News and knowhow for farmers

Research organization introduces push-pull technology to stop fall armyworm

push pull field

Farmers in Kenya and Africa at large are set to benefit from a new push-pull technology introduced by the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology that can stop the fall armyworm menace.

The worm has spread to 44 out of 54 countries in sub-Saharan Africa causing losses of $2.2bn to $5.5bn according to CABI.

Push-pull works well in the multiple farming system of multiple cropping and involves intercropping cereal crops that contain insect repellant legumes in the genus Desmodium and planting a forage plant such as Napier grass a border around the intercrop.

The intercrop emits a blend of compounds that repel (‘push’) away stem-borer moths, while the border plants emit semi-chemicals that are attractive (‘pull’) to the pests. 

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The technology which was originally developed for the control of stem borers and the parasitic striga weed over the last 20 years has however, proved successful with farmers practicing it reporting that their fields were free of fall army worm while mono-cropped crops were destroyed by the worm.

Push-pull also has benefits to dairy farmers who will utilize the Desmodium and Napier grass fodder crops as feed to their animals with research revealing that feeding cows on a mixture of the two increases milk yields by 40 per cent.

Push-pull field

Since its detection in Africa in 2016, the pest has presented a big challenge to farmers having proved to be resistant to insecticides due to the fact that the adult moth is mostly active at night when it can travel for up to 100km and the infestation is only detected after the crop is destroyed.

The fall armyworm feeds on more than 80 crops, but prefers maize and can cut yields by up to 60 per cent. Maize is depended upon by over 300m people in Africa either directly or in- directly for food and for commercial purposes.

In Kenya the fall armyworm was first reported in March 2017 in Busia but has since spread to all maize growing areas such as Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Kakamega, Trans Nzoia and Kisii affecting more than 800,000 hectares of maize and wheat according to World Vision at a time when 3.4m Kenyans are staring at starvation due to shortage of food.

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