to consider the impact plant protection product use may have on the general public and a local community, which will be very pertinent in parks, open spaces, sports pitches and amenity areas surrounding health facilities, as required by regulations 10 (1) and 10 (2) of the above Regulations.

The process of social engagement can help to break down communication barriers that may exist between plant protection product users and local communities. This can significantly help to better inform opinion and influence the decisions of managers and stakeholders.

The taking of a more embracing and holistic approach than that offered by IPM would show that professional suppliers and users are embedding environmental concerns and principles of sustainability within their practices.

Managers should revisit the IPM triangle and reflect on how effective are their grounds maintenance activities – paying particular attention to how agronomically sound they are.

A prime consideration is about embedding sustainable, and documented, maintenance practices into any work programme. IPM offers a significant stepping stone towards this aim: this won’t necessarily mean the end of pesticides use, but it will significantly reduce the need for them, which is a positive step forward.

There are a wide range of non-pesticide materials available from many suppliers which can be better utilised to improve cultural control techniques. Researching more of what is available will help grounds managers in their quest for a more sustainable management regime.

If, however, the use of pesticides was considered unacceptable by a senior management team they would have to stop control methods at the biological level in the IPM triangle and accept the consequences of this potential limitation of having surfaces which are not as high a quality as some others, but yet may be quite fit for purpose. This is clearly a value judgment decision and is neither right nor wrong in that respect.

To sum up then, challenge your perceptions on how to create a healthy turf surface (and sub-surface); focus attention on cultural and physical controls and significantly reduce the need for pesticide applications. Focusing on the environmental conditions needed for strong turf development is key for a sustainable surface, and industry.


[1] Kogan, M. (1998) ‘Integrated Pest Management: Historical Perspectives and Contemporary Developments’ Annu. Rev. Entomol. 1998 43:243-70, accessed 30/07/2018

[2] Anon, ‘IPM: A Historical Perspective’, Beyond Pesticides, accessed 30/07/2018

[3] Begon, M., Harper, J.L. & Townsend, C.R. (1986) ‘Ecology: Individuals, Populations and Communities’, (2nd Edition) Blackwell Scientific Publications, pp565-567

[4] Mitchell, K. & Baldock, D. (1996) ‘Glossary of agri-environmental terms’ English Nature Research Reports No. 159, ENRR159 part 2, p.22, accessed 30/07/2018

[5] ‘DIRECTIVE 2009/128/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 21 October 2009 establishing a framework for Community action to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides’, Chapter 1 Article 3 (6), accessed 30/07/2018

[6] JKI (2009) ‘Development of guidance for establishing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) principles’ Final report, BiPRO Beratungsgesellschaft für integrierte Problemlösungen, Julius Kuhn-Institut, p.iii, accessed 30/07/2018

[7] Watkins, J. & Wright, T. (Eds) (2008) ‘The Management & Maintenance of Historic Parks, Gardens & Landscapes’, The English Heritage Handbook, p.229

[8] JKI (2009) ‘Development of guidance for establishing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) principles’ Final report, BiPRO Beratungsgesellschaft für integrierte Problemlösungen, Julius Kuhn-Institut, p.33, accessed 30/07/2018

[9] Levins, R. ‘From simple IPM to the management of agroecosystems’, in Kogan, M. & Jepson, P. (2007) ‘Ecological Theory and Integrated Pest Management’, Cambridge University Press

Chris Gray, 4th August 2018