Concepts of Integrated Pest Management
Over the years, Integrated Pest Management has taken on many different meanings. A number of
people mistakenly understand that IPM is simply a method to control insects. It is important to under-
Most insects are not pests A pest is anything that hinders a crop's
Many serve to pollinate the crop, loosen the Pests can include diseases, weeds, rodents,
soil, feed fish and frogs, control other insects etc, as well as insects.
that are pests, and other beneficial purposes.
22 Improving Livelihoods in the Uplands of the Lao PDR
Management is not the same Flea beetle: Adults feed on
leaves of young plants and
as control sometimes kill the seedlings.
Larvae feed on the roots of
Growing a good crop depends on many the plant.
Caterpillars: Rodents: eat crops
different factors, including soil fertility, water, both in the field
feed on leaves
cultural methods and seed variety. Each of and stems of and after
these factors influences and is influenced by plants harvesting
other factors: the cropping system is inte-
Each cropping system has its own ecosys-
tem. These ecosystems are constantly
changing according to the specific crop or
crops, the season, and even the weather on
any specific day. Perhaps the largest imme- Fungal,
diate influences on a crop's ecosystem are bacterial, and
the inputs or crop management practices
undertaken by farmers. In this sense, rather
than just providing inputs to the crop, or
even managing the crop itself, farmers must Cabbage sawfly: Weeds: compete
the caterpillars eat the with the crop for
be able to manage the crop's ecosystem. leaves of the plant light, water and
pollinate plants Instead of focusing on the control of a pest as
control pest an isolated problem, IPM seeks to manage
insects the ecosystem of the crop in an integrated
manner. Because of this broader and more
holistic approach, IPM is also often known as
Integrated Pest and Production Manage-
ment or Integrated Crop Management.
Perhaps it could also be called integrated
help to improve
other pest insects
Concepts of Integrated Pest Management 23
IPM and pesticides Ecosystems, Diversity and Balance
Our human ecosystem means everything we
Another common misunderstanding is that IPM
need to sustain life. This includes such basic
means no chemical pesticides. This is not
things as air, water, and food. If there is too
wholly true. Just as the human body sometimes
much water, we will drown. If there is not
needs medicine, so pesticides might occasion-
enough water, we will die. We also need food,
ally be the only viable option for a specific
and food needs water, soil and sunlight.
crop problem. However, two points should be
Therefore, our ecosystem must not only have
Prevention is better than cure. many different components, but these com-
Like a healthy body, a healthy ecosystem is far ponents must be in the proper proportion to
more able to defend itself. Pesticides upset the sustain each other. In other words, our eco-
ecosystem's balance, killing beneficial insects, system requires both diversity and balance.
known as natural enemies, as well as pests. The
weakened ecosystem often results in even
more pests, which can lead to even more Farmers themselves must make the
pesticides, much as a drug addict needs more decisions regarding management of
and more drugs to achieve the same effect. the crop's ecosystem.
This includes the possible use of pesticides.
These decisions cannot be made by chemical
companies who want to sell products, by
researchers in distant stations, or by extension
agents who visit only occasionally. Only farmers
pesticide is are able to constantly monitor and analyse the
spayed day-to-day changes in their fields.
beneficial insects as
well as pests
results in more Pests and beneficial insects are
pests killed; ecosystem is unbalanced
24 Improving Livelihoods in the Uplands of the Lao PDR
IPM and Farmer Field Schools The group analyses their findings together
and decides what management practices
Because cropping ecosystems are highly to apply in the IPM trial plot.
complex and dynamic, those promoting IPM The results of these practices are
found that conventional agriculture extension compared to those in a second local
approaches were not sufficient. Hence, the practice plot, which is managed according
Farmer Field School (FFS) was developed to to common practices undertaken locally in
assist farmers in understanding and managing the past.
their crops' ecosystems. In an FFS:
Facilitators help guide the process, but the
The 'school' is the field itself. real ‘teachers’ are other farmers, and the
20 to 30 women and men meet each week crop itself.
for an entire cropping season to study all
aspects of the crop's ecosystem, including
the plant's development, soil conditions,
pest problems, and how these are related.
