Integrated pest management: rethinking the weapons in the grounds care war
The concept of integrated pest management (IPM) is not as esoteric as its name may suggest.
Rather, it is a relatively new but well-respected approach that is rapidly becoming to pest control what real grounds management is to mere maintenance. Although IPM requires more overall thought, foresight and vigilance in dealing with challenges, it can be more effective, cost-efficient and sensitive to the environment in the end.
IPM is the use of chemical, biological and cultural controls in an organized attempt to prevail in harmony with the native surroundings. It involves a disciplined and knowledgeable approach to reducing the pest population, with emphasis on synchronizing these approaches with the natural environment to cause the least amount of disruption to ecological systems.
Increasingly, public works officials and other local government personnel, as well as managers of institutional facilities such as hospitals, are being called upon to become more grounds-knowledgeable. This knowledge is either being added to their job descriptions or is being expected of personnel informally. The pressure to make grounds an asset to city and county facilities, rather than simply a maintenance burden to be handled with as few resources as possible, is growing, and such heightened expectations can be daunting with no grounds professional on staff.
That, along with the increasingly technical nature of today’s grounds-related issues and the sometimes bewildering environmental regulations, has changed the traditional “mow, blow and go” approach.
Simply cutting grass and cleaning up is one thing, current thinking goes, but modern, sophisticated care of turf, flowers, woody ornamentals and trees is something else entirely.
IPM, an approach at the height of “new think” in grounds care, can save time and money, as well as lessen environmental concerns. Any local golf course superintendent can testify about the prominence of these concerns, which center mostly around the use of pesticides. Everyone, including various levels of government and the public, is becoming increasingly concerned with issues such as pesticide residues and run-off, immunity to pesticides, extermination of desirable species and the potential danger of pesticides to humans.
The term “pest” as it applies to grounds care can be defined as anything that is unwanted — insects, weeds, fungi or viruses — so a pesticide may be anything that limits this unwanted growth.
The term also includes herbicides, which are used solely on plants.
Thus, the small warning signs placed on lawns following an application by a lawn care company could be referring to a chemical applied for either weed or insect control.
The goal of IPM is not to eradicate pests entirely, but rather to manage the population so that economic damage does not occur. Because of the complexity of ecological systems, total elimination of any pest population has proven to be environmentally unsound. The balance of nature is sensitive and intricate, and manipulation of one variable profoundly affects all other variables.
Therefore, the entire system must be regarded holistically, with extreme consideration given to the impact on the delicate interplay within it.
Reducing the use of chemical pesticides is a second goal of IPM. Whereas chemical pesticides are efficient, cost effective and convenient, they may also create a multitude of complications. Although IPM recognizes the use of chemicals to control pest populations, the emphasis is on taking a selective and responsible approach. IPM stresses conservative and accurate application of chemicals, as well as the employment of naturally derived pesticides. Reducing the risk of environmental damage while effectively controlling a pest population is the objective.
For example, Neme, marketed under the name of Margosan, is a natural pesticide — an organic element, procured from the Indian Margosa tree, that can eliminate approximately 50 different insects, while at the same time being natural and safe.
Additionally, several companies currently manufacture non-toxic, organic insecticidal soaps.
In addition, a multitude of other natural controls, such as white milky spore for controlling Japanese beetles and other beetles in the grub stage, are being developed for specific problems. Once a local population of grubs has been infected with the disease that the spore carries, the disease continues to be passed on from generation to generation. It is a naturally occurring enemy, the only difference being that the spore is scientifically applied where it will do the most good.
This biological control of pests involves introducing predators, parasites or diseases into the environment for the purpose of reducing or controlling an antagonistic species. Such predators can include ladybugs, praying mantises or tiny wasps called parasitoids. With this method, the pest population is reduced, as is the host density. Also, this method is often “species specific,” attacking the unwanted organism rather than all organisms in the area. Although biological control may be less intensive than chemical treatment, the benefits merit its implementation.
