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Manayan Farm, Malalam, Ilagan

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Push-Pull Farming System

Push-Pull Farming System
Push-Pull Farming System

Africa faces increasingly serious problems in its ability to feed its rapidly growing population, resulting in high hunger and poverty incidences. Growth in agricultural productivity is essential to reduce hunger and poverty and ensure food security. Agricultural growth can be achieved by reducing incidence of the major constraints to productivity such as pests, weeds and degraded soils. These constraints are responsible for the continent’s crop productivity being the lowest in the world, and cause high levels of hunger, malnutrition and poverty. Governments, donors and stakeholders in the Agricultural value chains recognise that in order to address hunger and poverty, these constraints must be effectively addressed. Therefore development and deployment of technologies that would improve sustainability and resilience of the farming systems are needed to contribute towards ending hunger and poverty in Africa and indeed the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The main staple foods in the average African diet are cereals. However, in spite of availability of a number of cereal varieties with improved yield potential, the productivity of staple cereal crops remains low, around 1t/ha. Every year there is thus a critical shortage of cereals in many smallholder households, leading to high grain prices, hunger, undernourishment and widespread poverty. According to the World Development Report (2007), significant yield gains can be made by increasing the productivity of the cereal crops.

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Management of Striga and stemborers in sorghum Sorghum bicolor through Push-Pull technology

Desmodium intortum (

The aim of our study was to assess the potential role of greenleaf desmodium, Desmodium intortum in a combined management of striga and stemborers, which would lead to development of a suitable push–pull strategy for sorghum. Relative to other Desmodium spp., D. intortum withstands drought conditions better and wilts less. It also has a relatively higher nitrogen-fixing ability, over 300 kg N/ha per year under optimum conditions and, therefore, is more appropriate as an intercrop for the degraded environments where sorghum cultivation is widely practiced.

Read more: Management of Striga and stemborers in sorghum Sorghum bicolor through Push-Pull technology

Integration of edible beans Phaseolus vulgaris into the Push–Pull technology

Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris)

One of the bottlenecks hindering rapid uptake of the Push–Pull technology is the fact that the intercrop, desmodium, although quality fodder, is not an edible plant for humans and replaces beans which are traditionally interplanted with maize. Beans constitute a major source of protein for the resource-poor farmers that cannot be compensated by a higher consumption of dairy products and meat that result from the fodder component provided by desmodium. Therefore, in an effort to address this constraint, we undertook a series of studies in Kenya to:

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How Push-Pull Works

 Push-Pull Technology
Push-Pull Farming System

The Push-Pull technology involves use of behaviour-modifying stimuli to manipulate the distribution and abundance of stemborers and beneficial insects for management of stemborer pests (Figure above). It is based on in-depth understanding of chemical ecology, agrobiodiversity, plant-plant and insect-plant interactions, and involves intercropping a cereal crop with a repellent intercrop such as desmodium (push), with an attractive trap plant such as Napier grass (pull) planted as a border crop around this intercrop. Gravid stemborer females are repelled from the main crop and are simultaneously attracted to the trap crop. Napier grass produces significantly higher levels of attractive volatile compounds (green leaf volatiles), cues used by gravid stemborer females to locate host plants, than maize or sorghum. There is also an increase of approximately 100-fold in the total amounts of these compounds produced in the first hour of nightfall by Napier grass (scotophase), the period at which stemborer moths seek host plants for oviposition, causing the differential oviposition preference. However, many of the stemborer larvae, about 80%, do not survive as Napier grass tissues produce sticky sap in response to feeding by the larvae which traps them causing their mortality. Legumes in the Desmodium genus (silverleaf, D. uncinatum and greenleaf, D. intortum), on the other hand produce repellent volatile chemicals that push away the stemborer moths. These include (E)-ß-ocimene and (E)-4,8-dimethyl-1,3,7-nonatriene, semiochemicals produced during damage to plants by herbivorous insects and are responsible for the repellence of desmodium to stemborers.

Read more: How Push-Pull Works