Environmentally Friendly – Integrated Pest Management in the Sustainable Landscape

IPM (integrated pest management) is a good choice for sound solutions in dealing with pests. IPM promotes safe, least-toxic solutions to both pest and pesticide problems.

What can IPM do for you? IPM helps you deal with pests, insects, and plant diseases with methods that help keep health and environmental risks as low as possible. IPM is integrated because it brings together, or integrates, a range of biological, organic, cultural, mechanical, and chemical options for pest problems. And it’s about management because you can only manage pests, you can’t eliminate them.

Integrated pest management rarely relies on just one tactic, it integrates tactics to reduce pests to levels you can live with.

The basics of IPM are as follows:

  • Step 1: Be prepared, know your pests: What pests can you expect and how can you avoid them? Learn which tactics work, and under which conditions, when pests show up in your landscape. Learn about the beneficial organisms that can help you out.
  • Step 2: Think prevention: It’s the first step in IPM. Don’t provide
    Photo: Christopher McCullough

    Photo: Christopher McCullough

    safe harbor for pests, keep landscapes clean, and remove dead and dying foliage. Keep plants and lawns healthy so they can resist pests better.

  • Step 3: Monitor your landscape, no surprises: Scout routinely, keeping tabs on potential pests. Know your threshold, the point when a few pests become a few too many.
  • Step 4: Analyze, think strategy: Every tactic costs something. Will your benefits justify the costs? Know all the options before you commit.
  • Step 5: Manage, choose and use: Choose tactics and tools that provide the best results while keeping environmental costs as low as possible and staying within your budget. Whatever option you settle on, do it right.
  • Step 6: Apply, think again: How did it work? What did you learn? How much has the situation changed?


Now let’s break down each step in detail.

Step 1: Prepare: Know your pests

  • Which pests can you expect? What do they look like? What kind of damage can they cause? When and how should you watch for them? What can you do to avoid them? Which tactics should you use to manage them? What are your strengths and limitations in terms of skill and equipment? What beneficial species will help you?
  • Think of pests as populations instead of as individuals. Populations have: density, how many are in the lawn and garden, and age distributions, a pest may be susceptible to treatment at one point in its life cycle, but not at another, and are the pests at that point, or not?

Step 2: Prevent:

Protect landscapes for the long term. Learn what pests need to thrive, then don’t give it to them. Examples:

  • Remove hiding places, thin ornamentals to provide airflow.
  • Mow correctly to keep down weeds, help prevent diseases, and keep lawns healthy.
  • Promote biological diversity in the landscape to give beneficial organisms a helping hand.
  • Utilize plant varieties that resist common disease and insect pests.
  • Improve your soil for healthier plants.

Step 3: Monitor

Scout landscapes to find out which pests are present.

  • Landscapers can use University of Hawaii, Landscape Hawaii and CGAPS reports to decide if, when, and where to scout.
  • Monitor plants and turf regularly to determine new infestations or the status of existing infestations. 

Step 4: Analyze:

  • Your scouting data, your IPM threshold, tells you if it’s time to act. Many ornamental plants can tolerate some pests before you incur losses. Will your benefits justify the costs? Know all the options before you commit. Changing the planting to an insect resistant type of plant is an option.

Step 5: Manage

If action is called for, choose among those that provide the best balance of economic and environmental cost and effect while reducing risk. Examples:

  • Plant disease-resistant, insect resistant plants and turf (genetic).
  • Judicious, careful use of herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides (chemical).
  • Release parasitic beneficial insects (biological).

Step 6: Apply

When management is justified, do it right.

  • If you use a pesticide, be sure you READ THE LABEL, follow the directions, and wear protective clothing and equipment.
  • Pesticides may only work during a certain part of a pest’s life cycle.
  •  Biological control agents, “good bugs”, need to be released in the proper place, at the proper time.

Integrated pest management can be an effective tool for landscape maintenance specialists to maintain high quality landscapes in a sustainable manner. Through the use of IPM we can all malama our aina and be a part of a greener future.


Christopher McCullough is the Head Horticulturist for DFI Resources LLC and past president of HILA.

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About the author  ⁄ Chauncey Hirose-Hulbert

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