IPM Resources on the World Wide Web

Ian V. MacRae
University of Minnessota Northwest Research and Outreach Center

Note: the links given in this chapter are very dated and probably few will still work.  The chapter remains posted because the discussion of IPM concepts and resources still has pertinence (the editors)

Introduction

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a system for accomplishing a specific goal; minimizing the impact of pests by using a variety of control procedures and attempting to decrease the overall chemical input into the environment. As such, it is composed of a number of steps: identifying the pest and its life history, establishing economic injury thresholds , monitoring, scouting and modeling populations, applying control tactics, and assessing the success of the program. As with any system, IPM is impacted by the development of new technology. The degree of that impact depends on how much the technology effects the component steps of the system. Many of the steps in IPM depend heavily on accurate and timely information and so can greatly benefit from the development of improved methods of accessing and disseminating information. The Internet, and the World Wide Web represent important improvements in information systems. The impact these systems have on IPM is just starting to be felt.

The Internet is a world-wide network of well over 2 million server machines. A server is a machine which allows other computers (referred to as clients) to access certain files and programs without requiring an account on the serving computer. The Internet was designed to share information from a variety of sources to a large number of end-users. Use of the Internet has grown exponentially since the development and introduction of the World Wide Web (WWW or the Web). WWW sites and the programs which allow access to them (called Browsers) have greatly simplified the use of the Internet as an information tool and provided access to many people to whom this method of information retrieval would previously have been unavailable. Browsers have a graphical interface and are operated with 'point-and-click' mouse commands. WWW sites are often referred to as pages because when viewed with a browser, they resemble magazine pages, often including in-line graphics.

There is a wide variety of information available over the Internet, although perhaps most of it is presently static in nature (i.e. it is a representation of printed material). The Web, however, can serve interactive information and has great potential to be more than simply a method of archiving and redistributing printed material. Web site pages can be updated very quickly and with great ease. This makes Web sites ideal for providing updated, rapidly changing information. Timely information, such as state pest alerts and changing label information or spray recommendations, can be available within minutes of the information being received by the Web site administrators. In addition, there are a number of methods for automating these updates, including inputting data from remote sites and incorporating it into a Web page. Already, current weather information is being uploaded from weather stations on regional and national scales and made available over the Web on a number of sites. Common Gateway Interface binary (CGI-bin) scripts allow data to be transferred from a browser to an executable program on the WWW server. A user can input variables via the browser and the Web server will, in turn, use these variables in an executable program and output the results to the client through the browser interface. In this way, the user, while having no control over the code of the executable program, can use it to get output. There are several Web sites with models and expert systems which function in this manner.

The WWW As An Information System

The WWW has great potential to be used in teaching, researching, and implementing IPM programs. Although the type of information on the Web is constantly changing, it can be generally divided into 3 categories: static material (material that is a reprint of material existing in a printed format), usually extension fact sheets or research publications; interactive models and decision making aids wherein the user enters variables and the WWW server computes output (these are typically run through CGI-bin files); and the provision of executable programs directly from the server to the client machine's RAM (an example are JAVA applets). Of all of these, the latter two are probably the most exciting from the viewpoint of WWW site developers. They may also offer the most promising utilities for the IPM field. Decision making aids, both those run through CGI-bin files and applets, may soon be available for a number of IPM models and programs. Pest population monitoring systems and predictive models, pesticide recommendations, mixing and application rate calculations, are already either available or are being developed for the WWW. Some good examples of decision making tools in development (as well as other experimental software for IPM) can be found at the Cyber's Edge site at North Carolina State University.

Publishing material electronically over a network has a number of advantages over publication of paper hardcopies. Fact sheets and reports on IPM programs are immediately available from all over the globe. In addition to the wide geographic availabililty of material, the Web offers the advantage of very quick delivery and the material itself is usually as current as possible. Printed material, although a standard method of providing information, is bulky, making transmission to remote locations expensive. Material archived on CD-Rom has the advantage of being randomly accessed and is easy to store and ship but is not as timely as is regularly updated, networked material. Because of this, the Web represents a significant improvement over existing information systems.

Existing methods of disseminating information, however, are still efficient and their infrastructure is well-established. Consequently, any new technology should be treated as an augmentation rather than a replacement. The WWW should not be seen as a replacement for library searches, but as a way of getting material that is not otherwise available to the user. IPM materials from other regions and countries may provide valuable insights for users. In addition, even if the information is not applicable to a user's area, WWW sites in other area can provide contact points for people working on similar problems.

