Integrated Pest Management
What is IPM?
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is “a sustainable approach to managing pests by combining biological, cultural, physical, and chemical tools in a way that minimizes economic, health, and environmental risks.” (7 U.S.C. § 136r). In layman's terms, IPM is a method of utilizing multiple pest control tools and methods in a way that is beneficial to the farmer, the farm's customers and neighbors, and the farms local ecosystem. This effect is most evident at Kimballs in the fact that we have naturally occurring beneficial insects and pollinators - we have never needed to introduce bees as many orchards do. We are so proud of how our practices positively affect our immediate environment that you will find ladybugs - our most common beneficial insect - on all of our Harvest Boxes.
What is a pest?
When it comes to farming, a lot of people hear "pest" and automatically assume insects. The truth is pests are any organism (plant, animal, fungi, etc.) that negatively effects the local environment of the farm: it's ecosystems, products, workers, and consumers.
Why does Kimballs use IPM?
At Kimballs (as is the case at most farms) we are at risk of many pests, mainly: local wildlife (especially deer, birds, and rodents), plant diseases, insects, and weeds. IPM allows us to have a diverse range of pest control methods creating an effective and economical control program that has a more minimal environmental impact.
What does IPM look like at Kimballs?
There are four branches of our IPM program. A common theme between all four is promoting healthy plant growth. Healthy plants are like healthy bodies - they are more resistant to and better equipped to fight diseases.
1. Biological: Biological pest control is the use of a pest's natural enemies to control or mitigate the pest. If necessary, in our greenhouses we introduce parasitic nematodes directly to the soil as they are the natural enemy of fungus gnats. Also, all of our potting mix has beneficial mycorrhizae - a beneficial fungus that aids in healthy plant growth.
2. Cultural: Cultural pest controls are growing practices and techniques that positively affect plants and negatively affect pests. At Kimballs we use drip irrigation, no-till growing, cover crops and proper fertilization, all of which promote healthy plant growth, prevent soil erosion and nutrient depletion and create inhospitable environments for many pests.
3. Physical: Physical pest controls are direct actions to prevent or remove a pest. In 2020, we slowly started switching from plastic mulch to biodegradable mulches and in 2022 we proudly switched to 100% biodegradable mulch for weed prevention. We also installed a 3000+ foot long, 10 foot tall deer fence around most of the fields behind the farm to keep deer and other large animals from damaging our crops. Finally, we have standard procedures for cleaning and sanitizing all of our work surfaces, vehicles, and packing materials.
4. Chemical: We use a combination of conventional and certified organic chemical pest controls at Kimballs. Two key factors influence our chemical purchasing and usage. First, we look for chemicals that effect the pest we are targeting and not beneficial insects. We also make sure to spray at times when pollinators will be least effected. Second, we favor chemicals that are preventative rather than fixative. Not only does this promote healthy plant growth, but it also reduces overall pesticide usage.