I. P. (umm)M?

IPM (or Integrated Pest Management as it is formally known) is one aspect of entomological studies that many students don’t seem consider when applying to study for their MSc. Why? Well, it turns out that when first embarking on your insect adventure, not many people seem to actually know what IPM is and what it entails… Not to fear! Your resident IPM student is here to save you from this tragedy and introduce you to the wonderful world that comes with studying toward Entomology’s sister course: Integrated Pest Management.

Firstly, what is IPM?

There are a number of existing definitions for IPM, but largely it is considered to be a sustainable approach to pest management implementing a range of tools and techniques. IPM programmes are used within a range of plant production industries, however play a very important role in aiding the future of food security.

What does IPM have to do with Entomology?

As we know, pests can take a number of different forms. Okay… this does include weeds and diseases here. But hear me out! Those pesky insects are major players too. Whilst many insects are extremely beneficial, insect pests can cause major problems for a range of crops. From direct damage (including feeding), to indirect damage (such as disease vectors), growers of crops in all parts of the world often need to reduce the populations of these economically harmful species so that they can produce a crop profitably and meet the nutritional demands of a growing population. Not only this (and this is the cool bit…), but many insect species can actually be used as the heroes of this story – often in the form of biological control!

Predatory behaviours of Phytoseiulus persimilis toward the Two-spotted Spider Mite, Tetranychus urticae, used in biological control.

Why is IPM important?

Pest management can take a number of different forms, with historic reliance on synthetic chemical pesticides being one of the most well known. However, greater environmental awareness and genetic resistance to synthetic chemical pesticides in many pest populations in recent years has contributed toward a push toward a more holistic and sustainable approach to pest management. IPM is a philosophy – developing and/or bringing together tools for use in a programme. So, it is of no surprise that interest in this philosophy and the development of potential compatible tools is of great interest to many researchers and companies alike.

What does the IPM MSc cover?

As you will all already know from my second blog post Beetles, Bugs and Beyond (and if you don’t, then get to know!), as an IPM student you get to start of the year on the wonderful Biology and Taxonomy of Insects. This module is essential for gaining the base of your insect knowledge: what they are, what they can do and what on earth they belong to! Once you have learnt these base principles, you can begin to apply your insect knowledge to the techniques used in integrated pest management programmes. But, Biology and Taxonomy… You already knew we studied that. So where have I been since? A big part of IPM is the management of pests for plant health. Therefore, an understanding of plant health threats, plant health management and plant production is always beneficial!

I started my third module, Plant Health Principles, looking at the first couple of those topics. We covered the three main threats to plant health: insect pests, weeds and diseases and the ways in which these problems affect the plant crop. This was a fascinating week, learning the intricacies of plant health management and roles in which insects play.

Module four was Principles and Practices of Crop Production – one of three optional modules on the IPM course. This module covered, funnily enough, the ways in which crops are produced. I selected this module as I felt it important to understand the systems in which I would be working alongside. What authority do I have to recommend crop pest management programmes if I don’t know my sugar beet from my swede, hey? But, if crop production is not tickling your fancy, do not close your browser just yet! Perhaps Fundamentals of Agroecology is more up your street? Or maybe entomology in its strictest sense is the only reason you are here – in which case perhaps I can tempt you back with the aptly titled: Insect Physiology and Behaviour module. Regardless of which optional module you take, by this stage you are well on your way to becoming an Integrated Pest Manager (If nothing else about this blog post has tempted you to consider the IPM MSc, at least admit that you do get a pretty cool title at the end of it).

All joking aside, Integrated Pest Management is an incredible and diverse field of work. We are IPM practitioners… Applied Ecologists! Regardless of name, our skill sets are the same. From research and innovation to implementation, the opportunities are endless. And, it needs budding entomologists! People with an interest in the wider role of insects within our environment. People looking to make a difference. That means people like YOU.

So do me a favour. Before you apply for your Ento Masters – don’t forget the Pest Club. Ok, the name needs work… but if its applied entomology you’re after, you know where to look!

– Aimee (@tonks_aimee)

For more information on IPM Courses available at Harper Adams University, visit the website: https://www.harper-adams.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/201005/integrated-pest-management

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