IPM - What Does It All Mean?

Second In A Continuing Series

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the integration of knowledge and cultural- management systems designed to improve the long-term health of turf-grass (and other crops) through the suppression of problem pests. The overriding goal of IPM is to minimize the impact on humans, the environment and non-target organisms.

Common IPM techniques include the following:

1. Use of unbiased information

2. Quality monitoring

3. Anticipation of pest-population increases

4. Use of naturally occurring biological controls (i.e., use of pest-resistant plant species)

5. Adoption of cultural-management practices

6. Carefully selected application of pesticide after monitoring and established thresholds have been met

Site Assessment – Gathering Unbiased Information

The IPM process really begins with a quality-site assessment, which is the working profile of a facility such as a golf course, sports complex, community park, etc. The information gathered during this phase spells out in black-and-white the facility’s current resources, management practices and effectiveness.

At Cleveland Metroparks, we use maps to gather this unbiased information. Done properly, we find these maps provide a good record of crop conditions and change over time. Here are the maps I’d recommend you consider using:

· Irrigation system plans

· Topographical survey records and plans

· Aerial photographs

· As-built plans from original construction

Scouting and Monitoring

Once you know what you’re dealing with (i.e., how large of an area? how often it’s irrigated? how often it’s mowed? how often pesticides are/were applied?), and have charted an initial plan of attack, you or your facility manager needs to carve out time to religiously scout and monitor the area throughout the growing season.

He or she needs to track and record the following:

1. Pest presence and development

2. Agronomic and cultural crop conditions under certain weather conditions

3. Successes and failures of the IPM plan during the season

All of this historical information should then be placed on the site assessment maps for further study/update during the next growing season.

Measuring Pest Presence & Development

Some of the tools your facility manager will find helpful during this scouting and monitoring process include the following: site-assessment maps, soil probe, soil sampler, magnifying glass, thermometer (minimum/maximum temperature), traps and lures.

These last two tools, traps and lures, are used to measure the quantity or population of a specific pest. This information will, as noted above, be recorded on the site-assessment maps and be used to determine an appropriate treatment.

Some effective traps/lures include the following:

Soap Flush - (Irritating drench)

This is used to irritate insects, which are active in the thatch, and induce them to come to the surface to be counted.


Some insects produce pheromones, of which one of the most common is the sex pheromone, usually produced by the female to indicate fertility and readiness to mate.

Black-Light Traps

Some nocturnal insects are attracted to the light; this is a good monitoring tool.

Pitfall Traps

Pitfall traps are constructed by removing a soil core and placing a container in the hole. The container should have a funnel attachment to contain the captured insect.

Crop Condition – Weather And Climate

Climate, in many cases, defines the geographical range and distribution of a pest and its natural enemies because temperature, humidity, wind, radiation and rainfall directly influence the physiology and behavior of pests. Because of this, the recording of weather patterns and related pest patterns is a valuable tool in your IPM arsenal.

Cultural Management And Soil Nutrition

There are a couple of other IPM tools you should consider using: cultural management and soil nutrition.

Cultural management is something you can do every day – and it doesn’t cost very much. If you do your homework, learn about your crop and understand what makes it thrive, you can improve its condition and make it less susceptible to attacks by pests, pathogens, and weed invasions. You can also decide if you should employ use-resistant type species (plants that are resistant to pests, diseases or drought).

Couple this with careful management of your soil and you’ve got a powerful IPM solution-in-the-making. So, test the soil annually and determine its health. If it’s unhealthy, bring it up to snuff. After all, healthy soil is the building block for healthy plants.


So, now that you have your maps, tools, weather data and cultural-management solutions, it’s time to develop organizational thresholds. How much crop damage can your organization withstand before you must resort to synthetic plant protectors, otherwise known as pesticides?

The answer is different for everybody. For example, a golf green is very sensitive to insect damage, but a park is not. And since pests cannot be eliminated, managers must decide how many they can live with at any given time. This is your threshold, your individual pest tolerance.

A good general rule is to base your threshold on the value of the crop-loss (turf-grass, agriculture, ornamentals, trees) versus the treatment cost. In other words, what would it cost to replace the entire crop (i.e., golf green, park turf, infield grass, etc.)? Compare that to the cost of periodic pesticide applications.

Can you live with that much pesticide application? Does it cost significantly less than replacing the green every year?

If so, you know your threshold. If not, you still probably know your threshold.

Since cost is always a factor in determining whether a crop is maintained or replaced, make sure you’re using accurate information:

* Accurately identify the pest

* Know the life-cycle of the pest (observing vulnerable and damaging stages of the life-cycle)

* Identify the levels of stress in each area which will increase the likelihood of intensified damage

* Know the expectations of facility users to the required standards

And then, make your decision.

By understanding these basic rules, it’s not difficult to start an IPM program. Begin with one plant type, such as turf-grass, and then move to another. Before you know it, your whole facility will be practicing IPM.

Sean McHugh , CGCS is Chief Superintendent of Golf Turf for Cleveland Metroparks. He can be reached via e-mail at spm@clevelandmetroparks.com