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Using IPM in vegetable insect control

How cultural practices can help you avoid unnecessary insecticide applications.

Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, has become an important practice for many growers looking to economically manage insects in their crops. Depending on the plant, however, certain IPM practices work better than others. In this article, we will explore some of the most important IPM practices for commercial vegetable growers and the effects that these practices have on the crops.


The most important thing growers can do to keep insects under control is scout frequently.

Alton "Stormy" Sparks, Professor of Entomology at the University of Georgia, stresses the significance of scouting in a successful IPM program. "Vegetables have a low tolerance for damage, so if pests damage 10 percent of the crop, that small amount of harm might make the crop unmarketable," Sparks explains.

Large commercial operations typically rely on commercial scouting and consulting, while smaller ones depend on Extension services and employees. However you choose to scout, make sure the job is done often and thoroughly.

"You need to know what is going on in the entire field," Sparks says. "While it depends on the crop and the time of the year, I recommend scouting your fields twice a week at a minimum."

Clean Slate

IPM practices strive to minimize insect damage and to avoid unnecessary insecticide use. One way to achieve this is by going into the season with a clean crop. By stressing good cultivation and sanitation practices, for example, you can avoid some insect problems from the start.

In addition, if you use transplants, make sure they are pest-free before planting. "You don't want to already have a pest problem before planting," Sparks says. "Do everything you can to minimize pest pressure before you start."

For most insect problems, IPM experts recommend scouting and treatment of insects as needed, instead of applying preventive insecticide. This makes starting clean more of a challenge.

"With disease problems, once you see them, it's too late to treat, so preventive treatments like fungicide are necessary," Sparks explains. "With insects, however, growers can wait and see what shows up before treating."

Lose the Residue

Another way vegetable growers can ensure they start the season with a clean slate is to end the prior season clean. If left out in the field too long, crop residue can host insects, weeds and disease.

By eliminating residue quickly, you can avoid many pest problems in the future. Sparks advises growers to dispose of the residue immediately. "When you're done with the crop, get rid of the residue."

By employing cultural practices to protect against insects instead of spraying unneeded insecticides, vegetable growers can leverage a successful IPM program to save money and still ensure a quality harvest. For more information on IPM programs for vegetable growers, please consult your local agronomist or Southern States professional.

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