Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is the careful consideration of all available pest control techniques and appropriate measures to discourage the development of pest populations and keep pesticides and other interventions to levels that are economically justified and reduce risks to human health and the environment.
In laymen’s terms, Integrated Pest Management is about stopping problems before they happen. It is a proactive, holistic approach to pests, pesticides, and other factors. In this article about IPM, we interview Jordan Mello, master grower for In Good Health located in Brockton, Massachusetts.
Why use IPM?
Growers are legally limited in the kind of pesticides they are allowed to use. Since the majority of pesticides are managed and controlled by the federal government, and cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug in the eyes of the federal government, there are very few pesticides that are allowed for use in cannabis. The pesticides that are allowed typically fall outside the domain of EPA-regulated pesticides. These pesticides are generally referred to as “minimum-risk” pesticides, or tolerance-exempt pesticides.
Because of these limitations, a more proactive approach to pest management is required to keep cannabis pest-free. That’s where IPM comes in — by actively monitoring plants and quickly responding to threats, growers can avoid situations where the EPA-restricted pesticides might be necessary.
All employees who enter In Good Health’s grow area must change out of their street clothes and into scrubs. They are also supplied with in-house shoes, gloves, and hairnets. To avoid contaminating separate rooms, employees are required to change their clothing, shoes, and other equipment when they enter a different grow room.
In addition to standard employee practices, Mello regularly inspects his plants for any sign of pests. He also inspects their water tanks, flushes, and other equipment to make sure that nothing is out of alignment.
When pests are found, they are immediately dealt with. Mello uses appropriate amounts of pesticide for the right pests. For example,
- With thrips, Mello uses spinosad in combination with Azagard.
- With spider mites, Mello uses Azamax.
- When Mello encounters powdery mildew, he uses a combination of Procidic and ZeroTol.
IPM in Massachusetts
Massachusetts IPM law mandates the use of organic pesticides only. Synthetic pesticides are not allowed. This means that growers in Massachusetts must adhere to the USDA standards for organic produce. Massachusetts law also requires microbiological screens and heavy metal testing. This makes IPM more difficult, because the microbio screens hamper the ability of growers to use biopesticides, or beneficial bacteria and fungi.
As part of enforcing these rules, Massachusetts subjects all growers to two site visits per month. One is announced, but the other is random. The inspectors go through the entirety of the grow operation, inspect equipment and plants, ask for MSDS (material safety data sheets) and SOPs (standard operating procedures), and more.
How to Integrate IPM into a Grow Operation
Start with design. Jumping in headlong and expecting good results will not end well. If you don’t know what you’re doing, meet with expert consultants like urban-gro. Just be warned that you need to have a critical eye and pick your “experts” carefully.
From there it’s a matter of going over every weakness point in your setup. How are pests getting in? Are there structural deficiencies? What are you doing to reduce bringing in outside pests? How do you clean and sterilize for pests that are already inside? Is your humidity just right? How about your cooling systems? What procedures should employees follow?
All these factors need to be considered, and then you can [re]design your facilities appropriately.
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This article has been paraphrased with permission from Growers Network.