COLUMBIA, Mo. – As University of Missouri Extension researchers celebrate the 50th anniversary of integrated pest management, they reflect on the past, present and future of IPM.

The University of Missouri IPM program began in the mid-1970s with a focus on insects. The program has expanded to focus on sustainable management of insects, weeds and diseases. “One current emphasis is a statewide pathogen survey to better understand disease threats to corn and soybean. This is essential if we want to avoid exhausting chemical control options,” said MU Extension specialist and IPM coordinator Mandy Bish.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describes integrated pest management as an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of commonsense practices.

In 1972, the first large-scale IPM research project was launched to address growing concerns related to the negative impacts of widespread pesticide use, according to Michigan State University. It pulled together cross-disciplinary studies that formed the basis of IPM and included the identification of natural enemies in agriculture systems and pest modeling to better assess crop risk and identify treatment opportunities. Entomologists led the initial IPM charge, helping create national legislation (Senate Bill 1794) to fund research.

The federal funding supported two major research projects: the Huffaker Project and the Consortium. The Huffaker Project, which took place in the mid-1970s, investigated insect and mite pest problems of five major commodities—alfalfa, apples, citrus, cotton and soybean. The Consortium for Integrated Pest Management expanded that research to include all major pests—insects, diseases and weeds. By the mid-1980s, these projects led to the adoption of IPM practices on more than 14 million acres of agricultural land and increased farmer net profits by an estimated $578 million annually.

During the 1990s, several critical IPM infrastructure resources were developed, including pest diagnostic technology, weather-based modeling systems and an increased number of dedicated research and outreach faculty working to expand IPM adoption on farms.

“IPM has become a critical pest management concept for the survival of agriculture,” said Sam Polly, coordinator of the MU Extension Pesticide Safety Education Program.

“IPM minimizes crop losses, minimizes pesticide use and maximizes environmental stewardship. It’s a win, win, win,” he said. “American agriculture’s success with integrated pest management gives food producers a chance to reframe the public image of pest management. We can show the public that producers care about the environment as they use a proven, scientific framework to make informed pest-management decisions.”

Bish and Polly agree that the future of IPM is hopeful despite many challenges, including climate change, invasive pests and pesticide resistance. IPM also faces challenges in educating the public about the true costs and benefits of adopting or not adopting available pest management technologies.

To learn more about the history and future of integrated pest management in the north-central U.S., check out the special IPM 50th anniversary series on the “Pest Central” podcast at

In one episode, Bish and Polly talk about the importance of IPM in Missouri. “Pest Central” is available on most major podcast platforms.

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