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Does IPM Pay?

Practicing IPM can mean both environmental and monetary savings

The question that agricultural producers ask most frequently about IPM is "Are these IPM methods cost effective?"

In 1997 this question was addressed by the manager of the Central New York Crop Management Association, an organization that has its roots in the New York IPM Program. An analysis of the value of scouting for potato leafhopper and corn rootworm showed that five farms realized savings between $1,255 and $7,074 just by having their fields scouted (see table 1 below). Scouting usually results in monetary savings because it provides definitive information about pest levels that can then be used in making decisions about pesticides. Growers who do not scout their fields often rely instead on treatments that are applied preventively.

Similar evaluations, such as one just conducted on the release of a biological control agent for the alfalfa weevil, show an extremely favorable (1 to 90) cost benefit ratio. The weevil, once a damaging pest in New York, is now managed in an integrated fashion that includes biological control, weather-derived forecasts of weevil development, field monitoring, and proper cutting (harvesting) of the alfalfa. There is a chemical management option as well, but it is seldom needed.

Interest is also increasing in a related question: "How well does IPM pay in environmental terms?" Unfortunately there are no easy ways to measure the impact of IPM on water or soil quality. However, we now have environmental impact baselines, calculated by the "environmental impact quotient" (EIQ) method developed in 1992. We know that these values, and data on the numbers of pesticide spray applications, show less environmental loading by pesticides than ever before for several cropping systems.

Table 1. Financial Benefits of IPM Scouting



Alfalfa Acres

Field Corn Acres


$ 7,074




$ 3,123




$ 2,643




$ 5,214




$ 1,255


70 (snap beans)

Source: CNY Crops News, Issue 97-4, Oct. 1997 (Central New York Crop Management Association newsletter)