Integrated pest management (IPM) for agriculture & outdoor use

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Scientifically Supported

Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.

Health Factors  
Date last updated

Integrated pest management (IPM) includes a broad range of methods to control pests that also minimize potential hazards to people, property, and the environment. IPM employs a four-tiered approach – setting action thresholds, monitoring and identifying pests, preventing pests from becoming a threat, and pest control as needed. IPM pest control begins with the least risky approaches (e.g., using pheromones or mechanical controls such as weeding or trapping) and moves to targeted pesticide application only if other measures are not successful. IPM practices only permit broadcast spraying of non-specific pesticides as a last resort (and not in organic food production). The IPM approach can be used in outdoor settings such as farms, home gardens, parks, or any other landscaped environment1.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Reduced pesticide use

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Reduced pesticide exposure

  • Reduced run-off

  • Improved water quality

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is strong evidence that integrated pest management (IPM) practices reduce pesticide use and successfully control pests for many crops in a variety of outdoor settings2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Agricultural practices such as landscape diversification, integrated weed management, habitat management, trap cropping, and other prevention and control tactics such as pheromone bait stations and biological control agents can be used as part of an IPM plan, and such practices have been shown to reduce pesticide use and control pests2, 5, 9, 10, 11, 12. There is significant variability in implementation of IPM practices, some efforts reduce pesticide use better than others and effectiveness in many cases depends on matching appropriate IPM practices to specific crops1, 9.

Models suggest that IPM practices eliminate pests more effectively than conventional practices13, 14. Field trials show that IPM practices and reductions in pesticide use do not reduce crop yields15, 16, and in some cases, IPM adoption has resulted in higher crop yields7, 17. Area-wide IPM, coordinated IPM efforts at the regional level, control mobile pest populations better than less widespread efforts, and may be necessary to improve regional ecosystems and watersheds18.

Farmers in the Navajo Nation introduced to IPM practices through a culturally relevant model reduced pesticide use, improved pesticide storage and safety behaviors, and increased crop yields; changes were maintained after the intervention ended7. Fresh fruits and vegetables grown with IPM practices have significantly less pesticide residue than conventionally grown produce, although organically grown vegetables have the lowest amounts of pesticide residues19. IPM practices and reductions in pesticide use reduce exposure to pesticides for agricultural workers16, 20, consumers19, and wildlife and ecosystems8. Pesticide exposure increases risks to human health through increased cancer incidence and various negative neurologic, reproductive, and genotoxic effects21.

Successful IPM plans need to be site-specific, consider many factors such as pest movement and crop type, and take time to develop22. Often additional time is needed to evaluate IPM plans to ensure adequate plant protection3. Several strategies can encourage adoption of IPM plans using biological control methods, including more education initiatives explaining already proven, ready-to-use biological control options, cost benefit analyses comparing biological controls to chemical controls, and public and private sector policies23.

IPM practices can reduce farming costs16, 24, and can be used at any farm production scale, though IPM may be more cost-effective in smaller scale operations24. Biological control methods may have the highest return on investment among IPM practices2.

Plans designed by pest control consultants that work for pesticide companies are sometimes pesticide management plans rather than full IPM plans. Pesticide management plans are not as effective at reducing pesticide use as plans that adhere to the National Resources Conservation Service standards for IPM25, 26.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated no impact on disparities likely.
Implementation Examples

All 50 states have IPM programs. Regional IPM centers and federal IPM programs also support development of IPM practices27. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is the primary agency connecting the federal government with the land-grant university system; it also administers and provides leadership for many IPM programs28.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) administers the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP) that works with the pesticide-user community to promote IPM practices, and currently has over 200 participating member companies and organizations in 41 states and Washington, D.C.29. The PESP has also started the Landscaping Initiative that partners with businesses, lawn care professionals, government agencies, local/community organizations to reduce the need for pesticides, fertilizers, irrigation, and energy inputs by working in concert with nature and promoting IPM practices30.

Implementation Resources

NRCS-Standard of practice - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Conservation practice standard: Integrated pest management (IPM). National Handbook of Conservation Practices (NHCP). Code 595;2010.

US EPA-IPM - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). Integrated pest management (IPM) principles.

USDA-IPM - U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM).


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1 US EPA-IPM - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). Integrated pest management (IPM) principles.

2 Naranjo 2015 - Naranjo SE, Ellsworth PC, Frisvold GB. Economic value of biological control in integrated pest management of managed plant systems. Annual Review of Entomology. 2015;60:621-645.

3 DuPont 2021 - DuPont ST, Strohm C, Nottingham L, Rendon D. Evaluation of an integrated pest management program for central Washington pear orchards. Biological Control. 2021;152:104390.

4 Leach 2020 - Leach A, Reiners S, Nault B. Challenges in integrated pest management: A case study of onion thrips and bacterial bulb rot in onion. Crop Protection. 2020;133:105123.

