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Preparation & Maintenance of Department IPM Plans

Last modified: 2/27/2012 2:26 PM

Understanding Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Cover of IPM BookIPM is a holistic approach to pest (including weed) management. The IPM process combines the use of biological, cultural, physical, and chemical tactics in a manner that strives to minimize economic, health, and environmental risks. The definition of Integrated Pest Management in the Santa Clara County IPM Ordinance provides a basic description of an IPM approach to pest management. Keys to an IPM approach include:

  • Its integrated nature, involving planning and design of the landscape, facility or roadway etc., as well as maintenance practices and specific pest control tactics;
  • Its preventive nature, emphasizing a wide variety of maintenance practices to promote appropriate and healthy plant growth, improved sanitation, housekeeping; maintaining sound and vermin proof structures; tenant education and cooperation, public awareness and outreach to accomplish a proactive and preventive approach to pest management through participation of all.
  • Its emphasis on knowledge about the pest and regular monitoring of pest levels as well as evaluation of control methods applied; and
  • Use of "management" and "control" approaches in preference to elimination or eradication - except in cases of certain public health related pests and noxious weeds and specific situations where the tolerance threshold may be zero. In general, IPM establishes an approach to manage pest problems within tolerable limits.

The IPM approach encourages planning, design and maintenance of landscapes, rights-of-way and facilities that meet intended purposes while promoting healthy environment and minimizing pest problems. The IPM approach follows a continuum that begins with careful planning, design and construction decisions followed by appropriate maintenance and management of public lands, facilities and water bodies by employees with up-to-date training.

The IPM approach emphasizes a thorough knowledge of the pest or vegetation problem, pre-determined tolerance thresholds, regular monitoring to determine when those levels are met, and treatment of the pest or vegetation problem with appropriate cultural, mechanical, biological and, where needed, chemical tactics. Tolerance thresholds are set at levels that keep pest numbers or vegetation problems low enough to prevent intolerable damage, annoyance or public safety hazards while remaining economically and environmentally feasible.

IPM encompasses the use of reduced risk chemical controls specifically in situations where they may be the most environmentally responsible or safest way to deal with a problem, or where other control tactics have proven ineffective at meeting tolerance levels. When chemical controls are necessary, decisions on their use will consider any possible effects on aquatic life (toxicity) and any tendencies for the chemical to move in the environment (mobility). Decisions on chemical use are made in conjunction with other control methods that are effective and practical.

Understanding Components of an IPM Approach

Pollution Prevention through Precautionary Principles
Prevent pesticide related pollution through integration of precautionary principles in your departmental policy and procedures; integrate proactive, preventive or reduced risk pest management practices, staff education and outreach. Consider IPM as an integral component of environmental preferable purchasing or green building practices, organic gardening, resource conservation and non-point source pollution prevention.

Planning and Design
A landscape, facility or road right-of-way should be planned and designed taking into account parameters that will enhance intended uses of the land and minimize pest problems. Design takes into account such factors as types of uses, sanitation, housekeeping, maintenance, soils, grading and slope, water table, drainage, proximity to sensitive areas, selection of vegetation, and vector control issues.

Maintenance for maximum landscape health
Choices of vegetation in a landscape as well as maintenance practices serve to keep areas as healthy as possible and thus minimize pest problems. Appropriate selection and retention of plants, irrigation, application of mulch or fertilizer, mowing, and many other practices all serve to maintain healthy landscapes that withstand pest pressures and support natural predators for pests. A well-selected and maintained landscape reduces, often dramatically, the need for pest control.

Knowing the pest
Identification of pests and knowledge of their life cycles are crucial to proper management. Potential pests should be documented and actual pests carefully identified in order to clearly focus IPM strategies. Field staff needs the opportunity for training in pest identification and the time to conduct regular assessments.

Determining tolerance thresholds
Tolerance thresholds must be established. They may vary by pest, specific location or type of land use. Weed threshold levels, for example, will be different for rural utility rights-of-way, urban turf and landscapes, and golf course greens, road shoulders and around structures. Insect or plant disease tolerances will likewise be different depending on uses and/or specific locations such as office versus cafeteria, etc.

Three distinct levels may be identified as subsets of threshold determination. The initial Injury threshold is the level at which some injury begins to occur or is noticeable. The action threshold is the level at which action must be taken to prevent a pest population at a specific site from reaching the aesthetic, functional or economic damage threshold, the level where unacceptable damage begins to occur. In most environments certain levels of pest presence or injury can be accepted. IPM practitioners keep careful track of pests after the injury threshold is crossed so the pests do not get to the point where they can cause enough damage to impact the purpose of the landscape or facility being maintained. When the predetermined action threshold is crossed, interventions are implemented so as to avoid reaching the damage threshold.

There are situations where the threshold level for pests must be set near or at zero. Laws and regulations set the population threshold level at zero for Class A noxious weed species due to potential for economic injury, public health or environmental impact. Road shoulders immediately adjacent to the pavement are areas where weed tolerance is low due to public safety requirements and potential for significant economic losses should the paved roadway surface be compromised. Safety and infrastructure protection also factor into the determination of very low or zero thresholds for weeds in areas such as electrical substations and propane tank storage yards or fuel loads around structures in Regional parks or unincorporated lands within urban limits.

