Integrated pest management, or IPM, is smart, safe and sustainable pest management. IPM is a science-based approach that promotes ecological services and integrates prevention, avoidance, monitoring and suppression for managing pest populations. The practice of IPM minimizes the reliance on pesticides that can harm human and environmental health. In this way, IPM protects all Americans from the harm inflicted by pests and pest management.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said that the only thing that is constant in life is change. This statement is highly relevant to pest management.
The scientific disciplines that develop pest management tools and programs must adapt to the changing needs and concerns of increasingly sophisticated stakeholders. Public investment in the development of integrated solutions to pest problems is essential for providing these stakeholders with effective alternatives that align with their personal goals including health, conservation, environmental stewardship, sustainability, economics, aesthetics, social justice and other goals.
There are industries focused on pest management, but the private sector is focused on providing a limited range of products that align with a limited set of corporate goals. This sector is not able to provide all the solutions necessary for all of NIFA’s stakeholders and our nation’s needs. The work to develop these integrated solutions falls to organizations like Land Grant Colleges and Universities and funding agencies like NIFA.
Pest challenges are also changing and evolving as pests become resistant to pesticides, arrive from overseas or follow changing crop or weather patterns into new areas. So our management of those pests must also adapt. Meeting the ever-changing challenges relies on multi-disciplinary teams to conduct the collaborative research necessary to address the new challenges. Integrated pest management is the connecting link around which these cross-discipline teams coalesce to tackle pest management problems. The Regional IPM Centers are a vital component of that link that connects researchers, educators and Extension personnel to help them develop and deliver these novel solutions to all NIFA stakeholders. IPM practitioners are kept informed of new pest management challenges and on new ways to address these challenges through the Centers’ communication efforts and Extension and education activities funded through NIFA.
Integrated Pest Management researchers, educators and Extension personnel have also adapted to the changes in the funding landscape. NIFA funding focused on IPM research and extension has been stagnant. So IPM researchers, educators and Extension personnel have sought funding through other NIFA programs such as OREI, SARE and AFRI. The IPM proposals to these other programs have been successful because IPM aligns with the goals of these programs. However, there is increasing concern that the core IPM funding programs needed to support the multi-disciplinary IPM teams may not be sufficient to address an increasing list of problems.
America’s pest management challenges and societal changes require smart, safe and sustainable solutions. It is imperative that the Crop Protection and Pest Management program, a program dedicated to IPM development, be fully funded at a level that recognizes our growing challenges.