Push–pull agricultural pest management

Push–pull technology is a strategy for controlling agricultural pests by using repellent "push" plants and trap "pull" plants.[1] For example, cereal crops like maize or sorghum are often infested by stem borers. Grasses planted around the perimeter of the crop attract and trap the pests, whereas other plants, like Desmodium, planted between the rows of maize, repel the pests and control the parasitic plant Striga. Push–pull technology was developed at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Kenya in collaboration with Rothamsted Research, UK.[2] and national partners. Research and development for the push-push strategy was funded by a number of partners including the Gatsby Charitable Foundation of the UK, the Rockefeller Foundation, the UK’s Department for International Development, and the Global Environment Favility of the UNEP, among others[3]. Additionally, research conducted jointly by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology and Rothamsted Research helped to identify effective companion plants to be used with this strategy and provided empirical evidence of the efficacy of push-pull pest management technology[3]. This technology has further been taught to smallholder farmers through collaborations with universities, NGOs and national research organizations[3].

The pull

The approach relies on a combination of companion crops to be planted around and among maize or sorghum. Both domestic and wild grasses can help to protect the crops by attracting and trapping the stemborers. The grasses are planted in the border around the maize and sorghum fields where invading adult moths become attracted to chemicals emitted by the grasses themselves. Instead of landing on the maize or sorghum plants, the insects head for what appears to be a tastier meal. These grasses provide the "pull" in the "push–pull" strategy. They also serve as a haven for the borers' natural enemies. Good trap crops include well-known grasses such as Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) and Sudan grass (Sorghum vulgare sudanense). Napier grass has a particularly effective way of defending itself against the pests: once attacked by a borer larva, it secretes a sticky substance which physically traps the pest and limits its damage.

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