The Importance of Monitoring: Best Practices for Integrated Pest Management

Monitor overall plant health with a strong IPM program

The term Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is often misleading because a good IPM program looks at a bigger picture than just pests-overall plant health. Without a doubt, the best management practice for any IPM program is prevention, which is comparable to putting out sparks before they become raging fires.

A well-run IPM program includes regular monitoring for pests, diseases, nutrient deficiencies, irrigation problems, sanitation, and much, much more. Early intervention is instituted as soon as signs of damage are detected, rather than later when they are irreversible. In the case of nutrition, a well-balanced fertilization program is a constant, rather than a stop-gap measure after imbalances are detected.

Scouts play a pivotal role in IPM, and the importance of regularly monitoring crops should not be undervalued. Good recordkeeping is also a necessity, especially when evaluating whether control measures and nutrition programs are effective. The precursor to using control methods should always be scouting in order to pin-point exactly which plants need treatment. Avoiding the overuse of pesticides and fertilizers is not only environmentally responsible; it also saves valuable time and money.

Try these best practices for an effective IPM program:

  • Practice good sanitation by removing or quarantining any diseased or infected plants. Wash your hands before working with plants to avoid the spread of disease. Check new plants for problems, quarantine them if necessary.
  • Know where to look for insects. Carefully examine leaf and stem axils, flowerheads and other tight places where insects can hide. Inspect terminals for damage or activity. Don’t forget to look at the undersides of leaves and stems.
  • Tap flowers and leaves on white paper to check for insects. Gently drop pots on a bench to see what flies out.
  • Make use of sticky traps and indicator plants for monitoring pest populations.
  • Monitor on a weekly basis and be consistent.
  • Pay close attention to plant roots. Remove plants from pots and check roots for discoloration, rot and sloughing (when the root surface pulls away from the core).
  • Know what healthy plants look like; become familiar with their appearance during different growth stages. Keep in mind that some plants have characteristics (variegation, striping, color) that are unique to their species and not an indication of problems.
  • Look for mold, webbing, chlorosis, lesions, stunted or distorted growth, powdery residues, mottling, spittle and necrosis.
  • Do not neglect healthy plants. Consistently check for healthy growing conditions that involve temperature, light and water.
  • Accurately diagnose problems. Visual observations alone are not always enough, if needed, make use of soil testing and plant tissue analysis.
  • Monitor nutrient and pH levels. Proper nourishment strengthens plants and enables them to tolerate pests, disease and environmental stressors better. Nutrient uptake is also influenced by pH levels.
  • Avoid catch-all pesticide treatments. Treat the specific problem and only use enough for control.

An old Chinese proverb states: “A superior doctor prevents sickness; a mediocre doctor attends to impending sickness; an inferior doctor treats actual sickness.” When it comes to IPM, seek to be the equivalent of the superior doctor.

A strong nutrition program is one of the hallmarks of an effective IPM program. KeyPlex’s micronutrient and biopesticide products fuel the energy requirements necessary for plant defense, growth and reproduction.

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