The Journal of Extension -

February 2016 // Volume 54 // Number 1 // Research In Brief // v54-1rb7

Assessing Integrated Pest Management Implementation and Knowledge Gaps in South Dakota

A survey of commercial pesticide applicator training participants was carried out during 2015 winter pesticide certification meetings to assess integrated pest management (IPM) knowledge gaps. Overall, the majority of the respondents reported that they have adequate access to IPM information and that they apply IPM principles in their pest management programs. Preventive fungicide use was identified as a regular practice by half the respondents and was dependent on the region of the state. Participants identified basic pest identification as an area in which more resources are needed. Online information and field days were the preferred options for accessing outreach and Extension.

Emmanuel Byamukama
Assistant Professor/Extension Specialist–Plant Pathology
South Dakota State University
Brookings, South Dakota

Adrianna Szczepaniec
Assistant Professor
Texas A&M AgriLife
Amarillo, Texas

Connie Strunk
Extension Field Specialist II–Plant Pathology
South Dakota State University Sioux Falls Regional Extension Center
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Robert Fanning
Former Extension Field Specialist III–Plant Pathology
South Dakota State University Winner Regional Extension Center
Winner, South Dakota

Amanda Bachmann
Extension Field Specialist II–Entomology, Pesticide Education, Pesticide Safety
South Dakota State University Pierre Regional Extension Center
Pierre, South Dakota

Darrell Deneke
Former IPM Coordinator
South Dakota State University
Brookings, South Dakota

Paul Johnson
Extension Associate-Weed Science
South Dakota State University
Brookings, South Dakota


Integrated pest management (IPM) is an effective and sustainable tool, and when implemented properly, it can also be highly profitable (Flint, 2012). The potential economic benefits of IPM stem from implementation of diverse tactics that include engaging in proper crop rotation, managing weeds, maximizing the role of biological control agents, and gauging pest thresholds before using chemical pest control. These practices delay resistance of pests to pesticides and provide long-term benefits to producers and the environment (Kogan, 1998; Environmental Protection Agency, 2008; Flint, 2012). Although IPM approaches were introduced several decades ago, widespread implementation of IPM has been declining recently, owing to the increasing size of farms and the low costs of some pesticides (Sappington, 2014). These factors contribute to a prevalence of preventive applications of pesticides, ranging from seed treatments to scheduled foliar sprays of fungicides and insecticides that often are not warranted by existing pest pressure (Thelin & Stone, 2013).

Because crop managers make their decisions based on perceived threats of economic losses from crops, assessing the managers' access to IPM information, IPM knowledge gaps, and preferred means of IPM information delivery can help improve sustained adoption of IPM. Identifying knowledge gaps is a fundamental prerequisite to any educational effort implemented to address the needs of clientele. Moreover, it is equally important to determine how to customize information delivery to meet the needs and preferences of clientele.

Recently, the use of preventive fungicides, especially strobirulins, has increased. This trend is due, in part, to aggressive marketing of these products to achieve plant health benefits even in the absence of fungal diseases (Wise & Mueller, 2011; Kyveryga, Blackmer, & Mueller, 2013). Strobilutrin fungicides are being applied in corn as early as the V6 growth stage, in soybeans as early as the R1 growth stage, and in wheat as early as the tillering growth stage. Such early applications of fungicides often occur while there is negligible to low disease pressure and are unlikely to affect yield of crops. Moreover, these applications lead to negative impacts of calendar pesticide sprays, such as resistance development and elimination of nontarget organisms. Consequently, the overall long-term economic and environmental costs of preventive fungicide applications can be high.

Thus, one goal of the survey discussed here was to assess the prevalence of fungicide use in South Dakota. Moreover, we also solicited participants' feedback on the availability of IPM information, the most relevant IPM knowledge gaps, and the preferred means of delivery of IPM information. Because this survey was administered during the state's commercial pesticide applicator training, which brings together over 2,000 crop managers each year, we were able to survey a representative sample of professionals making pest management decisions in the state. The outcomes we report indicate that soliciting basic information on pest management practices and availability of IPM resources is one of the tools for assessing clientele needs.


The surveys were administered at the commercial pesticide applicator trainings held at seven South Dakota State University (SDSU) regional Extension centers (Figure 1) in January and February 2015. The participants were crop managers who oversee 3.4 million acres of cropland (30%) in South Dakota and make the majority of pest management decisions.

Participants in the commercial pesticide applicator training were requested to respond anonymously to a set of six questions by selecting their answers using clickers (Turning Technologies, LLC, Youngstown, OH). A Likert scale with the points Strongly agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, and Strongly disagree (Allen & Seaman, 2007) was used to gather responses to the first three questions, which related to whether participants have access to information on integrated pest and disease management, use principles of integrated pest and disease management practices in their operations, and use preventive fungicide applications on the crops corn, soybeans, or wheat. The fourth question asked which of these crops received the most fungicide applications. We also assessed needs for IPM-related information related to pest thresholds, pesticide efficacies, pest and disease identification, and IPM practices (fifth question). Because of the rapid changes in information delivery systems and the popularity of mobile devices and social media, we assessed what proportion of the participants preferred traditional means (printed handouts and field days/crop tours) as opposed to novel means (website, social media, or broadcast) of receiving IPM information (sixth question).

