The issue: Integrated pest management
Integrated pest management (IPM) for weeds is a common-sense approach to control various weeds in our farms, gardens and public areas while minimizing risks to people and the environment. I find the best way to think of it is to consider the different weed control options as tools in a toolbox. IPM does not discount any viable control techniques, but encourages the use of the least environmentally harmful tool that will do the job adequately.
The first step to proper IPM weed control is to identify the weed and understand its life cycle. Weeds can usually be placed into one of the following life-cycle categories: summer annual, winter annual, biennial, simple perennial, creeping-spreading perennial. In my articles I identify the plants with their most common life cycle.
Integrated pest management options:
Prevention: This is the best option for all life cycles. Identify the various weeds and employ practices that will keep them from getting established on your property. In all cases, keep weeds from going to seed.
Mechanical: These options work very well on annuals before they go to seed, the seedling stage of the other life cycles, and sometimes on mature biennial and perennial plants.
Cultural: This involves altering practices to encourage desirable plants and discourage weeds.
Biological: Many plants have natural enemies. Non-native natural enemy species are studied before they are released to make sure they pose no harm to native plant species. This is controlled by Idaho State Department of Agriculture.
Chemical: Herbicides can be very effective and economical, but indiscriminate use of herbicides may lead to an imbalance in nature. Consider these options last. Always read and follow herbicide label directions.
The best IPM weed control occurs when several of these practices are combined in our fight against noxious and invasive weeds.