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Integrated pest management (IPM)

An environmentally friendly approach to treating pests on plants that incorporates a series of management methods. IPM seeks to proactively prevent problems, rather than react to them, in a gentle, harmless way. This is done by frequent monitoring of crops to identify problems as soon as they arise, and includes cultural, physical, genetic, biological, and chemical control methods.

“Integrated pest management is a holistic approach to growing cannabis focused on the ecosystem, which seeks to prevent pests and disease before outbreaks occur.”

Integrated pest management (IPM) for cannabis growers

The focus of Integrated pest management (IPM) is to manage the ecosystem and grow healthy plants while mitigating long-term damage of disease and pests. This is done by frequently monitoring crops to identify problems as soon as they arise. 

IPM is a holistic approach to treating pests that seeks to proactively prevent problems, rather than react to them. IPM is defined by the University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) as an “Ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties.” 

While every cultivator’s method is different, all IPM practices have six things in common

  • Pest identification
  • Monitoring infestations and damage
  • Standard operating procedures for when pest management is needed
  • Prevention of pests
  • Intervention and use of a combination of management tools
  • Assessing effects of IPM

There are several methods used to accomplish IPM, including:

  • Cultural—changes to the environment that minimize the resources pests need to survive.
  • Physical or mechanical—ways to physically remove pests, such as traps or barriers. 
  • Genetic—breeding plants to be more resistant to pests and disease; using genetic techniques to disrupt pests, such as releasing sterile males. 
  • Biological—the use of predators, parasites, and diseases to target pests.
  • Chemical—the use of microbes that target pests, as well as environmentally safe pesticides.

Before using any of these control methods, it is important for cultivators to establish SOPs to create action thresholds for when a particular pest control method needs to be implemented. IPM is a way to produce quality cannabis at a low cost, in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.