A whole new way to rid the landscape of weed, pest and disease problems was implemented across the world with the chemical revolution during the first part of the twentieth century. A few decades later, a few people began to notice changes in the environment. Most notable among them was Rachel Carson. With the publishing of Silent Spring in 1962, Carson awakened an interest in ecology and the negative implications caused by widespread and indiscriminate use of chemicals, synthetic chemicals, to solve environmental problems. This realization caused many people to question its use and find alternative methods. Numerous state extension offices established a method of managing weed, pest and disease problems, called Integrated Pest Management that sought to use the least harmful practice first, before resorting to a more harmful step. Their aim is to reduce the indiscriminate use of synthetic chemicals in our environment.
Even in the best gardens, problems will pop up from time to time. Some of the causes are beyond our control, but in actual practice, we cause most of them ourselves. Integrated Problem Management (IPM) is a four-step system of managing landscape problems by using the methods that are the least harmful to the environment. We may perform some of these steps automatically or routinely without even realizing it. The more a gardener recognizes and practices correct horticultural techniques and practices, the less problems the garden will encounter.
The fourth step in Integrated Problem Management is managing the problem. Managing is not meant to control or eliminate all pests and disease. Total control and/or elimination is not possible. Most of our problems are a result of lack of soil tilth or poor maintenance practices. IPM stresses the management of a problem, rather than eradication. Instead of reaching for a chemical solution as the first response, analyse the options available in cultural practices, mechanical or biological management first.
The last management practice and most harmful to the environment is the use of chemicals. This is the method of last resort. Unfortunately, many people turn to synthetic chemicals as the first method for problem management. Organic and synthetic chemicals are both powerful substances that should be used with caution only to target specific problems.