Cultural control, another major overall strategy in IPM programs, involves starting with proper plant selection based on knowledge of a plant’s origin, habitat and environmental requirements. Cultural control also means choosing species and varieties that possess the most resistance and inhibit the rise of potential pest populations, through the use of indicator plants, soil preparation and other techniques. All of these methods work in conjunction with the natural environment, reducing the need for chemical application or other unnatural and potentially disruptive methods of pest elimination.
Overall, an IPM approach employs an extensive variety of methods, techniques and strategies, with consideration of all environmental factors and conditions. It is highly sophisticated and refined, requiring comprehensive knowledge and expertise.
And, despite its complexities, IPM is a necessary approach that will be further developed and used in the future, since it recognizes and appreciates the imperative balance of nature while allowing for manipulation of the environment when needed.
Consequently, it will be increasingly important to require grounds management personnel to be knowledgeable about IPM. If no grounds professional is on staff, department heads should increase their own knowledge and lead the use of IMP themselves.
Hiring an independent landscape contractor firm and constructing a contract that involves the use of IPM is another option.
For IPM to work, local government grounds people must be willing to stretch a bit and try new methods. They need to resist the common urge, when seeking results that are immediately visible to officials and the public, to soak an area with chemicals before considering other options. A proper overall attitude toward the landscape, which begins with selection of appropriate plants including grasses, is also of paramount importance. Future care can be made much easier and cheaper with the proper selection of plants.
The Professional Grounds Management Society (PGMS), the nation’s oldest and broadest organization of grounds professionals, is comprised of almost equal numbers of onstaff grounds managers and independent landscape contractors and can provide a starting point. In addition, state land-grant universities and county extension agencies are sources of valuable information in the quest to meet today’s grounds care challenges.
The University of California Extension in Riverside will hold an all-day seminar entitled “Landscape Contracting in the Public and Private Sectors” on Friday, November 15, 1996, aimed at public and private sector individuals and organizations who want to learn more about contracting their landscape maintenance needs.
Speakers with extensive experience in both the public and private sector in California will cover topics including the pros and cons of contracticng out landscaping, and key aspects of contracting out tree care, irrigation and general grounds maintenance. Also, local attorney Randall Stamen will speak on financial losses incurred when contracting is done improperly.
For more information, contact the University of California Extension at 1200 University Avenue #336, Riverside, Calif., 92507-4596; (909) 787-5804.
Kenneth Brink Horticulture Department Colorado State University Fort Collins, CO 80523
Arthur Bruneau Crop Science Dept. P.O. Box 7620 North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC 27695
William Dest Plant Science Dept. University of Connecticut Storrs, CT 062694067
Richard Duble Soil & Crop Sciences Dept. Texas A & M University College Station, TX 77843
Victor Gibault 4146 Batchelor Hall Plant Sciences Dept. University of California Riverside, CA 92521
William Johnston Crop & Soil Sciences Dept. Washington State University Pullman, WA 99164-6420
David Kopec Dept. of Plant Science Forbes Building, Room 303 University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 85721
Gil Landry, Jr. Extension Agronomy Dept. University of Georgia Griffin, GA 30223-1797
Pete Landschoot Agronomy Dept. 116 ASI Building Penn State University University Park, PA 16802
Dennis Martin Dept. of Horticulture 360 Agricultural Hall Oklahoma St. University Stillwater, OK 74078
Zachery Reicher Dept. of Agronomy Room 2447, Lilly Hall Purdue University W. Lafayette, IN 47907
John Street Hort. &Crop Science 2021 Coffey Rd. Ohio State University Columbus, OH 43210
Tom Turner Agronomy Dept. 1112 H.J. Patterson Hall University of Maryland College Park, MD 20742
Tom Voigt Plant Sciences Laboratory 1201 S. Dorner Dr. University of Illinois Urbana, IL 61801
Don White Horticultural Science University of Minnesota St. Paul, MN 55108