This is Steve Rulison bringing you information on Shore friendly living and gardening from the Eastern Shore Master Gardeners and Virginia Cooperative Extension.  From my perch near the mouth of Occohannock Creek, I recorded 3 tenths of an inch of rain last week.

This week we are going to talk about Integrated Pest Management, also known as IPM.

IPM stands for “integrated pest management.” It is a way to manage insects, diseases, weeds, animals and other “pests” that cause damage by combining biological, cultural, mechanical, and chemical practices. It uses a series of steps to understand pests and decide the best methods of control. IPM is a holistic, ecological approach to controlling pests. In an IPM program, the pest situation is carefully assessed before taking action. The first step is to identify the pest to determine biological information, such as the pest’s habitat and life cycle. Once this information is gathered and evaluated, it can be used to develop a pest management plan. IPM uses an assortment of control methods and employs the best practices available to protect people, animals, and the environment.

IPM is a strategy commonly used by pest management professionals, but is often misunderstood by the general public and others. However, Extension Master Gardener volunteers have an overall basic understanding of IPM and are able to make gardening recommendations based on those principles. 

An IPM program may include chemical controls when necessary, but in any IPM program, chemical controls are generally a last resort — only used when other control methods have either failed, or cannot mitigate the problem alone. But if you decide to use a pesticide, always choose the least toxic option. When selecting a product, consider the type of pesticide needed, whether insecticide, herbicide, or fungicide; and the nature of the intended application site.

Always read the label. As a so-called “Label State,” the Commonwealth of Virginia, in concert with the Federal government, considers the pesticide label to be the sole and complete source of information on how to safely and effectively use, store, and dispose of both the pesticide and its container. As such, the label constitutes a binding agreement between the manufacturer, the EPA, and you, the end user. Using a pesticide in any manner that is inconsistent with the labeling is strictly against the law.

For answers to Gardening questions and more, call your local Accomack or Northampton County Extension Office. Here on the Shore call either 678-7946 or 787-1361.