Urban/Small Farm Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a proactive decision-making system approach to pest control. Animals, arthropods, pathogens, and plants that cause a nuisance humans are considered pests. Many pests cause distress, aesthetic damage, economic damage, and lower crops yields. IPM programs are used to suppress pest populations to a low enough level to prevent pest damage at a level that is undesirable aesthetically (home/landscape) or economically. Monitoring is used to determine if and when treatments are needed within crop systems. Chemical treatments are made only when and where monitoring has suggested that the pest will cause economic, biological, or visual damage (Olkowski et al, 2013).

IPM is a holistic – or whole landscape/farm management – approach looking at the entire target system (home garden, farm, city park, community garden, etc.) and uses common sense practices to reduce pests. The practices include:

  1. Prevention – Prevent infestations of pests through utilizing best management practices, such as: proper farm management, irrigation, and fertilization.
  2. Monitoring – Regularly scouting for pests or signs of damage or disease in crop areas, gardens, urban areas, homes, schools.
  3. Identification – Correctly identify pests that are of concern. Making a proper identification is central to establishing a successful IPM program and selecting best management practices.
  4. Management – Using the appropriate cultural, mechanical, biological, and chemical pest controls leads to management of the pest of focus.

Below is a description of each strategy.

Cultural tactics - changing human behavior and farm procedures to reduce pest populations.

  • Modification of horticultural practices such as cultivating, crop rotation, mowing, irrigation, fertilizing, pruning, mulching, and planting methods/propagation.
  • Establish healthy plants so there is a lower chance of pests and disease establishing in them.
  • Apply strict sanitation procedures in your program. Adjusting a producer’s approach to cleaning, ex.1 removing the greenhouse trash when it contains inoculated or diseased plant material and ex.2, cleaning out the garbage cans with a bleach solution.
  • Inspection and quarantine of new plant material. Inspection can prevent the importation of greenhouse pests in your growing spaces like back yard gardens, farms, greenhouses, and nurseries.
  • Allow soil to dry out completely in between watering to avoid fungus gnat populations from establishing indoors.

Mechanical/Physical tactics - machinery or barriers used to protect plants against pests. This strategy involves changing the environment to reduce pest populations.

  • The use of barriers, such as nets, mulch, screens, caulking, ex. the addition of thick straw mulch under developing strawberries to protect the fruit from pillbugs and millepedes (Cranshaw, 1996).
  • Hand removal of insect pests can be effective but labor-intensive, ex. knocking hordes of Japanese beetles from roses into soapy water.
  • Vacuuming insects, hoeing or hand removal of weeds, and collecting slugs at night.
  • Sticky barriers, ex. sticky traps can trap crawling and flying pests, such as western flower thrips, (Cloyd, 2010) which allows for monitoring.
  • A high-pressure stream of water can dislodge insects feeding on foliage, ex. green peach aphids on a pepper plant.
  • Trapping can be used to monitor for pests as well as reduce low level pest populations, ex. corn ear worm using a Heliothis pheromone trap, or using a pan trap filled with vegetable oil to attract and trap earwings.
  • Building a fence using pig wire around a large bed of establishing okra so that rabbits cannot chew the young plants down at the base.

Biological tactics - Introduce natural enemies or the pest of concern (arthropod predators, bacteria, fungi, flowering plants) to produce long term pest suppression.

  • Releasing minute pirate bugs, convergent lady beetles, or damsel bugs into an enclosed growing space that were ordered from a biocontrol company.
  • Use plants in landscape design that attract and support beneficial insects throughout the growing season, ex. native plants, xeric plants.
  • Establish a backyard garden of edible crops to support desired pollinators and predators
  • Place flowering plants/herbs on an apartment porch in hanging baskets to provide habitats to all life stages of beneficial insects.
  • Allowing house spiders to go about their business. They can eat hundreds of undesired pests by a day.
  • Aphidius spp., a type of parasitoid wasp, preys on several types of aphid populations in the garden by laying their eggs inside living aphids. Wild populations can be discovered in growing facilities without introduction, or they can be introduced intentionally through purchasing them for a bio-control program. Presence can be detected by looking for aphid mummies, which appear swollen, often golden or black in color.

Chemical tactics - Chemical applications (synthetic or naturally derived) can be used as a last resort for controlling pest outbreaks in an IPM system. Chemicals compounds of various kinds can play an important role in many sound pest management efforts but must be done so with precaution.

  • ALWAYS refer to the product’s label – the label is the law.
  • Properly identify pests before making an application of any kind
  • Time application appropriately – ex.1 during times of reduced wind to prevent drift, ex.2 avoid spraying blooming plant to reduce exposure to pollinators and beneficial insects
  • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and licensing for restricted products
  • Never tank mix, unless permitted on product labels. Many products can breakdown and recombine to create unknown chemistries when mixed.
  • NEVER use DIY recipes for ‘homemade’ pesticides, these products are untested, dangerous, and can result in health risks and environmental damage.


  • Cranshaw, W. S. (1996). Millipedes, centipedes, and sowbugs (Doctoral dissertation, Colorado State University. Libraries). Revised 12/2013.
  • Cranshaw, W., M. Schreiner, K. Britt, T. P. Kuhar, J. McPartland, J. Grant, (2019) “Developing Insect Pest Management Systems for Hemp in the United States: A Work in Progress”, Journal of Integrated Pest Management, Volume 10, Issue 1 26. Retrieved from Journal of Integrated Pest Management.
  • Cloyd, Raymond A. (2010) “Western Flower Thrips Management on Greenhouse-Grown Crops”, Kansas State University Extension.
  • Olkowski, W., S. Daar, and H. Olkowski (2013). The Gardener's Guide to Common-Sense Pest Control (revised and updated). Update co-authored by Steven Ash, The Taunton Presse.

Contact Info

NMSU Agricultural Science Center - Los Lunas
1036 Miller Road
Los Lunas, NM 87031
Phone: (505) 865-7340