Plan The Work, Work The Plan

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series about Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs aimed at minimizing, not eliminating, the use of pesticides on sports fields and other public property. The author is the Director of Leisure Services in Peachtree City, Ga., and he is taking us play-by-play through his efforts to formulate an effective IPM program.

As reported previously in this column, the city of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, hired full-time IPM Technician Tanya Steffler in 2004, and committed a five-year budget for the implementation of the program. The goal of the program is to reduce and eliminate the use of pesticides while still maintaining healthy turf. City Council approved the program in advance of creating a pesticide by-law because it was interested in having a program in place that maintained a healthy living environment for the citizens of Oshawa.

The Parks Branch researched information regarding IPM. Based on that information, a Landscape Pest Management Guide was created for the city. The guide is a 10-chapter manual that covers a broad range of IPM-related topics. In a nutshell, it provides a “how-to” guide that even a novice in the field can use to begin understanding the essence of IPM.

A well-organized manual demonstrates the program’s value and can help guide a landscape or turf manager through the process. It is also a good way to document successful efforts.

Getting Started

There is no wrong or right way of developing the manual’s organization. The important thing is to approach the task logically. Oshawa’s manual begins with a basic primer on defining IPM and how a well-developed program can help manage a wide variety of pests. IPM is a decision-making process that generally must address planning and management of ecosystems to prevent organisms from becoming pests. It helps identify potential pest problems, monitor them, make treatment decisions, reduce or control pest populations to acceptable standards, and evaluate the effectiveness of treatments.

According to Oshawa’s manual, an effective IPM manual involves seven main steps:

· Prevention

· Planning

· Identification

· Monitoring

· Action decisions

· Treatment

· Evaluation

The Breakdown

Prevention of problems precedes any step in an IPM program. “Any action that can be taken to prevent pest problems from occurring makes it easier and more cost-effective to maintain the health, appearance and function of the landscape in the future,” the manual suggests.

Planning an IPM program involves evaluation of the program as well as other landscape elements, and should ultimately be directed to prevent pest problems from occurring. It directs proper cultural practices to ensure healthy, vigorous plants, and also analyzes effectiveness of the program itself.

The first identification task in an IPM program is damage assessment. Damage to landscaping or turf can be caused by a variety of problems, including pets, environmental issues, improper cultural practices and pests. “It is important not to assume immediately that insects or diseases are the source of landscape problems,” the manual cautions. Once a pest is identified, biological information is needed, such as life cycle, behavior, preferred habitat and typical host plants. This information can then be used to plan a treatment program.

Once a program is started, the process of monitoring is extremely important to identify problems while pest populations are still below threshold levels. Inspections by qualified staff members to record pest levels should be done on a regular basis to determine the extent of infestations and if treatment is required. Monitoring assists in checking for detrimental cultural conditions and measures success of treatment strategies. Monitoring methods can include visual inspections, counting methods or insect traps.

Action decisions will be different for various types of landscaping and will depend on the risk levels the local community has set for itself. For example, the risk tolerance will be lower for a passive park than it will be for a turf sports field. So action decisions will come at different times, and may include different criteria. Generally, an action decision comes when the pest population reaches a pre-determined injury level or threshold. The injury level occurs when the population causes an unacceptable amount of injury or damage.

Treatment should be necessary only where preventative measures have not successfully kept the pest population below the injury threshold. The manual points out that often an IPM program begins with an existing pest problem that must be addressed before a landscape manager can plan a prevention program. Treatment options can be found in five broad categories: cultural, physical/mechanical, biological, genetic and chemical, the last being used only when necessary.

Finally, evaluation of the program is one of the most important processes in successful IPM implementation. Keeping records helps evaluate effectiveness, modify the program as needed, anticipate pest infestations, and document progress. The evaluation system should include five main components:

· Pest identification--proper identification is necessary for proper action

· Monitoring information--methods and monitoring data (e.g., temperature, humidity, number of pests, number of beneficial insects present, etc.) should be recorded for future analysis

· Pest management methods--record with enough detail to enable duplication of the control method under similar conditions

· Unusual events--detailing any extraordinary event, including accidents, prevents them in the future, and provides documentation in case of legal action

· Effectiveness of the program--assessing effectiveness will determine if re-treatments or alternate methods are necessary.

The manual also points out that the IPM process is only one part of a larger program of pesticide reduction strategies. It describes in detail the eight elements of a comprehensive pesticide reduction policy.

These elements include:

· IPM procedures as previously described

· IPM quality standards, a.k.a. risk standards, by which pests are managed on various public lands

· Alternate treatments for specific property classifications, such as letting an area go natural if there is no need to control certain pests there

· Expanded education and outreach programs so that all stakeholders can better understand the goals

· Development standards so that IPM and pesticide reduction become goals within the land-development process

· Parks capital upgrades, such as irrigation, drainage assessment and soil analysis, designed to support a pesticide-free environment

· Park facility permitting, aimed at programming the use of sports fields with planned maintenance, to enable the development of healthy turf

· Provision of a trained and qualified IPM coordinator to manage the complex science and tremendous labor involved in administering an IPM program.

Steffler stresses that the manual is continually a work-in-progress. “As different methods and products are tried, we can determine which options work, and change the manual to reflect the new information,” she said.

The remainder of the manual provides details for specific vegetation groups, such as turf, greenhouse plants, ornamentals and trees. A great deal of this material is applicable to sports turf, reflecting the fact that Steffler dedicated her first two years of IPM work on the 43 rectangular sport fields in Oshawa.

She notes: “The manual will be an evolving resource and will be modified as new products, information and processes become available.”

Randy Gaddo has for 10 years been the Director of Leisure Services (parks, recreation and library) in Peachtree City, Ga. He and his staff work with 11 different youth sports associations and three special-interest associations. Prior to that, he was a U.S. Marine Corps public affairs officer for 20 years. As part of his duties, he was a community relations liaison with various volunteer groups in the cities surrounding bases where he was stationed. He just completed work for a master’s degree in Public Administration, with much formal education on working with volunteers. He can be reached by e-mail at