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What are the Different Kinds of “Controls” Used in IPM?

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

Some agricultural or horticultural practices are challenging to define as just one kind of control method. Nonetheless, here we’ll try to do so in order to define these terms with examples:

1. “Genetic Control”: Selecting cultivars for host-plant resistance to expected primary pressures.

2. “Cultural Control”: Cultural controls are a broad set of grower protocols and practices that reduce pest establishment, reproduction, dispersal, and survival, including, but certainly limited to, irrigation, fertigation, and sanitation practices. Other examples are crop rotation, companion planting, intercropping, delayed planting, early harvest, or other intentional timing.

3. “Physical/Mechanical Control”: mulches, soil sterilization, squishing pests by hand, using barriers or screens, weeding, tillage practices, heat-based techniques, using trap crops, or other traps, and various forms of habitat manipulation or otherwise physically or mechanically creating environments that are inhospitable to pests and pathogens.

Using banker plants, or otherwise providing resources for biological control agents (BCAs) to establish their populations by feeding and reproducing, can be considered a physical or a cultural control method

4. “Biological Control”: Biocontrol is a method of controlling pests using other organisms. So, technically, “microbial control” is a subset of biocontrol, as it utilizes microbes and fungi to control pathogens and pests.

Using beneficial insects to control arthropod pests is a common practice; attracting them to your crops from the periphery of the farm using various techniques and/or releasing additional insects to help achieve the desired population.

Parasitoids (like Aphidius wasps), predators (like Ambylseius mites), and natural disease agents (like Beauveria bassiana), are commonly used for the biological control of certain insect pests.

The bats that eat the moths who might eat your crop is technically biocontrol in the form of a natural predator. This is just a single example, but understanding the ecology of the organisms involved in your agroecosystem helps inform your management decisions.

5. “Chemical Control”: using an herbicide, insecticides nematicide, molluscicide, piscicide, avicide, rodenticide, bactericide, insect repellent, animal repellent, antimicrobial, or fungicide as a control method. Always be careful to monitor pest population trends for the development of pesticide resistance.

6. “Behavioral Control”: may involve the use of pesticides (which are legally defined as 1: Any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest, 2: Any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant, or 3: Any nitrogen stabilizer.

Most commonly, the behavior of vertebrate pests is manipulated using pheromones. This is increasingly common and very actively researched for arthropod pests as well. Pheromone traps can be employed in some situations.

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