Global scientists meet for integrated pest management idea sharing
Improving production, preventing loss, and reducing threats to human health were on the agenda for about 500 participants from 28 countries who convened March 24-26 in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the 8th International Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Symposium. IPM is a site-specific strategy for preventing, avoiding, monitoring, and suppressing pests, both indoors and outdoors.The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provides funding and program leadership for IPM research and extension. Over the past three years, NIFA has invested about $82 million on about 500 projects per year. These and similar efforts produce an array of cultural and “biorational” tactics (relatively non-toxic and with few ecological side-effects) that reduce the need for pesticide applications, which is a foundational concept for successful organic production.
NIFA Deputy Director Dr. Parag Chitnis, the symposium’s opening plenary speaker, addressed the challenges of managing pests in a world where the climate is changing, human and pest populations are increasing, and pests are adapting to expanding environments.
“A warming climate and increasing global population are significant agricultural concerns that IPM can help solve,” Chitnis said. “Agriculture in the 21st century will challenge us to integrate data into decisions and think on an agricultural systems scale.”
IPM has its roots in food production and it is essential to manage the economic losses to pests in food crops. In the developing world, 40-50 percent of all crop yields are lost to pests, crop diseases, or post-harvest losses. Even in the United States, that number is 20-25 percent.
Effective implementation of IPM throughout the food system can reduce those losses. In the agricultural realms of organic and specialty crops, NIFA-supported Minor Crop Pest Management Program projects (commonly known as “IR-4”) provide producers with the tools and tactics they need.
Examples of NIFA-funded IPM projects include cotton growing in Arizona, where producers were able to reduce the number of annual pesticide applications from nine in the 1990s to an average of less than two, and an Oregon noxious weed-suppression program that decreased the costs of 19 weed species from $101.5 million in 2000 to $43.1 million last year.
IPM is not just about killing bugs; one of IPM’s latest areas of emphasis is pollinator protection. Many states hope to reduce honey bee losses by improving communication among crop producers, pesticide applicators, and beekeepers.
Through federal funding and leadership for research, education, and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.