Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a sustainable and broad-based approach that integrates practices for the economic prevention and control of pests and diseases in crops. Natural enemies can be effective, and pesticides (chemical substances for controlling pests) are only used when alternative options do not produce the required result. There are fewer problems with natural crop protection agents because of the presence of residues from pesticides. There is also less resistance to natural agents.

Integrated crop protection

IPM (Integrated crop protection) ensures that the cultivation of healthy crops is as sustainable as possible. An important characteristic is the integrated approach which uses eight coordinated measures.

IPM makes growers less reliant on chemical crop protection agents. In many cases, integrated crop protection also cuts the costs of cultivation while at the same time increasing yields and improving quality. This means IPM also provides financial sustainability.

IPM research is very diverse

Integrated crop protection is based on several ‘pillars’ such as biological control with natural enemies and resistant varieties of crops such as potatoes and tomatoes, but experts from Wageningen University & Research are also working on integrated weed control and greater resilience through intercropping. We’re also working with IPM in aquatic farming and poultry farming: integrated pest control for poultry mites.

Questions and answers about IPM:

What is IPM?

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a sustainable and broad-based approach that integrates eight practices for the economic prevention and control of pests and diseases in crops.

The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) of the UN describes it as: ‘Integrated Pest Management (IPM) means the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and subsequent integration of appropriate measures that discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce or minimise risks to human health and the environment. IPM emphasises the growth of a healthy crop with the least possible disruption to agro-ecosystems and encourages natural pest control mechanisms.’

Can computational models help with IPM?

Experts from Wageningen University & Research have performed a great deal of research into the possibilities presented by biological control. The results of experiments have been used to build computer models which have simulated the development of numbers of pest insects and biological control agents. These models and decision support systems can calculate how many biological control agents are required in a certain situation, for example.

Researchers from Wageningen are still currently developing and using computer models like this, New biological control agents are still being sought, and better methods for using these biological control agents are being investigated

Is it possible to breed natural enemies?

As new exotic pests emerge, you can look for biological control agents in their place of origin, to be able to add the pest control into the integrated crop protection. However, this involves the introduction of extra risks because these biological control agents do not occur here naturally. It is therefore better to develop new lines of biological control agents that are already present. This is possible through breeding and selection. Breeding and selection has long taken place with plants, but it’s a new phenomenon for biological control agents.

Breeding and selection

Researchers from Wageningen University & Research are developing techniques for the breeding and selection of better biological control agents. This enables the selection of natural enemies that are more effective or easier to propagate. Knowledge of the inheritance of characteristics, and of pests’ genes and their control agents, is crucial for improving biological control, as is knowledge of the biology of the pest and control agent.

Educating young scientists

Because the breeding of natural enemies is such a new field, it’s very important to train and educate young scientists in this field. Researchers from Wageningen are coordinating a training network in which researchers from universities, non-profit organisations and companies are trained in the various aspects of breeding biological control agents.

Young researchers are working on ‘population genomics’ of three species of natural enemies, on genome-based selection of natural enemies, and on predatory mites that are also effective in extreme environmental conditions. Computer models are also being used to investigate which properties of biological control agents are the most significant in the breeding process.

Read more about the project:

Can precision agriculture or robotic be used with IPM?

Whether integrated crop protection is used to take preventative or curative measures, it’s always very important that these measures are implemented as accurately as possible. Vision + Robotics and technology as precision agriculture can help with this.

Precision agriculture

Precision agriculture is a method that is used to give crops the correct treatment as precisely as possible. Technology offers assistance in a number of stages in the operational procedure: detection, decision-making, execution and evaluation. Experts from Wageningen University & Research are working on the following technologies, amongst others:

  • Vision technology (image analysis) for the location-specific detection of illnesses, pests, weeds and crop conditions, and for monitoring over time
  • Molecular techniques for the detection of diseases and pests
  • Decision support systems: computer models that translate the detection of diseases, pests, weeds and crop conditions into management advice and cultivation measures
  • Application techniques: for precise use of preventative and curative measures against diseases, pests and weeds
  • Satellite technology: produces accurate images of plots of land and crops
  • Autonomous navigation: such as drones that make crop observations with cameras or autonomous tractors that make observations as they drive around the field
  • Farm Management Information Systems such as Akkerweb which use geo-data from satellites and other observation systems

Several of these technologies are often combined in precision agriculture. Researchers from Wageningen are therefore looking at the individual technologies and at combinations, for new and improved applications.

Read more in the dossier:

Is Integrated Weed Management (IWM) also IPM?

Weeds compete with crops and can transmit and spread diseases and pests. Weeds can result in more than a 30% loss of yield on good land. Whole harvests can be lost as a result of weeds on poor land, such as the cultivation of maize in Africa. It is therefore necessary to control weeds in agriculture and horticulture.

Integrated Weed Management (IWM) is related to Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Researchers from Wageningen University & Research are working, among other things, on:

  • production systems for integrated cultivation in which crop yields are equal to or higher than with conventional systems
  • tolerant and weed-suppressing varieties
  • crop management, such as sowing depth, soil cultivation (tillage), quantity and location of nutrients in the soil
  • control methods for interfering with the life cycles of weeds, such as precision agriculture using herbicides, burning, hoeing and harrowing
  • monitoring of weeds by Decision Support Systems

Read more in the following projects:

Examples of projects: