Integrated pest management (IPM)

| August 19, 2022

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This week’s Farmer story from Ghana talks about the approach to managing pests called integrated pest management, or IPM. But what is IPM? Here’s our Script of the week, a backgrounder on IPM. 

IPM emerged in the 1940s and 1950s with the recognition that overreliance on chemical (or synthetic) pesticides can cause environmental problems. 

This backgrounder defines IPM, introduces the principles of IPM, and uses examples from managing various insect pests to illustrate the principles.

A pesticide can be defined as “a substance used to destroy or prevent insects or other organisms harmful to cultivated plants. It includes, among others, insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides. It includes chemical pesticides and biological pesticides (biopesticides).”

The need for an IPM approach in Africa is underlined by the fact that, according to a recent study, approximately 20% of the active ingredients in pesticides registered in 14 African countries fall into the FAO category of “highly hazardous pesticides”, which, among other criteria, can have acute or chronic toxic effects and “pose particular risk to children.”

Industrialized countries have banned or strongly restricted many of these pesticides. African farmers don’t often wear personal protective equipment, and have little awareness of how to safely handle pesticides, for example, safe storage and safe disposal of empty pesticide containers and packaging. Pesticide poisonings and hospitalizations are common in some regions. 

The costs to society from issues like damage to human health from pesticide use can be high; in Mali, the costs were estimated in 2002 at 40% of the costs paid by farmers for pesticide products. Also, pesticides generally kill the naturally-occurring predators and parasitoids that manage pests. This can cause pest populations to rebound to higher levels than before farmers applied pesticides, and result in a vicious cycle (also called the “pesticide treadmill”) in which farmers must use greater and greater volumes of pesticide to achieve adequate control, which results in insect pests developing resistance to individual pesticides or whole classes of pesticides.

This backgrounder contains the following sections: 

  • Why is integrated pest management important to listeners?
  • What is IPM?
  • What are some key facts about IPM?
  • What are the big challenges of IPM?
  • Is there misinformation about IPM that I should cover?
  • Gender aspects of IPM
  • Predicted impact of climate change on IPM
  • Successful IPM programs in Africa