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Homeowners can reduce use of chemical pesticides using IPM strategies in lawns and gardens

Media contact:

Robert E. Thomas
Information Specialist
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group
Phone: 573-882-2480
Email: thomasr@missouri.edu

Published: Thursday, April 17, 2008

Story source:

Steven Kirk, 573-882-5612

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Homeowners who want to reduce the amount of chemical pesticides they use in their lawns or gardens should try some easy-to-use Integrated Pest Management strategies, said a University of Missouri horticulturist.

"Homeowners can put a successful IPM program in place by following a few simple steps," said Steven Kirk.

First, properly identify the pest. Not all insects are pests. Some are natural predators or parasites that help control pest species. Proper control measures depend on correct identification of the pest and in some case its life stage.

IPM stresses scouting to detect pests. Look closely at your lawn, flowers, shrubs and vegetable plants. Try to detect damage before a serious pest population becomes established. Environmentally friendly control measures such as watering, handpicking or applying soaps and oils may be used.

Beneficial organisms such as natural pest predators, parasites and fungi help suppress pest organisms. Bacillus thuringienis, a bioinsecticide in many products, can control damaging insect larvae.

Biological nematicides also control plant-parasitic nematodes in turf grass, he said. Natural enemies such as lady beetles, lacewings and beneficial wasps provide insect control if present in sufficient numbers.

Correct cultural practices such as watering, fertilization and proper establishment dates encourage healthy turf grass and ornamental plantings.

"A healthy, well-maintained turf will be able to withstand injury from more pests than one in poor condition," he said.

Traps are commercially available for some turf grass insect pests such as Japanese beetle and sod web worm.

Choose resistant plant materials. Some diseases can be completely avoided by selecting grass species that are not susceptible to certain pathogens. Summer patch, for example, is a severe problem on Kentucky bluegrass, but has little or no effect on tall fescue or perennial ryegrass.

When buying plants such as tomatoes at a garden center, look for varieties that carry the "VFN" or similar designation on the identification tag. VFN indicates the variety is resistant to Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt and root-knot nematodes.

Varieties that carry a "T" designation are also resistant to tobacco mosaic virus, a disease that often causes problems for tomato gardeners.

If you must use a chemical pesticide, select chemicals specific to the pest. Use the chemical at the lowest effective rate and choose one that is short-lived in the environment.

For more information about pesticides and IPM, see:

"IPM Strategies for the Home Gardener," Missouri Environment & Garden, April 2008, http://ppp.missouri.edu/newsletters/meg/archives/v14n4/a8.pdf

"Using Pesticides Safely around the Home," MU Extension guide G01918, http://extension.missouri.edu/explore/agguides/agengin/g01918.htm