Browsing The WWW

There are two ways to browse the WWW and get information. Users looking for specific information will frequently perform a search using one of the Web search engines, go to specific sites and download information of interest. At other times users may be exploring the Web or looking for a starting point for their information search and simply follow the hot links from site to site ('surfing the 'Net'). A good place to start for information on any topic is Yahoo!, one of the earliest Internet guides. Guides, such as Yahoo!, collect URL's and catalog them according to category. For IPM information, another useful place to start looking would be one of the regional sites of the National Integrated Pest Management Network. Both methods can yield valuable information, but, as with all other information systems, the original source should be considered and the information interpreted accordingly. This is especially important with information which has environmental, economic and health ramifications, such as that related to IPM. If a user intends to use information or implement recommendations from a site it is important to know who established the site, for what reason the site was established, and from where the site is published. It should be remembered that the WWW has become an important advertising medium for commercial interests and information found on Web pages should be considered accordingly. In addition, recommendations found on pages published from different countries than the users' may not be valid and application materials may not be registered or even available. Noting the authorship of material that has been posted on a Web site is also important; it serves as provenance for the validity of recommendations, dates the research that led to recommendations, and provides some measure of quality assessment. Generally speaking, however, recommendations posted on the WWW can be assumed to fall within current registration guidelines for the area in which the page is published.

Various fields of IPM have already felt a positive impact from the development of the WWW. To evaluate the degree of that impact, we will examine the ways in which the WWW can aid in the different steps of IPM programs. We will consider existing information that is available over the Web and discuss some of the future plans or WWW sites directed towards IPM. Many of the examples of existing sites will be linked and the reader is encouraged to follow these links and examine those sites. It should be noted that the changing nature of the WWW means that the sites mentioned in this chapter might not represent the best examples of particular sites. They were simply familiar and available to the author at the time this chapter was written.

Steps in IPM:

1. Identifying the pest species, its damage, and life history

Checking the Web for existing documents dealing with a pest is analogous to performing a literature search in a library. Most of the information found on the Web which can help in this step is static. Prepared documents from State Extension services such as fact sheets or pest updates are posted on a number of extension sites. This is one advantage over a standard library search, many state extension publications are not available in out-of-state libraries. Certainly they are hard to come by in rural areas. A motivating factor for State Extension services placing these documents on a Web server is the lower price of publication. It costs much less to put a document onto a WWW site than it does to produce a standard issue printing of several thousand hardcopies. It is hoped that many out-of-date, but still useful publications will also be archived on WWW sites. One place to start would be the National IPM Network (NIPMN) Regional Site for your USDA region. The regional sites contain links to State extension Web sites in those regions. The NIPMN is a network of collaborating institutions which provide region-wide IPM information over the WWW and to facilitate establishment of cooperating state sites.

NIPMN Regional Sites

Examining sites which either share the same pest problem or are in the same geographical area is a good start to finding information characterizing a pest problem. Another possibility is to get in touch with the contact person for any of the sites on which you find related information. Most Web sites which are providing a public service will have an linked e-mail address to the site coordinator.

This is a direct mailing to the site coordinator, who can provide new sources or forward questions to the appropriate Extension specialist.

2. Establishing economic injury thresholds

Existing recommended thresholds for some pests may be available in current publications that are available over the Web. These can be accessed and the information evaluated for suitability to the user's situation. Thresholds can also be calculated via simple models. A user can input the variables of interest into these models and allow the host machine to calculate the threshold of interest (e.g. the Economic Injury Level). The most current market values can be used in these calculations as market prices are one of the types of timely data available over the WWW.

WWW Sites With Market News and Agricultural Statistics:

3. Monitoring, scouting and predicting populations

There are two major aspects of monitoring that can be facilitated by the WWW: monitoring existing populations and projecting possible future populations through on-line models. Both are currently being pursued on a number of sites.

Real-time population monitoring over the WWW generally takes the form of a population map. Populations estimated by field sampling can be uploaded directly from the field via modem. These values can be incorporated into either models or mapping programs to chart real-time pest populations in the field. The output from these programs can be uploaded via CGI-bin scripts onto a WWW site, giving users access to real-time regional pest populations from any area sampled.

Examples of Real-Time Pest Mapping

  • New Mexico University Engineering Research Institute has provided the technology to map the results of the USDA-APHIS PPQ grasshopper survey in New Mexico in real-time. Field survey personnel upload site locations and grasshopper population estimates daily to the NMERI server where they are processed by the Geographic Information System (GIS) Arc/Info. The graphic output from Arc/Info is uploaded onto NMERI's WWW site via a CGI-bin script. The map is updated automatically throughout the season and the user gets the most recent population data.
  • The Integrated Plant Protection Center at Oregon State University , as part of the Area Wide Codling Moth Project, has established a similar site for mapping area wide coddling moth populations. The purpose of this project is to provide growers, field advisors, extension persons, and researchers access to information relevant to better codling moth management. In this case, the user chooses from a number of data sources and builds a map for a particular geographic area of interest.

Regional IPM programs will benefit most from real-time monitoring of pest populations. Mapping pest populations on a smaller geographic scale and uploading this data to the WWW would have limited practical or financial return. It may prove worthwhile, however, for an agricultural consulting firm with a number of clients in a particular area. Recent pest populations and movement could be graphically demonstrated to clients.

