Cereals, which include maize, sorghum, millet and rice, are the main staple and cash crops for millions of small-scale farmers in most of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). However, their production is hugely constrained by insect pests, notably stemborers, the parasitic weed Striga and poor soil fertility. In Africa’s predominantly mixed crop-livestock farming systems, cereals are the main staple food and cash crop for millions of households.

Push-pull is a platform technology developed over the past 20 years by icipe in collaboration with Rothamsted Research, United Kingdom, and partners in eastern Africa. This simple cropping strategy simultaneously addresses the five key constraints of cereal–livestock mixed production systems in Africa – insect pests (stemborers), the parasitic weed Striga (and other weeds), poor soil fertility, soil moisture management, while also fulfilling the need for high quality animal feed.

The push-pull technology involves intercropping cereals with a pest repellent plant, such as desmodium, which drives away or deters stemborers from the target food crop. An attractant trap plant, for instance Napier grass (Pennisetum purpueum), is planted around the border of this intercrop, with the purpose of attracting and trapping the pests. As a result, the food crop is left protected from the pests. In addition, desmodium stimulates suicidal germination of Striga and inhibits its growth.

Push-pull also has significant benefits for dairy farming, since silverleaf desmodium (Desmodium uncinatum) and Napier grass are both high quality animal fodder plants. Additionally, desmodium is an efficient nitrogen fixing legume, which, therefore improves soil fertility. Moreover, because both plants are perennial, push–pull conserves soil moisture and continually improves soil health.

For further information visit the Push-Pull IPM Technology website: http://push-pull.net/

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