A New Tool for Picking the Right Pesticide for an IPM Program
As a system, integrated pest management strives to minimize the use of chemical pesticides while acknowledging that careful use of them is often still a necessary part of any pest management program. Economic thresholds and a variety of non-chemical management methods are at an IPM professional’s disposal, but when a pesticide is warranted, a practitioner wants to know exactly what impacts it might have.
To that end, a collaboration between the Western Integrated Pest Management Center and the Western Unit of the Interregional Research Project #4 (IR-4) sought to design a guidance document for IPM professionals to evaluate how well a proposed pesticide use fits within an IPM program—specifically, in cases where pest managers wish to register a pesticide with the Environmental Protection Agency for minor uses not already covered by manufacturer labels. That guide, the “IPM Criteria Guidance Document,” has come to fruition and was shared in a new article published this week in the open-access Journal of Integrated Pest Management.
“This is a breakthrough because it articulates for the first time a common set of IPM criteria to compare pesticides and make a selection based on IPM fit,” says James J. Farrar, Ph.D., director of the University of California Statewide IPM Program. “It is a first step to an overall goal of achieving broad consensus on a set of measurable criteria for judging the IPM compatibility of pesticides.”
The guidance document [PDF] works as a rubric of sorts, with affirmative, intermediate, and negative criteria identified across six pesticide attributes: efficacy, economics, non-target effects, resistance concerns, environmental fate, and other IPM factors.
“The primary uses in real-world IPM will be in extension IPM programs,” Farrar says. “IPM extension scientists and extension educators could use the criteria when developing or revising extension pest management information for practitioners and growers.”
Farrar and co-authors provide links to simple and complex examples [PDFs] of how the document could be used. The simple example is hypothetical, but the complex example shows real—and sometimes conflicting—input from two IPM experts on a particular product use, “demonstrating that not everyone will have the same interpretation of a particular use” Farrar says.
Many IPM programs, particularly in the western United States, deal with minor or specialty crops, which often have insufficient tools available to address damaging pests. Farrar says the conventional wisdom is thus to register pesticides for minor uses to be made available to growers and IPM practitioners, but the complexity of IPM systems means great care should be taken to ensure any new use of a pesticide doesn’t have unintended consequences.
“We often hear people stating that they wish to ‘expand the toolbox’ as a way to expand the number of effective options practitioners have access to. In that sense, that initial reaction does not consider the broader uses and value of that particular pesticide in other crops. It could very well be that by introducing a new minor use pesticide to a region that you seriously destabilize regional resistance management programs that depend on the presence of that minor-use crop as an unselected refuge for susceptible organisms,” Farrar says.
And that’s just one example. “Other criteria in our work point to the need for considering non-target effects, especially beneficial organisms—predators, parasitoids, biocompetitors—and pollinators. While a prescribed use might control the target organism quite well in this new, minor-use crop, it might also contribute to broader reductions in ecosystem services provided by these beneficial organisms,” Farrar continues. “These criteria might help the practitioner think through these very complex relationships.”
Journal of Integrated Pest Management