University of Montana Integrated Pest Management Policy

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Type: Policy

Status: Published in March 2006

Source File: (p. 6 - 9)


2.0 Integrated pest management at UM

2.1 Philosophy
UM implements integrated pest management. Here are some basic tenets of this philosophy as practiced at UM.

  • UM’s goal is to maintain healthy vegetation with minimum inputs of water, fertilizer pesticides, or energy
  • IPM relies on a combination of cultural, chemical and biological methods to keep pests below a threshold level in order to maintain or enhance desired vegetation
  • The threshold level is determined by pest density, potential damage, tolerance for weeds in specific areas, and the impact of the natural enemies. The decision to implement control is based on these factors
  • The best way to manage pests is by managing for healthy landscape plantings. Thus cultural practices are the most important components of this plan
  • Chemicals alone cannot control all of UM’s pest insects, weeds, or plant diseases, but they can be an important tool to address major pest outbreaks
  • UM will implement the least toxic alternative when possible
  • Ongoing monitoring is important to pest management success
  • Landscape managers and staff are expected to keep current with emerging technology and present it to the IPM committee on an ongoing basis
  • This management plan is considered a guiding document rather than a set prescription, and staff will have flexibility and expertise to apply it

2.2 Definitions and discussion

2.2.1 Cultural control.
Cultural control methods include human activities that promote healthy desirable plants while discouraging opportunities for pests to establish. Examples include proper pruning, irrigation, fertilization, mulching, aeration, and physically removing pests (e.g. hand pulling weeds or vacuuming insects off plants).

In order to implement appropriate cultural methods, UM staff must have current and ongoing training in horticulture. Staff should be encouraged to attend professional trainings and participate in professional organizations to facility continuing education in this area.

The foundation of any pest management program must be maintenance of healthy turf and other desirable plants. These healthy plants can resist more serious pest infestations and require less time and money to maintain. Some essential cultural methods that all turf managers should use include:

Irrigation scheduling. This practice seeks to apply water at the proper time and in the precise amount needed to satisfy plant needs. Even in our northern Missoula climate, lawns can use over 1.5 inches of water per week in hot weather, and can slow down to use only .5 inches per week in cool weather. Irrigation must be adjusted to these fluctuations to prevent over or under watering. Too little water stresses plants and encourages weeds, while too much can cause fungal diseases. Grounds keepers need to be aware of how plant water use varies with season and interacts with water holding capacity, pest populations and irrigation strategy. Finally, water should be provided infrequently via deep waterings instead of frequent shallow waterings. The former practice encourages deep healthy roots, while the latter encourages shallow roots that require more water.

Fertility management. Fertilizers must be used judiciously to augment, not replace, the natural fertility of the soil. Addition of composting is often appropriate to promote plant health, and UM uses this practice. Soil tests and good record keeping are essential to prevent over application and to judge the success of management decisions. Slow release fertilizers are preferred- these help to increase the turf’s health while reducing the number of fertilizer applications.

Proper mowing. Maintaining proper mower height is essential to good turf, and height should be adjusted when needed to overcome special weather, weed or logistical problems. Most experts recommend not cutting more than 1/3 of the plant height above ground. Cutting too short harms grass plants and encourages weeds. Taller grass competes better with weeds and overcomes moisture stress better. Maintaining sharp mowers will minimize plant injury. All the UM properties use mulching mowers.

Golf courses have stricter guidelines for mowing, and this is discussed later in the plan.

Aeration. This is often overlooked but plant roots need to breathe. Poor aeration gives weeds a competitive edge.

Mulching. Mulching is the addition of plant matter to the top of soil, and it can be anything from attractive shredded bark, to simply leaving grass clippings in place. Mulching promotes soil water retention, soil microbial activity, and reduces weed growth.

Re-seeding and over-seeding. New species and varieties of grass continue to become available which require less water, fertilizer and mowing. These new plants are often more resistant to insect and disease damage. Turf managers should stay current with new developments and devote part of their budget to reseeding when appropriate. Over seeding of existing turf should be practiced on a regular basis, emphasizing the best suited variety for the use.

Hand pulling. Physically disturbing or removing weeds is as old as gardening and agriculture. This is how weeds were controlled before the past 50 years of chemical use. This method is still an essential part of most agriculture and may be appropriate for UM, especially around buildings where herbicide application and drift are concerns. However, it is not a viable option for large areas.

Employee education. Promote education about pest management through participation in professional societies, meetings, research, and training opportunities.

Campus education. Remind staff, faculty and students about pest control and turf management efforts, especially during critical times (pesticide applications, wet turf periods, etc). Try to gain compliance with efforts to keep traffic off turf when it is especially susceptible to damage.

In addition to these basic tools, many plant species have specific requirements for timing of pruning and so forth. It is beyond the scope of this plan to outline proper cultural management tools for every plant species used in landscape settings at UM. The next section discusses specific cultural control actions for each of the landscape areas included in this plan, in the context of their major pests.

2.2.2 Biological control
Biological control is the deliberate introduction of living organisms that attack the target pest. They can include pathogens, insects and predators. Biological control is not a “quick fix” and is unlikely to solve UM’s pest management issues by itself. However, biological control can be combined with cultural and chemical methods to increase their efficacy.

UM takes the position that it is better to encourage native insects and birds that are predators of pest insects than to release non-native organisms. This can be accomplished through cultural methods.

Commonly available biological control agents are discussed for each landscape area. UM should also make itself available as an area for biological control trials as appropriate. Staff should stay in touch with the Missoula County Extension Agents to keep abreast of new biological control agents and research.

2.2.3 Chemical control
Chemical control includes the use of synthetic herbicides, insecticides or fungicides. Chemical control is usually effective in a short amount of time, takes less labor, and provides almost instant gratification at a low cost. However the use of chemical pesticides brings with it concerns for human health and environmental safety. A review of the literature on health effects associated with pesticides is beyond the scope of this document. However, UM takes the approach that pesticide use should be limited as much as possible to achieve management goals, and that cultural practices are the first line of defense against pests. Labels for all pesticides used on the UM campus are included in this report.

Any pesticide application made at UM will be done by a licensed applicator. Any needed pesticide applications on main campus, COT and at the golf course are typically made by UM staff, while the University Villages and Lewis and Clark Apartments will generally hire outside contractors. Pesticide licensing and enforcement is handled by the Montana Department of Agriculture, who can audit UM pesticide application records, equipment and practices at any time.

Pesticides are stored in a dedicated storage unit at the Physical Plant. This storage unit has a special floor designed to contain spills, and it is heated throughout the year to prevent freezing and breaking of storage containers or work equipment.

Care must be exercised in handling and mixing chemicals. Equipment must be in good condition and inspected regularly. Chemicals should be mixed as needed in amounts that will be used entirely. Mix and rinse equipment at locations with acceptable collection and treatment, or recycle collected mix back into the tank for mixing liquid.

Pesticide applications are prefaced by public notification at least 24 hours in advance via a press release and signage at the location to be treated. Signs are posted 24 hours prior to application, and left in place at least 48 hours after application. Specific pesticide application issues are discussed for each landscape area addressed by this plan.