Integrated Pest Management

Integrated pest management (IPM) is a systematic decision-making process that supports a balanced approach to managing crop and livestock production systems for the effective, economical and environmentally sound suppression of pests, including insects and mites, plant diseases, weeds and problem wildlife.

The elements of IPM include:

  1. Planning and managing agricultural production systems to prevent insects, plant diseases and weeds from becoming pests
  2. Identifying pests, their natural enemies and damage
  3. Monitoring populations of pests and beneficial organisms, pest damage and environmental conditions
  4. Making control decisions based on potential damage, cost of control methods, value of production and impact on other pests, beneficial organisms and the environment
  5. Using strategies that may include a combination of behavioural, biological, chemical, cultural and physical methods to reduce pest populations to acceptable levels
  6. Evaluating the effects and efficacy of management decisions

The IPM concept has evolved in response to problems caused by an over-reliance on chemical pesticides. Some of these problems are:

  • development of pesticide resistance
  • adverse impacts on natural enemies of pests and other nontarget species
  • outbreaks of formerly suppressed pests
  • risks to environmental, human and food safety

IPM requires knowledge of how to identify pests and evaluate their damage, how to identify natural control agents and how to select effective control methods that minimize undesirable side effects.

Control options for individual pests should be selected with the entire vineyard management system in mind. Many pest prevention and cultural control methods are part of normal crop production operations.

1. Prevent Pests

Pest prevention is the first step in avoiding pest problems in your vineyard. The objectives are to prevent the plants from becoming susceptible to pest attack, to preserve natural enemies (biological control agents) and to avoid attracting or introducing pests into the vineyard.

Best management practices to achieve these objectives include:

  • Selecting a vineyard site that is suitable for the grape varieties to be grown or selecting grape varieties suited to the site
  • Optimizing plant health to avoid predisposing plants to attack and to reduce the impact of pest attack on plant production through proper irrigation and nutrition programs
  • Encouraging the establishment of natural enemies through use of compatible pesticides and flowering plants that supply nectar and pollen for these biocontrol agents
  • Using recommended crop waste management practices to avoid attracting or maintaining pests, such as proper disposal of prunings and diseased or infested plants and plant parts
  • Managing movement of soil, plants, equipment and vehicles to avoid introduction of pests

2. Identify Damage, Pests and Natural Enemies

An essential step in applying IPM is to correctly identify insect or disease damage or a specimen that might be a pest or a biological control agent (natural enemy). Selection and implementation of effective control strategies requires knowledge about the pest, regardless of what type it is, and an understanding of its life cycle or transmission.

The Crop Protection section of this guide includes individual pages for a variety of pests that describe when and where to look, symptoms of disease and pest injury and the life cycle of pests and natural enemies. Correct identification ensures that the correct control product or management practice is used.

If you do not recognize the pest, plant or disease/disorder, submit samples to your nearest Ministry of Agriculture or Canadian Food Inspection Agency office for identification. Early detection of invasive alien species will allow earlier application of management practices to eliminate the new problem or slow its spread.

The Province's Plant Health Laboratory in Abbotsford provides identification of pathogenic and non-pathogenic disorders affecting commercial crops in B.C. Instructions for submitting samples, including fees and forms, are located on its website.

There is no fee charged for specimens submitted as suspected invasive alien species.

3. Monitor

Monitoring is another essential component of all IPM programs.

Monitoring involves timely sampling of the crop or site using prescribed methods to quantify the abundance and distribution of pests and their damage. Also monitor natural enemies where methods are available. Use the information to decide if and when control action is required. For example, examine leaves for the presence and abundance of mites and leafhoppers and inspect green berries to determine the degree of powdery mildew infection.

Monitor regularly and consistently as required to get valid information. Monitoring is not only important for deciding if control is necessary but is also useful for evaluating the effectiveness of a control treatment or practice.

Monitoring techniques are available for some vineyard pests and diseases. These techniques are used at a particular time in the life cycle of a pest or disease (such as larval stage or spore release) or in vine development (such as dormant, bud growth or cap fall).

These techniques also involve the use of specific sampling units (such as number of leaves or vines in one hour) and equipment (such as thermometer, trap, beating tray, sweep net). Failure to follow the instructions as described can result in incorrect information and poor control decisions.

The presence of damage alone is not a clear indication that treatment is necessary as the pest may be gone or not in a stage susceptible to control.

How to monitor

Use a 10-20x hand lens to inspect plants and a notebook to record observations and numbers for later evaluation. Beating trays, sweep nets and insect traps are useful for capturing insect pests and their natural enemies.

You can make a beating tray using white or pale green preshrunk fabric stretched over a 45 cm x 45 cm piece of plywood, or wooden or PVC pipe frame, to form a smooth, taut surface. Light-coloured insects are easier to spot on darker cloth. Attach a handle to one side or to the underside to make handling easier.

