Because of their potential to reduce on-farm biodiversity and harm the environment, pesticides should only be used as a last resort. Use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) scouting guidelines to determine if and when a pesticide is needed. (Learn more at Visit the National Integrated Pest Management Database and the Regional IPM Centers Resource Database. They are searchable databases, maintained by USDA’s Regional Integrated Pest Management Centers, that contain crop profiles, fact sheets, pest management guidelines and strategic plans. 

  • Identify: Begin by scouting plants regularly to identify problem pests and to monitor their numbers. 
  • Evaluate: With the help of local Extension agents and publications, evaluate whether the pests you identify are economically important by comparing them against pest thresholds.
  • Prevent: Early on, plan for and integrate biological and cultural management options that promote beneficial ecosystem services and prevent pest problems. 
  • Action: In the event that a pest reaches its action threshold, take action by determining the appropriate pesticide or biological control tactics to use. 
  • Monitor and evaluate: After treatment, continue to monitor pest numbers in order to evaluate the effectiveness of your strategy.

As a general rule, begin with the least toxic products if a reactive control is required. Examples include selective pesticides, growth regulators, microbial toxins, feeding deterrents, pheromones and plant-based oils that target problem pests. Natural predators are not as affected by these controls and thus are better able to continue their attack on crop pests. Be sure to keep a running log of the pests and beneficials that visit your fields. This information can help you forecast and plan for pests that may show up. You can also use this information to plan and refine your pest management plan in future years. 

Project Highlight: Targeted Sprays Control Stink Bugs

Research in New Jersey (ONE14-217) found that producers can reduce insecticide applications by as much as 75% to manage brown marmorated stink bugs and other orchard pests. Knowing that brown marmorated stink bugs colonize orchards from woody field edges, producers targeted the orchard perimeter with insecticide applications, instead of targeting the entire plot. This method, when combined with IPM-based monitoring and trapping, conserved natural enemies in the orchard by reducing the total volume of insecticide applied and saved growers 25-60% in application costs. Ecological Management of Key Arthropod Pests in Northeast Apple Orchards is a related fact sheet that discusses ecological strategies to manage this pest complex in apples.

Project Highlight: Control of White Mold with a Biopesticide

White mold, an important fungal disease in snap beans and other vegetable crops nationwide, is managed with the help of a fungal parasite, Coniothyrium minitans. Applied as a fungal biopesticide, C. minitans specifically attacks and kills the pathogen that causes white mold. Adding cultural practices like resistant variety selection, crop rotation and reduced tillage lowered white mold disease severity in beans from 11% to 3% during a SARE grant project (SW09-031). Watch a summary of the project and other ecological strategies to manage crop pathogens in this webinar.