Providing practical information to help you protect your farm from biosecurity risks

What is integrated pest management?

November 1, 2013
Integrated pest management (IPM) combines the use of biological, cultural and chemical practices to control insect pests in agricultural production. It seeks to use natural predators or parasites to control pests, using selective pesticides for backup only when pests are unable to be controlled by natural means.

IPM should not be confused with organic practices. It does not discourage spraying chemicals; it promotes spraying with selective pesticides only when the crop needs it, which generally means that less pesticide is used.

Rod Turner, General Manager Risk Management for Plant Health Australia, said: “For IPM to be effective, producers need to be familiar with the lifecycle of pests, and to act when pest numbers begin to impact on crop growth and cause economic damage.”

Beneficial insects are encouraged and regularly counted. Insects are dislodged from the crop by vacuuming, being caught in traps or beaten onto a sheet.


Cultural control is managing the crop environment to discourage pest establishment.

Biological control is where predatory or parasitic insects and mites known as ‘beneficials’ or ‘good bugs’ help to control chewing and sucking insects that affect the quality and productivity of crops by killing them or disrupting their breeding cycle.

Chemical control is used when biological and cultural control has not been enough to protect the productivity of the crop. Where chemical control is required, selective insecticides are chosen which target the pest, leaving the beneficial population unharmed.

“Timing is important. Although information about the density of insects in a field is recorded, action is only taken when pests reach a threshold level.

“When a spray is used, sometimes it can be confined to a particular area of the field rather than across the entire site,” said Mr Turner.

Predatory insects can be released at specific times in the season and monitored throughout the year. In time the beneficials can build up in the entire system and reach a stable population.

IPM has been around for many years and adopted to varying degrees within cropping industries. Implementing an effective IPM program involves careful management of the interactions between the crop, environment, primary and secondary pests, beneficials and the farmer themselves.

“IPM is included in many best management practice programs, for example myBMP for cotton producers.

“It’s is a process that may need to be changed several times within a season. It needs to be constantly evaluated and refined to maximise the benefits,” said Mr Turner.

The model below outlines some steps for implementing and evaluating IPM practices. Making best possible use of available resources, expertise and consultants is essential in getting the balance right and reaping the proven rewards that an effective IPM program can deliver.

IPM model of continual improvement

More information about IPM

Video: Integrated Pest Management (Ground Cover TV, Grains Research and Development Corporation)

Video: Beat sheet sampling (Australian Oilseeds Federation, Pulse Australia and Grains Research and Development Corporation)
This presentation by Hugh Brier (Senior Entomologist, QDPI) was part of a Soybean & Pulse IPM training course provided to growers by Australian Oilseeds Federation, Pulse Australia and Grains Research and Development Corporation