Responses from the survey participants were subjected to Proc Frequency analysis performed using SAS (SAS Institute, Cary, NC) to identify the choices with the highest number of responses for each category in each region and across regions. Pearson's chi-square option was used to test whether there was an association between the regions and the response selected for each question posed to the participants.


A total of 685 participants in the commercial pesticide applicator training responded to questions in the survey. Mitchell Regional Extension Center had the highest number of respondents (132), and Rapid City Regional Extension Center had the least number of respondents (36) (Figure 1).

Figure 1.
Locations of SDSU Regional Extension Centers and Number of Survey Participants at Each Center

More than 88% of respondents said they had access to IPM information. These respondents either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement that they had adequate access to IPM information (Table 1). Chi-square analysis revealed no significant association between regions and the response given when respondents were asked whether they had access to integrated pest and disease management information (χ2 = 27.35, degrees of freedom [df] = 24, P-value = 0.288).

When participants were asked whether they use integrated pest and disease management information in their operations, 83% of respondents across the regions either agreed or strongly agreed (Table 1). A greater percentage of respondents agreed with the statement (53%) as compared to those who strongly agreed with the statement (30%). We found that location had a significant association with the response on whether the survey participants used IPM information in their operations (χ2 =38.29, df = 24, P-value = 0.032). East-central locations (Brookings and Watertown) had a higher percentage of participants strongly agreeing with the statement of using IPM, as compared to other locations.

Table 1.
Responses Related to Access to and Use of IPM Information for Different Regions and for the Combined Regions

I have access to integrated pest and disease management information in my operation.
Response Watertown Mitchell Aberdeen Brookings Sioux Falls Pierre Rapid City Overall
No. % No. % No. % No. % No. % No. % No. % No. %
Strongly agree 48 44 56 42 48 39 36 40 43 36 30 41 13 36 274 40
Agree 48 44 62 46 56 46 48 53 62 53 36 49 13 36 325 48
Neutral 6 6 12 9 14 11 7 8 12 10 6 8 9 25 66 9
Disagree 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 3 5 1
Strongly disagree 4 4 2 2 4 3 0 0 0 0 2 3 0 0 12 2
I use integrated pest management information in my operation.
Strongly agree 41 39 36 27 28 22 31 34 38 32 26 33 10 30 210 30
Agree 51 48 72 54 68 55 47 52 76 64 35 45 13 40 362 53
Neutral 8 8 16 12 22 18 10 11 12 10 14 18 10 30 92 13
Disagree 2 2 6 5 2 2 2 2 1 1 1 1 0 0 14 2
Strongly disagree 3 3 2 2 4 3 0 0 0 0 2 3 0 0 1 1 2

When asked about preventive fungicide applications, the majority of all the respondents were neutral (32%), whereas 25% disagreed with the statement that they apply fungicides as a preventive measure. Interestingly, the same proportion (25%) agreed with the statement (Table 2). The location significantly influenced the responses about fungicide use, with east-central (Brookings) and central (Pierre) locations having 52% and 40% of the respondents strongly disagree or disagree with the statement (χ2 = 40.71, df = 24, P-value = 0.018).

The majority of all participants (72%) responded that they apply more fungicides to wheat as compared to soybeans and corn. Participants in the southeast location, Sioux Falls, indicated higher rates of fungicide applications to corn and soybeans than respondents in any other location (23% and 24%, respectively), but as with other regions, wheat was singled out as the crop receiving the greatest amount of fungicide treatments (Table 2).

Table 2.
Responses Related to Fungicide Use for Different Regions and for the Combined Regions
I usually apply a fungicide on crops just in case the diseases develop.
Response Watertown Mitchell Aberdeen Brookings Sioux Falls Pierre Rapid City Overall
No. % No. % No. % No. % No. % No. % No. % No. %
Strongly agree 15 14 5 4 10 8 6 7 12 9 4 5 5 14 57 8
Agree 23 22 39 30 36 28 20 23 35 28 14 18 6 17 173 25
Neutral 31 30 42 32 44 35 26 30 45 36 19 24 14 39 221 32
Disagree 22 21 37 29 26 21 26 30 26 20 25 32 7 19 169 25
Strongly disagree 13 13 7 5 10 8 9 10 9 7 17 21 4 11 69 10
Which crop receives more fungicide application?
Corn 5 5 11 8 18 14 6 6 16 24 5 6 8 22 69 11
Soybean 14 13 15 12 28 22 17 19 15 23 3 3 - - 92 14
Wheat 83 80 100 78 8 61 67 74 35 53 72 89 26 70 463 73
None of these 2 2 3 2 4 3 1 1 0 0 2 2 3 8 15 2

When asked about major shortcomings in IPM-related resources, half of the survey participants identified the need to improve the availability of pest and disease identification, and this response was consistent across the regions (Table 3). Pest/disease thresholds was selected as the second most relevant area about which more information was needed. The location was not significantly associated with the responses given (χ2 = 26.26, df = 18, P-value = 0.094), indicating that all regions tended to identify similar knowledge gaps.