Monitoring for pests
Regular monitoring to assess pest level, extent, locations and stage in life cycle is important. Assessment relative to established tolerances is necessary. Field staff needs the opportunity for training in pest monitoring techniques and the time to allow for appropriate monitoring.

Developing the IPM plan
The following elements should be considered when selecting appropriate strategies:

  • Preservation of natural systems and long-term health of the area
  • Damage to the general environment
  • Disruption of the natural controls, which are present
  • Hazards to human health
  • Toxicity to aquatic life
  • Mobility and persistence in the environment
  • Impact to non-target organisms
  • Timing relative to vulnerable periods in the pest's life cycle with the least impact on natural enemies
  • Ability to produce long-term reduction in the pest
  • Ability to be carried out effectively
  • Cost effectiveness in short and long term; incorporating strategies as an integral part of budget planning, capital improvement projects, contract provisions, lease negotiations etc.
  • Ability to be measured and evaluated

Implementing the IPM plan and selected strategies
Well-trained field staff should fully implement the strategies selected and record the steps followed and management methods used.

Monitoring and evaluation
Effectiveness of the IPM method(s) employed should be measured, records kept and an evaluation process conducted in order to regularly assess how well it is working to bring about the desired result(s). Field staff needs time allocated for appropriate monitoring and record keeping, as well as opportunities for training and discussion in evaluation processes. Record keeping does not have to be elaborate or time-consuming; it can be as simple as keeping a field notebook or logbook or electronically entered into a central database to aid later evaluation.

Learning, revision and process improvement
Results of application of specific IPM strategies as well as the IPM program as a whole should be reviewed regularly and revisions made as appropriate based on experience.

Management methods in IPM Approach
Management methods to be incorporated within an IPM approach include:


Cultural management activities that prevent pests from developing due to enhancement of desirable vegetation which out-competes or otherwise resists the pests, including but not limited to irrigation, seeding, fertilizing, mulching, pruning and thinning.

Physical or Mechanical

Physical or Mechanical management activities performed using physical methods and/or mechanical equipment such as hand removal, baits, traps, barriers, mowers, brush cutters, flame or hot water/steam weeders, blades, hoes, string trimmers, harvesters, flail mowers or other physical means such as vermin proofing to control pests, removal of undesirable vegetation to control pests, good sanitation, housekeeping practices, proper garbage disposal etc.


Biological management activities performed using insects, animals, birds, bacteria or competing vegetation to control pests (including undesirable vegetation). Appropriate permits should be obtained from County Department of Agriculture, USDA, EPA or applicable agency before release of any biological agent. Local noxious weed control boards should be notified of any biological control releases for noxious weed control.


Chemical management activities performed using reduced risk chemical agents registered as pesticides by the California State Department of Pesticide Regulations and referenced in Santa Clara County’s Approved list.

Department IPM Program

In Santa Clara County, IPM program implementation is the function of six departments as mentioned below. Facilities & Fleet Department represents IPM maintenance related activities of several departments. These departments are responsible for planning, budgeting and executing IPM projects in consultation with the County IPM Manager. The implementation plan is a living document where components are customized for each facility as needed. The Department IPM Coordinators should ensure that these plans are updated annually; budgets are prepared in advance, in anticipation of maintenance of existing projects or expected new demonstrations or projects. They should submit annual plans to the County IPM Manager by November 30th each year for the following fiscal year. This will allow adequate time to discuss, plan activities & proposals for submission to the departmental budget preparations that normally starts in October-November each year. They should also explore and avail necessary grant or funding opportunities. Advance project planning (sometime an year in advance) is the key to get these grants from various state and federal agencies.

Components of Department IPM Program
The Department IPM Program should include following components:

  • Planning: Needs for each year; Communicating plans to Department Heads for approval,
  • Budgets and Economics: Continuously improve and make the process feasible and economical to the facilities; Working with the County IPM Manager to find alternative sources of funding (grants); writing grants and follow up;
  • Educate, train and communicate with facility managers, Department IPM Coordinators/Safety Coordinators and facility tenants
  • Procure Qualified IPM Contractors
  • Develop a comprehensive IPM service plan
  • Maintain records of Pesticide use exemptions
  • Maintain Data and Document Control (IPM Log Book - Record Keeping); Submit quarterly and annual IPM activity/Pesticide use reports
  • Emphasize overall Pesticide Use Reduction: Physical, Mechanical and Cultural Control – A Non-Chemical Approach
  • Program Performance Management: Ensure Quality Control through periodic auditing of IPM projects
  • Safety and Communication
  • Work with Facilities & Fleet Property Management County IPM Manger to negotiate IPM Clauses for New Leases and Lease renewals; capital improvement projects, contract provisions, lease negotiations etc.

Following Department IPM Plans are the living documents, prepared, reside with the respective Department IPM Coordinators and available for review upon request:

  • Department of Facilities & Fleet (formally known as General Service Agency)
  • Department of Parks and Recreation
  • Department of Roads and Airports
  • Health and Hospital Systems
  • Libraries
  • Social Services Agency