To Boost IPM Adoption, Treat It as a Complex Social System

Mar 15, 2019

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By Ryan Adams 
 
In a perfect world, integrated pest management, or IPM, reduces damage caused by pests, reduces impacts on the environment, and saves farmers money. Using IPM techniques including crop rotation, biological control, and pest monitoring, farmers have saved billions of dollars both in crop losses as well as pesticide costs while reducing negative environmental impacts. Sounds great right? So, why aren’t all farmers embracing IPM?
 
 
Why some farmers choose not to practice IPM, and why IPM doesn’t always work as predicted, are some of the questions that Roger Magarey, Ph.D., and his colleagues at North Carolina State University and Texas A&M University hope to answer by considering the “people factor” in IPM. In a new article published in February in the open-access Journal of Integrated Pest Management, Magarey and co-authors make the case that treating IPM as a “social ecological system” can help improve pest management outcomes and convince more farmers to use it. 
 
Pesticides have played a part in making food cheap and plentiful in many parts of the world, but that abundance comes at a price. Pesticides cause an estimated $10-35 billion dollars of damage to human health and the environment in the U.S. each year. Yet, some farmers’ pest management decisions are more influenced by pesticide marketing and market forces than by these impacts. Traditionally, agricultural extension offices have provided information and support for farmers using IPM, but, as funding for these programs declines, more farmers rely on recommendations from agrochemical companies themselves. In addition, many agricultural companies now sell “farm management systems,” which include coordinated seed, pesticides, fertilizers, and post-harvest treatments for a crop. These integrated systems may limit farmers’ ability to use IPM strategies.