Plan The Work, Work The Plan

Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series about Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs aimed at minimizing, not eliminating, the use of pesticides on sports fields and other public property. The author is the Director of Leisure Services in Peachtree City, Ga., and he is taking us play-by-play through his efforts to formulate an effective IPM program.

As reported previously in this column, the city of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, hired full-time IPM Technician Tanya Steffler in 2004, and committed a five-year budget for the implementation of the program. The goal of the program is to reduce and eliminate the use of pesticides while still maintaining healthy turf. City Council approved the program in advance of creating a pesticide by-law because it was interested in having a program in place that maintained a healthy living environment for the citizens of Oshawa.

The Parks Branch researched information regarding IPM. Based on that information, a Landscape Pest Management Guide was created for the city. The guide is a 10-chapter manual that covers a broad range of IPM-related topics. In a nutshell, it provides a “how-to” guide that even a novice in the field can use to begin understanding the essence of IPM.

A well-organized manual demonstrates the program’s value and can help guide a landscape or turf manager through the process. It is also a good way to document successful efforts.

Getting Started

There is no wrong or right way of developing the manual’s organization. The important thing is to approach the task logically. Oshawa’s manual begins with a basic primer on defining IPM and how a well-developed program can help manage a wide variety of pests. IPM is a decision-making process that generally must address planning and management of ecosystems to prevent organisms from becoming pests. It helps identify potential pest problems, monitor them, make treatment decisions, reduce or control pest populations to acceptable standards, and evaluate the effectiveness of treatments.

According to Oshawa’s manual, an effective IPM manual involves seven main steps:

· Prevention

· Planning

· Identification

· Monitoring

· Action decisions

· Treatment

· Evaluation

The Breakdown

Prevention of problems precedes any step in an IPM program. “Any action that can be taken to prevent pest problems from occurring makes it easier and more cost-effective to maintain the health, appearance and function of the landscape in the future,” the manual suggests.

Planning an IPM program involves evaluation of the program as well as other landscape elements, and should ultimately be directed to prevent pest problems from occurring. It directs proper cultural practices to ensure healthy, vigorous plants, and also analyzes effectiveness of the program itself.

The first identification task in an IPM program is damage assessment. Damage to landscaping or turf can be caused by a variety of problems, including pets, environmental issues, improper cultural practices and pests. “It is important not to assume immediately that insects or diseases are the source of landscape problems,” the manual cautions. Once a pest is identified, biological information is needed, such as life cycle, behavior, preferred habitat and typical host plants. This information can then be used to plan a treatment program.

Once a program is started, the process of monitoring is extremely important to identify problems while pest populations are still below threshold levels. Inspections by qualified staff members to record pest levels should be done on a regular basis to determine the extent of infestations and if treatment is required. Monitoring assists in checking for detrimental cultural conditions and measures success of treatment strategies. Monitoring methods can include visual inspections, counting methods or insect traps.

Action decisions will be different for various types of landscaping and will depend on the risk levels the local community has set for itself. For example, the risk tolerance will be lower for a passive park than it will be for a turf sports field. So action decisions will come at different times, and may include different criteria. Generally, an action decision comes when the pest population reaches a pre-determined injury level or threshold. The injury level occurs when the population causes an unacceptable amount of injury or damage.

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