Cover the impact end of the beating stick with rubber or other soft padding to prevent injury to vines. The beating tray is held under a limb, which is then rapped sharply three times (= one limb tap) to dislodge any insects onto the tray for counting. Make sure to clear the board of all insects and debris between each limb tap.

Insect traps can collect insect pests either by visual attraction (e.g. yellow sticky boards) or by traps (e.g. earwigs). Proper placement and maintenance of these traps is essential if they are to be effective.

Sweep nets are useful for collecting insects from vines and from vegetation within rows and around the vineyard.

Some monitoring and sampling equipment is available through local grower supplies retailers.

Where pest forecast models are available, monitoring daily temperatures and rainfall is necessary for these computer-generated models to indicate the presence of a specific development stage of an insect (egg, larva, nymph, etc) and to indicate an infection period of a plant disease.

4. Make Control Decisions

The objective of IPM is not to control 100% of the pests in a vineyard. This is neither possible nor desirable.

The potential impact of a particular level of pests varies greatly depending on vine vigour and variety, crop value, weather conditions and abundance of natural enemies. For example:

  • Little leafhopper damage may result to leaves early in the season if the weather is cold and rainy.
  • Cool weather delays egg laying and hatching, which would postpone spray applications.
  • A block of very vigorous vines with a light crop may be able to tolerate much higher numbers of mites than another block suffering from inadequate nutrition.
  • Severity of powdery mildew varies according to temperature, moisture conditions and the degree of infection the previous year.

Because of these influencing factors, the control action thresholds recommended in this guide are only guidelines.

Once you have reviewed the monitoring and other relevant information, you or your advisor can then determine the need for a pesticide application. This task is easier if there is an economic threshold value to follow. Otherwise you must weigh the economic benefit expected from the treatment against the direct and indirect costs of control. Never protect a crop simply for cosmetic purposes.

To estimate the benefit of control, compare the expected loss from the pest(s) if you do not apply a pesticide to the cost of applying the pesticide. Direct costs of pesticide application include purchase and transport of pesticide, application and clean-up time, protective clothing and training and licensing requirements. Indirect costs are difficult to measure and include hazard to the applicator, workers, pollinators and other non-target species and risk of pesticide resistance development.

Spray effectiveness varies depending on quality of application equipment and technique, weather conditions, timing with respect to presence of susceptible stage of pest or disease and the status of pest resistance to the pesticide.

5. Use IPM Control Methods

As previously stated, IPM involves the combined use of chemical, biological, cultural and other control methods supported by accurate pest identification, monitoring and economic thresholds to minimize crop losses and undesirable side effects on people and the environment.

The IPM programs used in grape production differ in the use of control options. However, they all involve some form of pest or pest damage monitoring. For example:

  • IPM of mites begins with avoiding use of chemicals harmful to predatory mites. Mite IPM also involves monitoring pest and predatory mite abundance and noting evidence of damage (yellowed leaves) and vigour of vines. If a miticide treatment is necessary, select a product that will reduce plant-feeding mites without killing predaceous mites.
  • IPM of leafhoppers involves monitoring for egg hatching or for foliage damage, applying an insecticide as needed, monitoring of parasitized leafhopper eggs and providing proper irrigation and nutrition to ensure healthy vines.
  • IPM of cutworms involves monitoring developing buds in the spring for signs of feeding (buds hollowed out), inspecting the subsoil at the base of vines and the foliage for cutworms and applying a recommended insecticide if required.

Vineyard floor vegetation management should apply a balanced approach to minimizing rodent damage and nutrient and water competition to vines and preserving suitable habitat for some natural enemies of vine pests.

Also, destruction of floor vegetation may create a pest problem. For example, do not destroy flowering plants from about one week prior to one week after full bloom of grapes to minimize western flower thrips movement up into the vines and fruit clusters and subsequent damage (pansy spot).

6. Keep Records and Evaluate

A very important but often neglected component of IPM is evaluating the results of pest and crop management programs at the end of the season. Did the management decisions result in the expected outcomes? If not, why?

Such evaluation is only possible by keeping accurate records of pest and crop management activities. Growers should record results and observations of pest, damage and beneficial species monitoring and also record irrigation, fertilizer and pesticide applications.

Keep separate records for each block to form a permanent record for future reference. Such information is useful to identify changes in pest and natural enemy prevalence. Use these records to identify weaknesses and plan adjustments in the programs for the next growing season by consulting available technical publications and advisory services.

Accurate record keeping is an essential component of IPM, and these records may be required as part of any production certification programs developed for the commodity.

For various pest and disease monitoring activities, record the date, block/variety, pest/disease name, number found, sample size or unit and any observations that could useful when the pest management programs are evaluated.

Record all pesticide and fertilizer application activities performed by you, an employee or consultant. Record the application date, block ID, vine growth stage, pest controlled, product used (trade name) and amount per tank, rate used/ha, spray volume/ha, pre-harvest interval and re-entry interval (as stated on the label) and weather conditions.