The Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab, or IPM IL (formerly the IPM CRSP), is a large, multi-year effort supported by USAID to introduce and maintain IPM best practices and foster sustainable farming systems in seven developing countries. In addition to agricultural strategies, the program also deals with cross-cutting issues such as gender, health, nutrition, equitable use of resources, and agricultural education.
The program, started in 1993 and one of ten Innovation Labs in Collaborative Research, promotes Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a holistic approach to reducing damage caused by pests without harming the environment. Among the approaches embraced by IPM are: the adoption of pest-resistant varieties of crops; biological and physical control methods; environmental modification; biopesticides; and when absolutely necessary, non-residual, environmentally-friendly and low mammalian-toxic chemical pesticides.
IPM is needed in all areas of the developing world. Pests—insects, plant diseases, weeds, vertebrates, animal parasites—respect no borders. They spread through plant and animal migration, wind, and water and by human activity, including trade in plant and animal products.
Insects not only devour crops, they also spread plant-infecting viruses. Losses due to pests are a major constraint to improved agricultural productivity in developing countries. Estimates of these production and post-harvest losses range from 25% to 50%.
Concerns over biosecurity and invasive species are issues that require attention in both developed and developing countries. Through IPM, crop losses and pesticide use can be reduced and farmers’ incomes can increase.
Collaboration and training
While the program is housed at Virginia Tech, the IPM IL works with researchers, scientists, extension agents, farmers, policymakers, and government officials around the world. Through collaboration with universities in the United States and host countries, the program provides training for the next generation of IPM practitioners. Technology transfer of program-developed techniques and practices is possible through cooperation with governments, NGOs, and universities.
The benefits of the program are long-lasting and highly effective. One IPM intervention alone – the release of a parasite to control the papaya mealybug in India – has resulted in such huge benefits that this single intervention pays for the entire IPM CRSP over its lifetime.