The main method participants identified as the best way in which IPM information can be availed to them was online media (37%), followed by field days (27%) and printed materials (23%). Social media and broadcasts were selected as the least favorite means of communication (Table 3). Preferred modes of delivery of IPM guidelines and updates were similar across all regions (χ2 = 27.21, df = 24, P-value = 0.2946).

Table 3.
Responses Related to Need for IPM-Related Resources for Different Regions and for the Combined Regions
One area more information is needed in pest and disease management is. . .
Response Watertown Mitchell Aberdeen Brookings Sioux Falls Pierre Rapid City Overall
No. % No. % No. % No. % No. % No. % No. % No. %
Pest thresholds 30 30 32 25 29 24 27 31 38 31 10 12 3 9 169 25
Pesticide efficacies 15 15 17 13 20 17 13 15 18 15 14 18 8 24 105 16
Pest and disease ID 46 45 73 56 60 51 41 46 57 46 45 56 15 46 337 50
IPM practices 10 10 8 6 9 8 7 8 10 8 11 14 7 21 62 9
One best way of delivering IPM information is. . .
Online 32 31 42 32 39 38 36 41 53 43 24 33 19 54 245 37
Print media 23 22 39 30 18 17 18 21 25 20 20 27 9 26 152 23
Field days 34 33 36 27 30 29 22 25 31 25 21 28 4 11 178 27
Social media 6 6 8 6 9 9 10 11 6 5 3 4 1 3 43 7
Broadcast 9 8 6 5 6 6 2 2 7 6 6 8 2 6 38 6


Surveys are instrumental in assessing clientele needs and establishing the type of IPM-related resources and events that are best suited to the state and region. These surveys are routinely performed and have been important in organizing events that are customized to unique needs of the clientele (Alston & Reding, 1998; Malone, Herbert, & Pheasant, 2004). With changes in Extension that resulted in regional specialists' replacing county agents in South Dakota, reaching the audience and gauging their needs is more difficult, and surveys such as the one we report here are the best means of ensuring that we address important IPM-related knowledge and resource gaps.

We identified several very important trends among the respondents to our survey. Most of them reported using IPM guidelines in their operations and having access to IPM-related information. Because these are commercial crop managers, this finding indicates that a substantial portion of cropland in South Dakota is managed within the IPM framework. This finding was contrasted somewhat by the high percentage of respondents who indicated that they use preventive fungicide treatments. The challenge, therefore, seems to be ensuring that we place the basic IPM principles within the context of modern agriculture and successfully communicate that preventive pesticide applications pose a challenge to sustainability of pest and disease management. This perspective is highlighted by other reports, as illustrated in Bradley (2012), who found that only 38% of survey respondents in Illinois in 2009 considered disease pressure before applying a fungicide. Moreover, recent chemical company advertising promoting use of fungicides for plant health benefits in the absence of significant fungal disease pressure may be influencing crop managers to apply a fungicide under negligible disease levels (Wise & Mueller, 2011).

It is also interesting that respondents noted the need for more resources on basic pest and disease identification and economic injury thresholds. These resources are already available, particularly in online media, and the prevalence of this response seems to suggest that Extension faculty and staff may need to update the already available information to improve its clarity or to deliver it in simpler and more straightforward formats. Because online media seem to be the preferred method of communication (this survey; Drill, 2012), some sort of online database of region-specific pest identification tools and thresholds would provide the best solution to this particular need identified by the clientele.

Another interesting finding was that survey participants at locations closer to SDSU selected responses more aligned with IPM guidelines than respondents located farther away from the university. This finding suggests that the university efforts to communicate research related to sustainable pest and disease management have an effect on adoption of IPM tactics in pest management decisions. An example of such efforts is the IPM program at SDSU. Persons associated with this program have been holding IPM field schools every year, rotated between two regions in the state (Deneke, 2013).

The findings discussed here clearly identify the continuous need for university researchers and Extension personnel to communicate the extent of environmental and economic costs of preventive pesticide applications that are not warranted by pest pressure. This practice has tremendous long-term costs, and finding ways to illustrate these long-term costs is the greatest challenge of our mission.


We would like to thank all commercial pesticide applicator training participants who took part in the survey. We also thank the South Dakota Department of Agriculture's Pesticide Program staff who organized the pesticide applicator recertification programs throughout the state.


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