Episode 17: Integrated Pest Management Chat Part 2

Jeff, Nevin, and Bob continue their conversation about Integrated Pest Management and whether or not it is sustainable long-term.

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

0:20 Emily: Hi everyone, and welcome back to Farm Sci-Ed,
the show where we go into the science and education behind farming. I’m Emily Stine, and today we’re continuing our discussion about integrated pest management within entomology, weed science, and plant pathology. And today Jeff, Nevin, and Bob are answering the question of “Is IPM sustainable?”

0:39 Bob: I think it has to.

Jeff: I have a short answer, and the answer is yes.

Bob: I think it has to or agriculture will not be.

0:50 Nevin: I think the first thing you do is define sustainability and there’s a lot of ways uh you know, you look at economically. Does it uh is it going to keep making money for the farmer? Does it work you know biologically? And then also does it have any negative impacts that over the long term are going to cause problems environmentally or socially? and and so basically will this practice – can we continue using it um in the future indefinitely? um and I think that’s uh that’s the question and so I’ll let I’ll let everyone answer whether or not IPM is is something that we can keep on doing.

Jeff: um well you know, there’s maybe uh gradations of that depending on the pest species that you’re looking at, and how and the system that you’re working in, so um you know from its beginning from its origin at least for uh insect integrated pest management you know, the focus has always been on um a lot of the origin was based on biological control and trying to integrate biological control and other control tools, tactics, and strategies and then incorporating economics into that. So you know for certain pests you can you can design management systems that you you might use things like conservation bio control or different strategies you might use in the field that result in possibly more land conservation, less fuel use, reduction in pesticide or herbicide in the case of weeds, that would achieve some of those what might be considered environmental sustainable goals. But then also simultaneously achieve you know reduction in input is a reduction in cost um which makes it more sustainable from an economic standpoint. That’s not possible for every pest and every weed and every pathogen. um

2:50 So the question is “is IPM sustainable?” It can be, um when optimized, when everything can be optimized and you know also kind of pulling back some of the previous episode comments i had about you know once we do the science, you get the foundations of a pest species, ecologically, biologically, you’ve got a suite of tools that you can have diverse modes of actions or compile that or add that to different strategies at the same time so integrating all those together.

Bob: Growers do that anyway.

Jeff: so you can do all the research and then ultimately the end of the day, is if the tool, the scouting tool, or uh method of sampling or determining whether or not you have a problem, if it isn’t convenient it’s not going to be adopted. It’s not going to be used

Bob: but every year they decide what which field they’re going to use for this, or the which variety they’re going to use. To me that’s – they are doing integrated pest management that way because of what it works. yes right so yes I think it’s sustainable and will continue to be.

4:02 Nevin: Depending on how you define uh IPM for weeds or integrated weed management, um the answer is no. um But it depends and the reason I talked about this in the weed science episode is um so integrated weed management is just doing a bunch of different things to control weeds and classically the definition is to reduce herbicide use. But what that’s led to is basically you do a bunch of stuff and then you rely on only a single herbicide or maybe two herbicides and that actually uh narrows the selection pressure for resistance to develop to those uh those those herbicides within the weed populations. And you you end up losing those herbicides and so uh if the goal of IPM is to reduce herbicide usage, I almost would say it’s not sustainable. uh The the related concept, which is depending on how you define it, the same thing is something called herbicide resistance management where you do a lot of practices including non-herbicide practices with the goal of not reducing herbicide use, but broadening that selection pressure to reduce the likelihood of future events of herbicide resistance from developing. So it depends what’s your goal – as a goal to not use herbicides or reduce number of herbicides then that might not be sustainable. But if your goal is to just have all the tools still be available in 20 years, then it it it likely is um as because it’s it’s a it’s a it’s a methodology, it’s not a definitive “this is what you do” and so it’s hard for a methodology I guess they’re good to go out of favor but it really depends on your goal for weeds at least.

5:42 Jeff: and yeah so I think you could say in some aspects, both for – well I think in all of our disciplines – when it comes to resistance management it’s a matter of conserving susceptible pest disease and weed traits.

Nevin: yes.

Bob: or the chemicals or the chemicals or whatever you’re trying to recover or keep those going too.

Nevin: And one of the – I guess other differences too, because a lot of this has to do with resistance is with um uh I know I – I can’t speak for the disciplines, but a lot of times whether or not that resistance trait is going to be a problem indefinitely has to do with fitness cost with it and at least for a lot of weed situations, there’s not a fitness cost. So if resistance develops it might be there forever within that population; it’s not going away.

Jeff: Yeah, whereas in some insect populations you know fitness – there are fitness costs related to to whether or not they can adapt to a certain um trait.

Bob: And they’re always going to be changing you know you can’t can’t mess with mother nature.

Jeff: yeah resistance happens, it’s just a matter of can you slow it down enough?

Bob: Right, right.

6:44 Nevin: In my mind, the whole idea of this this integrated management uh whether it’s for you know, reducing your pesticide use or just resistant costs, it’s basically just trying to you know from our standpoint we’re trying to figure out ways to help a farmer I guess be sustainable or manage that pest or be productive. But you know if if a farmer thinks in the concept of IPM, I think what they’re doing is they’re just thinking long term, they’re thinking more strategically, it’s not just decision to decision decision, it’s it’s trying to broaden out the the longevity of making decisions and I think that’s um probably the most beneficial thing.

Jeff: um yeah and I think you could say that really it’s more well at least in some cases depending on the commodity it’s more than the farmer that needs to have that long-term buy-in for IPM adoption or some of these practices whatever that might be to be executed in the practice you know whether it’s the the co-op, the agriculturalists, the farmer that’s growing it, um probably less of the consumer but we do make decisions. I mean farmers do have to make decisions depending on the commodity thinking about apples for and some of the diseases in apples and how the the look of an apple can determine its marketability, we’re driving – it’s driven by consumers

Nevin: or dry edible beans! uh hair uh nightshade can actually stain the beans pink and then you won’t buy them because who wants a pink great northern bean uh I’ll also say one thing problem with IPM is with each of us, is is we tend to research that in our own silos and so we’re only considering the disease of interest or the the pest of interest. And you know, with a farmer it’s much more difficult because they’re considering everything and so it, you know it’s we kind of do research in a silo and that doesn’t help farmers unless they’re literally managing a pest within a silo you know?

8:41 Jeff: Yeah, I was going to say it’s a good thing we have faculty with extension appointments.

Bob: yeah

Jeff: and it gives at least a little bit of playroom between us to share time and space together in terms of talking about different management concepts. At least when I present, I’m presenting with you guys many often

Nevin: yeah it’s one of us

Jeff: I do learn a little bit about weed science, maybe sometimes you learn a bit about entomology when we’re sharing our presentations together but there are opportunities at least uh in places like ours where we have shared workspaces, to come up with ideas maybe that are a little more integrated than than would otherwise be – break down some silos a little.

9:23 Emily: There’s a lot more discussion to be had about IPM and its sustainability. So to jump in on this conversation, subscribe to our channel, find us on twitter @TheFarmSciEd or visit our website at farmsci-ed.com for transcripts and other episodes. Have a good one!