What Is Integrated Pest Management? IPM Guide for Growers

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an ecosystem based approach to pest and disease control in modern horticulture.

Focused on long-term management, IPM combines different techniques in order to effectively control pest related damage. Additionally, IPM considers and aims to minimize financial, environmental and human health costs.

Rather than using pesticides to eliminate pests when they’re found, IPM aims to reduce their appearance through prevention, environmental control, or biological measures. Farmers can use a combination of these pest management practices to reduce pest damage in the most economical and efficient way possible.

Proper IPM programs reduce the use of toxic chemicals. As such, they minimize risks to humans and animals, reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, and promote overall better public health.

Integrated Pest Management includes five steps to follow in order to effectively manage pest and disease damage.


1. Pest Identification

IPM begins with gaining an understanding of the pests currently and commonly found in the growing space.

This includes understanding your crops and their susceptibilities, as well as the pests themselves. In order to efficiently reduce their appearance, growers should learn the pests’ biological and behavioral aspects. This includes preferred habitat and climate, life cycle, nutrition, and predators.

The same is true not just for pests, but for pathogens as well. Many common greenhouse and grow room issues are actually fungal diseases, which can be controlled similarly to pests.

Remember, pests and pathogens are organisms that cause damage to the plants. Not all creatures found in a growing space are pests that require treatment.

2. Monitoring Pest Activity

Before attempting to eliminate a newly spotted organism, it’s best to monitor the population over a short period of time. By doing this, you can determine whether the population is large enough to pose a substantial threat. They may require actionable measures to control, or they may be too insignificant to require drastic measures.

Pest populations naturally fluctuate and may rise or decline due to factors which aren’t always apparent. Immediately reacting to a sight of a potential pest is often unnecessary and ineffective.

In certain situations, growers can reduce or even avoid pest treatment by monitoring efficiently.

3. Determining Action Thresholds

Action thresholds are a vital part of integrated pest management. An action threshold is the point at which further damage is considered intolerable. In which case, control measures need to be taken. Growers should determine these guidelines individually according to their own assessment.

Thresholds can be based on different criteria, such as economical, legislative, or medical. Many models compare an economical assessment of damage against treatment costs.

You should only implement treatment when it makes sense financially.

4. Evaluating & Implementing Pest Management Options

Integrated Pest Management is an approach that manages and controls pest populations and their damage, rather than blindly eliminating their presence. Using this approach, you can reduce both costs and toxicity in your growing space.

IPM includes 5 tiers of pest control actions, ranked according to their invasiveness and toxicity. These should be implemented starting from the bottom of the pyramid, working up as necessary.

Pest and Disease Prevention

Prevention means managing the growing space to prevent pests and diseases from appearing, before they pose a threat. Pest prevention can include the use of nets, fans, or additional equipment which inhibits pests from entering the premises.

When it comes to diseases, physical prevention isn’t as effective. Fortunately, you can prevent many common diseases using environmental controls. Maintaining ideal temperatures or controlling humidity with dehumidifiers is very useful in preventing diseases and molds.

It’s much more effective and efficient to prevent issues before they occur, rather than respond to pest problems. It’s also much better for the plants, workers’ health and the environment.

Cultural & Sanitation Measures

These measures restrict pests’ ability to sustain life, by removing the basic requirements needed for them to survive and thrive.

Cultural and sanitation measures may include the removal of standing water, decomposing plant debris and more. Additional measures include climate control, such as mentioned above. Proper environmental control can affect the pests’ ability to spread, breed, or feed, effectively reducing their negative impact.

Physical & Mechanical Pest Control

In contrast to prevention measures, these methods physically remove pests or prevent their movement in the greenhouse.

Examples of physical measures include traps and barriers that either reduce populations, or inhibit their spread in the space. Though quite low-tech, these measures can be highly effective at a relatively low cost.

Biological Pest Control

Biological pest control is very useful when relevant. Growers can use different organisms, such as predatory insects, to limit pest populations. These provide a great natural resource that doesn’t have a negative effect on the plants themselves.

Biological control may be harder to implement, as not every pest has known, otherwise harmless, predators. In order to successfully control pests in this fashion, it’s extremely important to correctly identify pests, as you’ll need highly specialized counter-organisms. If identification is wrong, the biological route will almost definitely fail.

Chemical Pest Elimination

Chemical means of pest control include pesticides and various cleaning agents, among others. The toxicity of these materials may potentially affect crops, as well as humans, making them a last resort in IPM.

Use of various fungicides and pesticides also increases pest resistance to these materials. So constant use of chemical sprays may actually have an adverse effect in the long run.

Successful Integrated Pest Management should comprise of multiple measures across several tiers. Preference should always be given to actions lower on the pyramid, only ascending as necessary.

5. Collecting Results

Pest appearance is rarely a singular event. In most cases, it’s a constant evolving battle. Successfully and continuously managing pest damage over time is no simple task. Doing so requires a large amount of knowledge and data.

Monitoring the results of pest control actions provides invaluable understanding of what works and what doesn’t. This allows growers to constantly tweak and adjust their defenses, further reducing the inputs and toxicity required in order to maintain populations.

Using Dehumidifiers to Prevent Pests and Diseases

There are many pieces of equipment and machinery that can assists growers in implementing successful IPM programs. However, one of the leading emerging methods is to use dehumidifiers.

Dehumidification assists in integrated pest management on a couple fronts. First, controlling the humidity is the most effective way to prevent molds, mildews, and other fungal pathogens, such as botrytis. These fungi need high humidity in order to develop, so depriving them of humidity effectively prevents outbreaks.

The second way in which dehumidifiers support IPM programs is less direct, but highly effective nonetheless.

By controlling humidity from inside the space, using dehumidifiers, you reduce the need to ventilate to remove moisture. So you can keep your growing facility completely closed and insulated. Reducing air exchanges with the outdoors significantly reduces pest and pathogen infiltration.

Want to learn more about dehumidification as an IPM measure? Please feel free to contact our team for a free consultation!