Integrated Plant Health Care (IPHC) Program

Integrated Plant Health Care (IPHC) is an active management strategy that is used by the City of Toronto, Parks, Forestry and Recreation Division to maintain the turf and horticultural areas that are found within the City's Parks. Integrated Plant Health Care provides the basis from which the Division develops plant maintenance programs that are environmentally sound, responsive to community needs, healthy and sustainable.

In the urban landscape, plants are valued for the recreational, aesthetic, environmental, economic and cultural functions and benefits that they provide. They make a significant contribution to the quality of life for people in the community. In nature, plants are left to manage themselves, however in the urban setting, there are unique demands and stresses associated with these functions and benefits that impact upon plant health. Plants are living organisms and like people have health care needs. The Integrated Plant Health Care approach provides an understanding of how plants grow and function in the City setting and is required to optimize plant health andthereby protect the values associated with the City's greenspace assets.

Plant Health Care and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) are the two key tools that drive the Division's Integrated Plant Health Care Program.

  1. Plant Health Care

Plant Health Care is used to establish and maintain optimum plant health and involves the timely delivery of best maintenance practices for turf and horticultural areas. Best maintenance practices can include mowing, aerating, overseeding, fertilizing, mulching and the use of compost as a soil amendment.

A healthy plant becomes less susceptible to pest related issues involving weeds, insects and disease. Plant Health Care becomes a first line of defence by providing plants with a natural competitive advantage over pests. Plant Health Care is simply good preventative medicine.

2. Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

In spite of best Plant Health Care practices, pest problems can sometimes occur. For matters of actual pest control and whenever possible, Parks, Forestry and Recreation uses an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) decision making process to reduce pest populations when required to acceptable levels. Integrated Pest Management considers all necessary methods to control pests effectively, economically and in an environmentally sound manner so as to sustain healthy and functional landscapes.

Pesticide Applications

Ontario's Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act, 2008 came into effect on April 22nd, 2009 as part of the provincial government's commitment to protect families and especially children from pollution and toxic chemicals. The ban was created to apply to the cosmetic use of pesticides and effectively prohibits the use of conventional pesticides to control weeds, insects and disease. This followed on a similar environmental initiative taken by Toronto City Council several years before with the City of Toronto Pesticide Bylaw (Municipal Code 612).

The Ontario cosmetic pesticides ban was also created to encourage the use of alternatives to pesticides as well as the use of "bio-pesticides" and "lower risk" pesticides that are permitted under the legislation. When required for actual pest control, Parks, Forestry and Recreation may apply these permitted pesticides on a limited basis but only as a last resort after all other alternative measures have been considered first and used wherever circumstances permit. Permitted pesticides include acetic acid and horticultural soap for weed control, insecticidal soap for insect control and microbial based fungicides to control disease. When such pesticide applications are deemed necessary, they are conducted with licensed personnel using the least volume of material possible and in full compliance with all relevant pesticide legislation.

Pesticide Reduction

Both Plant Health Care and Integrated Pest Management provide realistic alternatives to pesticides and so Integrated Plant Health Care is then also by design, a strategy used by Parks, Forestry and recreation to reduce its use of pesticides.

For more information on the Integrated Plant Health Care Program and pesticides, contact the Program Standards and Development Officer for that section.