Advantages and Disadvantages of Integrated Pest Management
Last edit: 12/22/2022
Integrated pest management (IPM) is a pest control strategy that combines different methods of pest control in a holistic and environmentally responsible way. The goal of integrated pest management is to control pests using the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective methods possible, while minimizing the use of chemical pesticides in crop production.
Even the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) considers the healthy growth of crops with the minimal use of pesticides crucial for sustainable food production, and encourages the use of biological pest control methods .
IPM focuses on the long term application of ecologically-friendly biological methods such as natural predators, resistant plant strains, sterile male insect technique, trapping, application of bio-pesticides, and many more. The main reason that the FAO has started implementing the IPM in several regions of the world was largely due to the hazardous impact of the certain chemicals contained in commercial pesticides.
For example, some studies show that the use of DDT in Africa to control malaria has given some adverse side effects to human health, such as breast cancer, diabetes, spontaneous abortions, decreased semen quality, and impaired child neurodevelopment .
How does the integrated pest management work and where is this method applied?
Integrated pest management is a pest control strategy that can be used to control a wide range of pests, including insects, weeds, plant diseases, and vertebrate animals. It can be applied in agricultural, urban, and natural settings, and can be used to protect crops, buildings, and other structures.
Integrated pest management involves several steps:
- Identification of the pest and determination of its abundance and distribution.
- Evaluation of the potential impact of the pest on human health, crops, or the environment.
- Selection of the most appropriate control methods based on the pest’s biology and the current situation.
- Implementation of the chosen control methods in a way that minimizes risks to people, animals, and the environment.
- Monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of the control measures and the need for additional action.
In agricultural settings: IPM is used to protect crops from pests that can damage or destroy the plants and the harvest. This includes insect pests, diseases, and even weeds that would reduce crop yields or quality. IPM is particularly important in organic farming, as it allows farmers to control pests without using synthetic chemical substances.
In urban settings: IPM has potential to control pests that represent a nuisance or a health hazard to humans. Examples are well known and widespread cockroaches, mosquitoes, and rodents. Integrated pest management can be used to protect buildings and other structures from pests that could cause structural damage to properties, such as termites and carpenter ants.
In natural settings: IPM serves as a tool to preserve natural areas from invasive species that could disrupt the balance of ecosystems or harm native species. In most cases, these are non-native plants or animals that are reproducing too fast and consume too many resources. They compete or predate on native species and negatively affect biodiversity.
Advantages of integrated pest management
This holistic approach to pest control that combines different methods of pest removal in a way that is environmentally responsible and cost-effective comes with several advantages for farmers, the environment and consumers interested in non-toxic produce.
Besides lowering the impact of chemical substances on the biota in the ecosystem, there are several other benefits of integrated pest management, such as:
#1 Reduced reliance on chemical pesticides in food production systems
One of the main advantages of integrated pest management is that it minimizes the use of chemical pesticides in agriculture. This is important because chemical pesticides can have negative impacts on human health and the environment, including negative effects on non-target species and the contamination of water and soil.
By using a combination of non-chemical and chemical methods, IPM can effectively control pests while minimizing the use of chemicals in our environment. This certainly reduces the risk of accidental poisoning or accumulation of toxins in our bodies.
#2 Slower development of resistance to pesticides
Pests can develop a resistance to pesticides over time. When the applications of the chemicals are used repeatedly, the pests can develop a resistance to the pesticides via natural selection, where the pests that survive the application of the chemicals will pass on their genes to their offspring [3,4].
This leads to the creation of so called “superpests” . IPM reduces the risk of this occurring as the methods adopted by integrated pest management are natural.
#3 Long-term sustainable method
IPM is a sustainable approach to pest control. This approach takes into account the long-term effects of pest control measures on the environment.
By using a combination of methods that are less harmful to the environment, such as biological control and cultural control, IPM can help to preserve natural resources and protect the environment in the long-term.
#4 Maintaining a balanced ecosystem
The use of pesticides may eradicate more than just the targeted pest population. There is a risk that non-target organisms are also affected, which can result in species loss. Integrated pest management, on the hand, eradicates pests while maintaining the balance of the ecosystem and supporting biodiversity .
