Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a program designed to reduce chemical use as much as possible in the production of quality food. Research at leading agricultural colleges began in the early 1970s with funding from the United States Department of Agriculture. IPM test plots were established and growers were instructed by state university personnel, cooperative extension agents and specialists, on how to monitor and identify unacceptable levels of insects, weeds, pests, and diseases. Applications of chemicals were made only at critical times and in the smallest quantity necessary. Ecological, non-chemical methods are incorporated into grower management practices whenever possible.
Remarkable progress in reducing chemical use and improving pest management has been made by the apple growers in the Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Rhode Island). In 1987 alone, these apple growers reduced chemical use by 30%. Latest reports show over 80% of these orchards, totaling 30,000 acres, used some IPM.
The United States Department of Agriculture, Environmental groups, and grower associations are supporting IPM projects to the total of $1,464,000 in the Northeast. In addition, growers individually have employed private consulting firms at their own expense.
Every state college in the Northeast uses the expertise of the leading scientists in the areas of entomology, biology, and plant pathology to design and evaluate IPM programs that will further reduce the need for chemical use.
Insects, nematodes, and fungi (that cause 1,500 different plant diseases) are facts of life. IPM identifies the "harmful" species and applies chemicals to control them at the lowest dose level only when alternate controls are ineffective.
Scientists and growers believe that taking advantage of natural predators and employing more physical and cultural practices will further reduce dependence on chemical use and protect the environment. The industry is pledged to continue IPM research and application.