Increasingly chemicals are becoming more and more difficult to use. The Worker Protection Standard (WPS) has made the ease of use less so. Tightened regulations have forced many chemical prices to increase dramatically. Schooling for certification for pest control product applicators, which is just plain smart, is now a requirement instead of just a good thing to do if and when you have spare time. Re-entry intervals (REI), are being reduced as some newer products are being developed with less mammalian toxicity and shorter half-lives, but other than that, the products many growers have become accustomed to using and, in some cases abusing, are slipping away, one-by-one. It’s painful for many growers, but probably for the general good all around. The best things can often be, initially, the most painful to accept — sort of like quitting smoking.
Many old standby chemicals are being eliminated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as they’re suspect as to what harm they are really doing. The effects of long-term chemical exposure are being discovered by some, and being felt by others. People have died due to mild but long-term exposure to chemical pesticides. On the other hand, some of the same chemicals which are increasingly effective on humans (again, in the long-term), are becoming more and more ineffective on the pests they were designed to kill. The pests are becoming resistant.
Resistance is not necessarily a shortcoming of the substances. Nor does the problem completely lie with the manufacturers or their researchers. One major problem with these chemicals lies with the users’ inability to follow the instructions, and the manufacturers’ inability to educate growers on the products’ proper usage. Growers were given by many manufacturers the minimum EPA required verbiage on the labels-which even to this day can be very difficult to interpret-and little else in the area of general chemical usage education. Growers are told on the labels to spray the product at a certain rate and interval. The labels didn’t used to tell growers to stop using them, ever (though today this is new information on some labels). Between the facts that growers were using them week after week, not employing different classes of chemicals as part of a class rotation, and often times using the products at too high a concentration or applying them in an irregular fashion, not getting the coverage they were supposed to, or using them when and where they weren’t needed as part of a weekly thing-to-do, many of the targeted pests developed a resistance to the chemicals. Resistance was/is rendering the products useless. We’re not sure if the manufacturers didn’t know it themselves or didn’t feel it was worth passing the information along to their customers. The shortsighted, fiscal-minded thinking of the marketing gurus might have led otherwise responsible parties to the conclusion that sales would be better if the growers used their stuff all the time, as much as possible without killing the plants. After all their job is to sell, not educate. Had they been thinking more in the long-term, they would have realized their silver bullets would eventually tarnish and lose their potency. They could have extended greatly — possibly indefinitely — the usable life of their products. In essence the chemical manufacturers shot themselves in the foot (with their own tarnished silver bullets). And growers, most notably the largely unregulated home gardeners, added greatly to the overall problem.
And the Environment
Environmental concerns didn’t necessarily drive the movement towards biological pest control and integrated pest management, IPM. Desperation may have played a larger role. After all, the end game remained the same: kill the pests which kill the plants before the plants are killed. When the regular methodology no longer yielded the desired results, it was time to get creative. Necessity is the mother of invention. So true, so true. Thankfully there are many creative minds in this world.
The IPM Solution
IPM is more common-sense based than scientific. IPM prompts growers to use as many tools as available-including some chemicals-hence the “I” in IPM. Tools such as major and minor biological controls, chemical controls, botanical controls, physical means, deterrents and lures, even keen observation and education.
On this web site, we will try our best to define and explore these various tool categories and, in certain detail, the various facets and subcategories of each. Moreover, we will also attempt to address certain related topics such as disease management, since you can’t practice this stuff without taking into account all aspects. For example: one dose of a powerful, non-IPM accepted chemical fungicide or bactericide can destroy some of the biological pest control agents used in an IPM program. So everything must be considered. Remember, the “P” in IPM stands for pest. A pest can be an insect, a mite, even a disease. On this web site, however, certain omissions will be made, so thousands of pages won’t be needed. One topic, mammalian pests, will not be addressed in any detail, for example. For the sake of brevity, the pest categories covered will be limited to insects, mites and diseases.
Also addressed, since this web site is targeted at primarily commercial growers, topics such as cost effectiveness will also be included. We’ll be mentioning things like labor, marketing of wares produced in the IPM realm, etc. To commercial growers, topics such as these can not and must not be overlooked. Business is business, and in the real world, business rules. In other words, if profits cannot be realized while these practices are in effect, then new and different practices and protocols must be devised and established. Certain growers will be less vulnerable than others. Comparatively well-to-do universities, botanical gardens, arboretums and, especially, those doing it for pleasure, like most home gardeners, where monetary gain is unnecessary, life gets a little less complicated. The good news is this: if commercial growers can successfully do this, as many can and have, then it becomes a doable option for just about everyone and anyone.