OSU leads the way to better pest management

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IPM is a multi-faceted approach to managing agricultural pests that reduces the need for chemical pesticides

Pesticides are important tools for farmers around the globe—ask anyone who has contemplated a hundred acres of cabbage aphids. However, some types of pesticide are significantly more hazardous than others. Broad-spectrum pesticides kill nontarget species like earthworms and birds in addition to the pest species. Some pesticides can cause physical problems in humans, from headaches to motor-skill impairment to cancer, particularly when children accompany their parents into the field.

Paul Jepson, director of OSU’s Integrated Plant Protection Center, develops multi-faceted approaches to limit the use of pesticides in Oregon’s crops. Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which uses techniques such as crop rotation and harboring beneficial insects (such as ladybug beetles, known for their appetite for aphids). Jepson’s IPM methods have been well received by farmers and third-party certifiers. They were first adopted by the Food Alliance, a certification nonprofit, and then by the Sustainable Agriculture Network as the basis for its Sustainable Agriculture Standard.

When an infestation requires stronger action, Jepson and his colleagues have developed a number of educational responsible-use materials as well as two dynamic online resources. IPM Prime (the name stands for “Pesticide Risk Assessment for Integrated Pest Management”) enables a farmer to compare different chemicals. My Pest presents weather conditions and creates a citizen-scientist partnership opportunity allowing farmers to input data about their pest issues to help scientists develop success strategies.

IPM can save a farm thousands of dollars in expense, equipment, and time. Making broad-spectrum pesticides a last resort by providing as many lower-impact alternates as possible ensures a future that will support both agriculture and the environment.

Source: Paul Jepson, director, Integrated Plant Protection Center

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