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A Legacy of Silent Spring: Integrated Pest Planning and Management

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Today, environmental and agricultural agencies advocate for managing pests using a combination of practices. This is called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM operates on the principle that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

Of the ten elements of IPM for managing pests, pesticides (chemical controls) are only one:

Image of IPMPlanting
Select tolerant crops, alter planting time and spacing to discourage pests.

Soil preparation
Choose best site, test soil, rotate crops, create raised beds where appropriate, provide organic matter.

Use weather data to predict pest outbreaks. Time treatments to prevent crop damage and save spray.

Record pest traps, weather, and treatments for use in pest management decisions.

Pest trapping
Set traps that attract insects to pinpoint when pests arrive and decide if control is justified.

Inspect regularly to determine if pests are approaching a damaging level.

Wait until pest populations reach an economically damaging level. Until that threshold is reached, costs of yield and quality loss will be less than costs of control.

Cultural controls
Disrupt pest environments by turning under crop residues, sterilizing greenhouse tools, and harvesting early.

Biological controls
Conserve beneficial natural enemies of pests and import additional tested biological agents.

Chemical controls
Select most effective pesticide and calibrate applicators. Wait for weather conditions that permit good coverage and minimal drift.

Where pesticides are used in IPM, specific pesticides and pheromones that control pest breeding are preferable to broad-impact pesticides that affect many species. It was spraying of a generic pesticide (DDT) over large areas at MSU and elsewhere that caused the environmental side-effects observed by George Wallace and his students.