The use of models to predict pest populations under given conditions is also being pursued on the Web. A number of modeling utilities useful in projecting pest populations or modeling crop phenologies are available over the web. Some sites offer interactive models, some have downloadable software, while others merely provide reviews or references to software. There are simulation models available at several of these sites which may be customized to a particular system. Available predictive models tend to be either pest or crop specific.

Examples of Modeling Resources on the WWW

Component information which is used by phenology models, such as the accumulation of specific heat units, is also present on the WWW. Weather information, both timely and archived, is available for any agricultural location in the world.

Some WWW Weather Sites Useful to IPM

4. Selecting and applying control techniques

There are a number of resources which can help with the various control techniques utilized in IPM. For example, one of the important concepts in IPM is that of taking advantage of density-independent mortality factors. Many of the above weather links provide storm and frost warnings. These natural mortality factors may either negate the necessity of a control procedure being implemented or it may be decided to augment this mortality with the control procedure. In either case, forewarning of an impending weather system is useful. There are several control techniques utilized in IPM that have reference sources available on the Web.

i. Chemical control

There are number of sites which currently offer timely information which is very important in the application of chemical pest control techniques. The inclusion of pesticides in an IPM program requires not only the use of the right chemical but also that its use is required biologically and economically. In addition, the chemical must be applied in an efficient and safe manner, according to appropriate governmental regulations.

The choice of chemical can be aided with a number of interactive decision making aids available on the WWW. WWWHerb is an interactive modeling program run through CGI-bin scripts. It gives ranked herbicide recommendations for corn and soybeans in North Carolina. Other decision making aids are currently being developed for the WWW.

There are a number of sites that provide current pesticide registration and safety information. Some examples of which are:

ii. Host plant resistance

Recent updates in research on Host Plant resistance can be found in several locations, including the International Plant Resistance to Insects Newsletter . Other researchers who might be able to offer assistance or insight into a users questions may also be found on the web. A number of universities have home page with faculty profiles, including recent publications. These can help direct users to appropriate contacts.

Decision aid software is being designed that will assist in the selection of resistant varieties. An example of this type software can be found at

iii. Biological control

There are some excellent resources on the WWW dealing with biological control. Pages with background information or those reporting what biocontrol research is currently being conducted can serve as a good starting point for users studying the use of biological control in IPM or those planning to design an IPM program.

Some Biological Control Sites on the WWW

The WWW even provides some helpful resources for implementing biocontrol programs. Suppliers of biological control organisms are available over the WWW from a number of sources including The Association of Natural Bio-control Producers, which provides a page listing all of the member companies and their products (crosslinked by target organism). The California Environmental Protection Agency publishes an electronic version of Suppliers Of Beneficial Organisms In North America by C.D. Hunter.

The Biological Control Virtual Information Center at North Carolina Site University has a number of links to other biocontrol resources on the Web.

iv. Cultural control tactics

A netsearch can provide some sites with cultural information (e.g. the Texas Agricultural Extension Service's Texas Plant Disease Handbook) Although it may be difficult to find information regarding cultural pest control on the WWW, sources may be obtained by looking up the crop itself. For example, a site containing IPM information on cotton may include a review of cultural practices for pest control. The North Carolina State University NIPMN site maintains a page containing IPM information by commodity, each commodity section of which contains cultural pest control techniques under the weeds, insects, or plant disease sections.

v. Sterile insect technique

Although there are a couple of good models to design SIT-based IPM programs, none are currently available as interactive products on the WWW. However, some will soon be available for downloading over the Web. A good review of the SIT program for Screwworm on be found on the USDA-APHIS WWW site.

5. Evaluating treatment effectiveness

This is probably one of the most difficult and least addressed steps in IPM. Unfortunately, there are few sites on the WWW that can aid in this step. However, regional mapping projects, as mentioned earlier, and frequently updated population monitoring will certainly assist the evaluation process.

Conclusions

The WWW represents a powerful new information tool, but, as with all other silicon-based technologies, its ability and power are rapidly changing. Sites are being established at a remarkable rate, and some are disappearing. Increased public awareness of the Internet and the advent of commercial Internet servers has resulted in more and more people being 'on-line'. The potential now exists to reach more people electronically than through hard-copy. Although the responsibility for the quality of the information on a site rests with those who established it, the wide variety of sources available and the geographic areas from which they originate means that users must take responsibility for the information being applicable to their situation.

The changing nature of the WWW, with its increased interactivity promises new applications will be developing quickly. The interactive models mentioned here, being operated through CGI-bin interfaces may well be replaced in the future with something which is both quicker and more efficient. New developments in transmission compression will certainly play a part in the future shape of the WWW as well. Currently, certain servers do respond more slowly when Web traffic is heavy. The concept of WWW servers downloading Applets (small applications) to the client machine and which then run within the client machine's RAM using the browser as an interface (e.g. JAVA and Shockwave Applets), may also offer some very interesting potential utilities for IPM. Eventually, the WWW itself may be replaced by something quite different, much in the same way that it supplanted Gopher. The value of the WWW to IPM as both an information system and decision aid is growing and it's future usefulness will be limited only by WWW developers' imagination.

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