#5 Increased efficiency & better cost vs. value margin
Integrated pest management is more efficient than traditional pest control methods because it targets the root cause of the pest problem and addresses it in a way that is long-lasting and effective. This means that pest problems are likely to be controlled more effectively, which can save time, money, and resources in the long term.
The reduced usage of pesticides is more cost effective in the long term, as IPM controls pests when there are surges, as opposed to the regularly timed application of pesticides .
#6 Raises awareness and re-establishes the bond with nature
Implementing IPM can increase awareness of pest problems and the ways in which they can be controlled. This can help people to be more proactive in identifying and addressing pest problems, which can lead to more effective pest control on a longer time scale.
As you can see the benefits of integrated pest management are numerous and offer primarily reduced reliance on synthetic chemicals in our lives, which is the most important factor of why these methods should become the first option when dealing with pests.
By adopting an IPM approach, individuals and organizations can effectively control pest problems while minimizing negative impacts on the environment, living organisms and human health.
Disadvantages of integrated pest management
While integrated pest management has many advantages, there are also some potential disadvantages to consider, and it is in our interest to know them to be better informed and aware of potential downsides.
Disadvantages of integrated pest management include:
#1 More involvement in the technicalities of the method
Individual farmers and all those involved in IPM have to be educated about their options in the various methods available. Different pests or growing conditions may need different techniques to be effective.
A successful application of this method is a learning process that requires flexibility and willingness to learn new information and take new steps on rather frequent basis. This method often requires consultation with experts or discussion with those who have already successfully applied selected measures in a similar situation.
#2 Needs time and resources to develop the strategy
Implementing an IPM program can require significant time and resources at the beginning when learning about the method and implementing it. This includes the development of an individual plan, the identification of pests and their biology, the selection of control methods, and the monitoring and evaluation of the program.
This can be a challenge for individuals or organizations with limited time or resources, which is often case of smaller farmers.
#3 Close monitoring is requested
Application of IPM takes time and has to be closely monitored, as the practice of IPM has many different methods integrated in order to provide the most effective pest control methods. Different pests have different control methods, and it is necessary to monitor which methods are the best for specific pests.
However, the disadvantages are easily offset with the establishment of organizations that actually provide training and education to IPM practitioners.
In Malaysia, the Ministry of Agriculture provides support and training to farmers who apply IPM to control the pests in their farms. As the practice grows, the application of the IPM process can become easier over time. The benefits in the end are greater. You may also want to read our article: “Why is family farming better for the environment” in the end.
#4 Limited effectiveness
In some cases, IPM may not be as effective as traditional pest control methods, especially when dealing with particularly challenging pests or in situations where the pest problem is severe. In these cases, it may be necessary to use more aggressive control measures, such as chemical pesticides, to effectively control the pest.
#5 Availability of non-chemical control methods
Some of the non-chemical control methods used in IPM, such as biological control agents, may not be widely available or may not be effective in certain situations. This can limit the options available for controlling pests and may require the use of chemical pesticides.
#6 Lack of knowledge
Some members of the public may not be familiar with IPM or may not understand how it works, which can lead to skepticism or resistance to its implementation. This can be a challenge for individuals or organizations trying to implement an IPM program.
Integrated pest management is sustainable
Without a doubt, it is important to carefully consider above listed potential disadvantages when deciding whether to implement an integrated pest management program to solve a pest problem.
However, IPM is generally considered a positive method of pest management because it seeks to minimize the use of pesticides and other chemical controls, while also taking into account the needs and goals of the currently used pest management programs.
One of the key principles of integrated pest management is the use of a range of strategies to manage pests, including cultural, physical, and biological controls, as well as selective use of chemical controls when necessary. This approach helps to reduce the potential for negative impacts on the environment, while also helping to reduce the risk of resistance to chemical controls by pests.
Integrated pest management can be an effective and sustainable way to manage pests in a variety of settings, including homes, gardens, farms, and public spaces.