Integrated pest management

There are ways to use pesticides alongside other measures to improve safety and efficacy. Integrated pest management (IPM) is an environmentally sensitive way of managing pests. Learn about IPM, and read some case studies with examples of how it can be used.

IPM practices include

  • forward planning
  • regular monitoring
  • timely decision-making

IPM control methods include

  • cultural methods – they change the conditions to make them less favourable for pests, such as adjusting planting location or timing or crop rotation and cultivation techniques which expose pests to predation or destroy their food, shelter and breeding habitats
  • physical methods – they prevent pests from entering the area using methods such as barriers and traps, or physically remove them
  • genetic methods – these methods select pest resistant varieties developed by classical breeding or via genetic engineering
  • biological methods – they use predators, parasites or microbial pathogens to suppress pests
  • chemical methods – they use substances to kill or repel pests, selecting the least toxic options first and applying them only when needed instead of, for example, regular preventative spraying
  • regulatory methods – they prevent the entry or spread of pests using quarantine regulations and restrict the movement of materials including crops and livestock

IPM can be applied in many settings, such as on farms; in homes, gardens, workplaces and natural spaces such as national parks; and in schools.

The case studies provide examples of how IPM is being used in NSW.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) has developed a four-tiered approach to practicing IPM:

1. Set action thresholds

An action threshold is a point at which pest populations or environmental conditions indicate action must be taken to prevent the pest from becoming an economic or environmental threat. Seeing a single pest does not always mean control is needed.

2. Monitor and identify pests

Identifying pests accurately and monitoring their population and behaviour helps IPM practitioners detect when action thresholds have been reached and decide on appropriate control methods. Many weeds and insects that are considered pests are actually harmless, or even beneficial, and do not need to be controlled. Monitoring and identification reduces the risks of using the wrong type of pesticide, or using pesticides when other strategies will be more effective.

3. Prevent pests from becoming a threat

Pests can be prevented from becoming a threat with minimal or no risk to people or the environment. Prevention can be highly effective and cost-efficient. Prevention methods include

  • in agriculture, selecting pest-resistant plant varieties and crop rotation
  • in buildings, reducing clutter and maintaining good hygiene

4. Control

If prevention methods have not worked, and monitoring, identification and action thresholds indicate that pest control is necessary, the next step is to evaluate the control options. IPM prioritises methods that present the least risk to the environment and human health. These include

  • physical controls such as trapping or weeding
  •  using highly targeted chemical controls such as pheromones to disrupt reproduction

If monitoring indicates that these methods are not effective, pest control methods such as targeted spraying of pesticides can be used. General spraying of non-specific pesticides is only done if all other measures have failed.

Ensure all control options are fully considered before using pesticides.

When you choose to use a pesticide, you are legally responsible for ensuring that it is used correctly.

Under the Pesticides Act 1999, only registered pesticides can be used in NSW. Pesticides must be registered by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) before they can be manufactured, supplied, sold or used in Australia. Registered pesticides carry an APVMA-approved product label that provides instructions about minimising impacts on health, the environment and trade. You must read the label before each use and follow all the instructions unless authorised to do otherwise by a valid APVMA issued permit.

When selecting a pesticide, consider its

  • toxicity and persistence
  • potential impact on the environment
  • effectiveness for the pest being targeted

Biopesticides (also known as biological pesticides), derived from natural materials, are generally less toxic than conventional pesticides because they usually target specific pests. This also means they are unlikely to accidentally harm other plants, insects, birds or animals.

Biopesticides include

  • microbial pesticides, which use a microorganism such as a bacterium, fungus or virus to control pests by causing disease
  • biochemical pesticides, such as scented plant extracts to attract and trap pests
  • plant incorporated protectants (PIPs) where genetic material incorporated into the plant causes it to produce pesticidal substances

The US EPA Biopesticides page contains more useful information.

One risk of using pesticides is that pests may develop resistance, which means the pesticide is no longer effective.

Find out more about managing pesticide resistance

IPM in the agricultural sector reduces the amount of pesticides used on food crops. IPM strategies focus mainly on managing insect pests such as aphids, thrips and moths.

Information and resources

IPM strategies for landscaping and lawn care in public areas such as municipal parks and golf courses (amenity horticulture) focus on weeds, insect and animal pests.

Information and resources

IPM in homes and buildings such as schools, hospitals and offices usually focuses on rodents and common insects such as cockroaches, ants, termites and lice.

Information and resources

  • the Safer Solutions website provides information on pesticide alternatives for the home and garden
  • IPM for Schools and Childcare Centres provides a guide to implementing IPM strategies for common pests
  • the US EPA website contains numerous resources and tips on pest control and IPM use in schools and the home, and garden and pest management advice for public housing managers
  • The US EPA has a program for implementing IPM in schools

Find out more about household use and disposal of chemicals and pesticides

IPM practices are incorporated into all major pest management programs in national parks and reserves. Integrated techniques used to control pest animals include baiting, trapping, fencing, and ground and aerial shooting. Integrated techniques used to deal with weeds include

  • aerial and ground spraying with herbicides
  • physical removal by machinery and humans
  • biological controls

Information and resources

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