5 Luo 2019 - Luo Z, Magsi FH, Li Z, et al. Development and evaluation of sex pheromone mass trapping technology for Ectropis grisescens: A potential integrated pest management strategy. Insects. 2020;11:15.

6 Chen 2013 - Chen AR, Klein MG, Sheng C, et al. Use of pheromone timed insecticide applications integrated with mating disruption or mass trapping against Ostrina furnacalis (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) in sweet corn. Entomological Society of America (ESA). 2013;42(6):1390-1399.

7 Helitzer 2016 - Helitzer DL, Hathorn G, Benally J, Ortega C. Culturally relevant model program to prevent and reduce agricultural injuries. Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health. 2014;20(3):175-198.

8 Edosa 2018 - Edosa TT, Jo YH, Keshavarz M, et al. Current status of the management of fall webworm, Hyphantria cunea: Towards the integrated pest management development. Journal of Applied Entomology. 2019;143:1-10.

9 Garcia 2020 - Garcia K, Olimpi EM, Karp DS, Gonthier DJ. The good, the bad, and the risky: Can birds be incorporated as biological control agents into integrated pest management programs? Journal of Integrated Pest Management. 2021;11(1):1-11.

10 Sarles 2015 - Sarles L, Verhaeghe A, Francis F, Verheggen FJ. Semiochemicals of Rhagoletis fruit flies: Potential for integrated pest management. Crop Protection. 2015;78:114-118.

11 Bianchi 2006 - Bianchi FJJA, Booij CJH, Tscharntke T. Sustainable pest regulation in agricultural landscapes: A review on landscape composition, biodiversity and natural pest control. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 2006;273:1715-27.

12 Anderson 2007 - Anderson R. Managing weeds with a dualistic approach of prevention and control: A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development. 2007;27:13-18.

13 Liu 2005 - Liu B, Zhang Y, Chen L. The dynamical behaviors of a Lotka-Volterra predator-prey model concerning integrated pest management. Nonlinear Analysis: Real World Applications. 2005;6:227-243.

14 Tang 2005 - Tang S, Xiao Y, Chen L, Cheke R. Integrated pest management models and their dynamical behaviour. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology. 2005;67:115-135.

15 Macfadyen 2014 - Macfadyen S, Hardie DC, Fagan L, et al. Reducing insecticide use in broad-acre grains production: An Australian study. PLOS ONE. 2014;9(2):e89119.

16 Sikora 2002 - Sikora EJ, Kemble JM, Zehnder GW, et al. Using on-farm demonstrations to promote integrated pest management practices in tomato production. HortTechnology. 2002;12(3):485-488.

17 Birch 2011 - Birch ANE, Begg GS, Squire GR. How agro-ecological research helps to address food security issues under new IPM and pesticide reduction policies for global crop production systems. Journal of Experimental Botany. 2011;62(10):3251-61.

18 Cumming 2006 - Cumming GS, Spiesman BJ. Regional problems need integrated solutions: Pest management and conservation biology in agroecosystems. Biological Conservation. 2006;131:533-543.

19 Baker 2002 - Baker BP, Benbrook CM, Groth E, Benbrook KL. Pesticide residues in conventional, integrated pest management (IPM)-grown and organic foods: Insights from three U.S. data sets. Food Additives and Contaminants. 2002;19(5):427-447.

20 Hruska 2002 - Hruska A, Corriols M. The impact of training in integrated pest management among Nicaraguan maize farmers: Increased net returns and reduced health risk. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (IJOEH). 2002;8(3):191-200.

21 Sanborn 2007 - Sanborn M, Kerr KJ, Sanin LH, et al. Non-cancer health effects of pesticides. Canadian Family Physician. 2007;53:1712-1720.

22 Jian 2019 - Jian F. Influences of stored product insect movements on integrated pest management decisions. Insects. 2019;10:100.

23 Baker 2020 - Baker BP, Green TA, Loker AJ. Biological control and integrated pest management in organic and conventional systems. Biological Control. 2020;140:104095.

24 Grasswitz 2019 - Grasswitz TR. Integrated pest management (IPM) for small-scale farms in developed economies: Challenges and opportunities. Insects. 2019;10:179.

25 Ehler 2006 - Ehler LE. Integrated pest management (IPM): Definition, historical development and implementation, and the other IPM. Pest Management Science. 2006;62:787-789.

26 NRCS-Standard of practice - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Conservation practice standard: Integrated pest management (IPM). National Handbook of Conservation Practices (NHCP). Code 595;2010.

27 USDA-Regional IPM centers - U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Regional IPM centers: A national umbrella site for the regional IPM centers.

28 USDA NIFA-IPMP - U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Integrated pest management program (IPMP).

29 US EPA-PESP - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). Pesticide environmental stewardship program (PESP).

30 US EPA-PESP Landscaping Initiative - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA). Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP): PESP Landscaping Initiative.