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Flowers, Fruits, and Frass

Local and statewide information on a variety of current topics for home gardeners and market growers.

Early Integrated Pest Managment


Integrated Pest Management Program

University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup, urges early scouting to ensure an effective integrated pest management program. Integrated pest management is a gardener's approach to treating garden pests and diseases by using multiple methods of control including cultural, mechanical, biological and chemical. The cultural method concept is a healthy plant is more likely to fend off an insect infestation or disease pressures than a plant that is not getting enough sun or has poor fertility. Mechanical is using a hoe to remove weeds or a bin of soapy water to drown Japanese beetles in the early morning. Biological control is attracting beneficial insects like lady bugs or green lace wing using nectar or pollen producing plants like sunflowers. The chemical method is used as the last resort to treating pests and diseases because of the greater expense and environmental and applicator safety.

Allsup states "Early scouting allows recognition of the pest or disease before it reaches a population that can only be controlled through chemical methods." Master gardeners are inspecting their bare trees, cleaning up the plant debris and looking for signs of overwintering pests to get a head start on the growing season.

While inspecting the tree, look for holes in the trunk or branches or abnormal growth on the branches. If you suspect the emerald ash borer on your ash tree, the hole will be D shaped and the size of a pinky finger tip. Inspect again once the tree leafs out and look for dead branches and branch tips. This is an indication xylem is being blocked and water cannot reach the top of the tree. Fungal infections can also be evident in early spring when the leaves are not covering up the signs.

Cleaning up plant debris and getting rid of weeds early can be a benefit to any backyard gardener. Most, but not all pests overwinter in your garden debris on weeds or in the soil. If you had squash bugs last year this step is incredibly important to prevent damaging populations. Allsup also suggests cutting back dead growth of overwintering perennials before Mother's Day.

As the temperatures rise, as with plants, insects come out of dormancy and one must be on the lookout to properly treat a pest infestation. Look for webbing of the eastern tent caterpillar, the woody cone-shaped pupating stage of a bag worm and look for the larvae of cutworms and flea beetles as you cultivate your garden soil. These early signs can help a gardener better manage any pest or disease issues that may arise.

When in doubt, please bring questions or samples to the Livingston, McLean and Woodford Master Gardener Plant clinics to diagnose your problems and give recommendations and gardening advice. Master Gardeners answer questions on insect identification, disease identification, weed identification, growing vegetables, and fruits and general ornamental landscaping.

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