The University of Massachusetts Extension Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program is a systems-oriented educational program that involves an interdisciplinary approach to ecosystem management, agricultural crop production and community pest management. This approach incorporates mechanisms for accurate estimation of both pest and beneficial insect populations, includes both economic and environmental cost and benefit assessments, and prescribes a combination of strategies for control of pest problems.
The goal of the program is to provide research-based information, education, and cost effective techniques for growers, grounds managers, and others to use in producing high yields of quality products, and to help maintain crops, landscapes, schools or other structures while reducing potential adverse effects on human health and the environment. A further goal is to enhance adoption of IPM practices by the greatest possible number of users and aid in the development of private-sector IPM services.
What is IPM?
IPM is an acronym for Integrated Pest Management, a philosophy and approach for managing pests, which incorporates biological, chemical and cultural control strategies. The vast majority of the applied research for IPM has been carried out since the early 1970's at land-grant colleges in the US, and their counterparts throughout the world.
It is generally accepted that IPM is a systems approach to pest management, based on accurate pest identification and monitoring, use of economic and/or aesthetic thresholds, and use of all suitable control measures (including chemical, cultural, and biological controls). This is accomplished in an ecologically compatible manner, maintaining pest population levels below those causing economically significant injury. If no effective non-pesticide control measures are available, a key IPM tenet is that selected pesticides should result in the lowest possible risk to health or the environment.
Why is IPM important to the Commonwealth?
Agriculture and related industries (e.g., golf courses, sports turf, landscape and lawn maintenance, arboriculture, etc.) convey substantial benefits to the Commonwealth. These include availability of affordable, fresh local food and fiber, open space, recreational opportunities, and a significant contribution to the state's economy. In some towns, the few remaining farms constitute the largest amount of remaining open space, and many public or private water supplies are drawn from aquifers underlying this agricultural land.
However, because pesticides typically used in pest management have been known to cause environmental degradation and have potential human health effects, a need exists to develop and implement pest management systems that are less reliant on chemical pesticides. At the same time, there is also a need for such systems to maintain economic viability of affected businesses, food quality and affordability, and quality of life measures for all citizens.
Background of IPM activities at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Since its initiation in 1978, the UMass IPM Program has served as a significant source of research-based outreach education focused on integrated management systems for important agricultural crops, service industries, and communities in Massachusetts and New England. This is the result of a group of recognized scholars working on targeted and well-focused applied research about pest ecology, behavior, and biological control, coupled with a motivated and well-managed education program offered by UMass Extension Agriculture and Landscape staff.
Currently, the majority of the funding is obtained through a competitive grant opportunity from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Salary and fringe benefit costs of some key participating faculty and staff are paid through the base budget of the UMass Amherst College of Natural Sciences and the Agricultural Experiment Station.
UMass Extension staff currently offer statewide educational, demonstration, and research projects for producers of cranberries, apples, vegetables, small fruits, and greenhouse crops as well as for managers of public and private landscapes and turf. UMass Extension faculty and professional staff are expected to maintain a strong connection with end users through direct contact and through meetings of advisory committees. Advisory committees are typically composed of a diverse group of stakeholders representing industry, private IPM consultants, environmental and consumer advocates and others. These groups play an active role in identifying research and extension needs and in providing a critical 'feedback loop' regarding feasibility.