Concepts of Integrated Pest Management 25
In addition to the main field study described IPM in the Lao PDR
above, FFS often include additional hands-on
activities and experiments such as: IPM activities began in Laos 1996. Initial work
Field studies to compare seed varieties, focused on rice, reflecting the crop's vital
fertilisers, planting density, soil preparation, importance to the country. In 1999, the
and other cultural practices. programme expanded to include vegetable
crops as well. To date, nearly 100 government
Rearing insects to study their behaviour, life
officials have attended a full-season training of
cycles, and the relationships between pests
trainers courses in vegetables and rice. In nine
and natural enemies.
provinces across the country, over 200 veg-
The phrases learning-by-doing, seeing is etable and 400 rice Farmer Field Schools have
believing and action research are often used been conducted.
in describing quality FFS and the central
strategy of FFS should always be:
a hands-on and experiential learning, with
focus on a single crop.
Attempts have been made to incorporate
many different topics (livestock, fruit trees,
vegetables, etc.) into a single FFS, but results
are usually quite limited, as the approach shifts
from one of applied, hands-on learning, to
top-down instruction and technology transfer.
Comparing FFS and conventional technology transfer approaches to agricultural extension
26 Improving Livelihoods in the Uplands of the Lao PDR
In addition to this core training work, additional Field schools focusing on variety studies
activities have included: and bacterial wilt resistance for off-season
Farmer Trainer training workshops. tomato production.
Soil ecology and nutrient field schools for Numerous technical workshops on topics
rice and vegetables. ranging from rice bug and bakane disease,
to the use of biological control agents.
Workshops and continuing follow-up to
backstop and monitor field activities.
IPM and upland agriculture
IPM activities undertaken in Laos have so far
been targeted at lowland cropping systems.
For rice IPM, the focus has been on paddy
production, and vegetable IPM activities have
been directed primarily toward those areas
near larger cities and vegetable markets. In
other words, there have not been any con-
certed efforts to develop or promote IPM
approaches and methodologies for upland
agriculture. Although such efforts would be
highly worthwhile, they are far beyond the
scope of this article. However, it should be
noted that villages in upland areas also culti-
vate upland paddy rice and vegetables; there-
fore experience from the lowlands can also be
relevant for the uplands.
In 2003, the FAO Vegetable Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Programme conducted a case study on
pesticide use in Laos (Van der Borght et al 2004). Interviews, discussions and surveys included officials,
farmers and markets in Champasak, Savannakhet, Vientiane Capital and Vientiane Provinces. The study
found that pesticide use is relatively low in Laos compared to in other countries of the region, and that
active promotion of pesticides is not widespread. However, the study also found that pesticides are
widely available, and that most of those for sale are highly toxic. Folidol, a class 1a pesticide, was found
to be the most widely available and used pesticide, even through it is officially banned.
Of significant concern is that a clear trend toward increasing use of pesticides was noted, particularly
by farmers producing for urban markets. Although these farmers are aware of the dangers, they
repeatedly stated that they know of no other way to meet the demands of the market, consumers and
middlemen, other than to use more pesticides. The study concluded that merely not promoting
pesticides is not enough, and that more concerted policies, strategies, and action are urgently needed.
Concepts of Integrated Pest Management 27
Important points to remember: Farmers are the crop managers: because
New crops, cropping systems, or man- conditions change constantly, no one is
agement practices change the ecosys- able to manage the crop better than
tem: a healthy crop requires a diverse and farmers themselves. If new inputs or
balanced ecosystem. Changes or new methods are not understood, accepted and
inputs can upset this balance. This often trusted by farmers, they have little or no
leads to additional problems, including the value at all.
unnecessary use of or continuous depen-
Farmer Field Schools are not for every-
dence on pesticides, even if chemicals are
body: FFS depend on strong farmer com-
not actively promoted.
mitment and significant experience with
There are no standard IPM technolo- the crop studied. As a result, FFS are not
gies or solutions: IPM focuses on the very suitable for introducing entirely new
management of ecosystems. Ecosystems crops or cropping systems. Although the
vary widely from location to location, and benefits can be considerable, FFS require
change constantly over time. This means considerable investments of time, human
that there are no easy answers that are and financial resources to work effectively.
Four principles of IPM
1 Grow a healthy crop
2 Preserve natural enemies
3 Visit and observe fields regularly
4 Farmers become the experts
Van der Borght, D., Litthamalay, S. & Khampouvong, P. 2004. The Path to Pesticides...? A case study on trends
and tendencies in the Lao PDR. FAO. Inter-Country Programme for IPM Vegetables in South and Southeast
Improving Livelihoods in the Uplands of the
Lao PDR was produced in 2005 by NAFRI,
Randy Arness, firstname.lastname@example.org
NAFES and NUOL.
28 Improving Livelihoods in the Uplands of the Lao PDR