Integrated Pest Management: How it Works and Why it is Important

Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is a process or system that uses a variety of methods and techniques in the control of pests that cause harm to crops. It can be applied to any form of farming, including organic and conventional, and aims to give farmers the best options available, whatever their choice of cultivation is.

In this video Christophe Jolly, a Belgian farmer who grows both organically and conventionally, discusses IPM with Syngenta crop scientist and advisor Christian Walravens.

A key objective of IPM s to mitigate economic and adverse health impacts of weeds and pests, but this can be achieved in a number of ways designed to have the least impact on the environment. IPM techniques use a variety of methods, including encouraging biodiversity in hedgerows and flower plantations to attract species that prey on or deter parasites.

Where they are required, the application of pesticides is kept to a minimum, including both organic and synthetic treatments. What might be surprising to consumers, according to Christian, is that growing organically does not necessarily mean that no crop protection solutions are used. There are various products that are certified organic which are used to control pests.

In using an IPM approach on his farm, Christophe explains, pesticides are applied on a case-by-case basis. The key is the safe use of any pesticide, and ensuring that farmers are fully trained to handle them. It’s important to understand that all products have undergone extensive studies, trials and testing before they are licenced for use by farmers, meaning consumers can have absolute trust in European food production and our food supply.

Is it possible for a farm to be viable without using pesticides at all?

In the future it is more likely that there will be a blend of practices: for example, certain herbicides could be eliminated through more mechanical weeding. However there will always be a trade-off between labour-intensive practices and  cost-effective sustainable farming. Other fungicides and pesticides will be used at the choice of each food producer, but why not make the best use of the resources and technical advances that exist in today’s modern farming?