NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Scientists at the Nairobi-based International
Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) announced Thursday they
have discovered a technology that will manage ravaging pest that
has worsened food insecurity in Africa.
In a statement
released in Nairobi, the scientists said the technology,
Push-Pull, is effective in controlling the Fall Armyworm (FAW),
which mainly prefer maize plants and sometimes crops such as
sorghum, millet, vegetables and other crops.
Research Scientist Charles Midega said the new technology is
providing a suitable, accessible, environmentally friendly and
cost-effective strategy for management of the pest.
“Our findings reveal
that FAW infestation is more than 80 percent lower in farms
where the climate-adapted push-pull is being used, with
associated increases in grain yields, in comparison to mono-crop
plots,” Midega said.
involves intercropping cereal crops with insect repellent
legumes in the Desmodium genus, and planting an attractive
forage plant such as Napier grass as a border around this
The intercrop emits
a blend of compounds that repel away stem borer moths, while the
border plants emit semi-chemicals that are attractive to the
It was originally
developed for the control of stem borers, the key pests of
cereal crops across most of Africa, and the parasitic Striga
Midega said that
farmers who apply push-pull technology have reported that their
farms were free of fall armyworm infestation while neighboring
mono-crop plots were being ravaged by the pest.
“We then embarked in
evaluating the climate-adapted version of the technology as a
potential management tool for fall armyworm in Kenya, Uganda and
Tanzania to confirm the findings,” he said.
The findings now
represent the first documented report of a readily available
technology that can be immediately deployed in different parts
of Africa to efficiently manage the fall armyworm.
The pest is a
destructive moth that causes devastating damage to almost 100
plant species, including rice, wheat and sugarcane, as well as a
variety of horticultural crops, threatening food and nutritional
security, trade and overall economies.
Until 2016, the fall
armyworm was constrained to its native region of origin, the
Western Hemisphere (from the United States to Argentina).
It was first
reported in Nigeria in January 2016 and has since spread at an
alarming rate across 28 African countries including Kenya, while
a further nine either strongly suspect, or are awaiting
confirmation of invasion.
“Efforts to control
FAW through conventional methods, such as use of insecticides
are complicated by the fact that the adult stage of the pest is
most active at night, and the infestation is only detected after
damage has been caused to the crop,” Midega observed.
He added that the
pest has a diverse range of alternative host plants that enable
its populations to persist and spread.
Midega added that
the pest has been shown to develop resistance to some
insecticides, while the performance of such chemicals is also
hindered by limited knowledge and purchasing power of farmers,
resulting in use of low quality, and often harmful products.
“The ability to
manage such a devastating pest clearly demonstrates Push-Pull’s
utility as a platform technology in addressing the multitude of
challenges that affect cereal-livestock farming systems in
Africa,” ICIPE’s Director General Segenet Kelemu said.
She announced plans
to disseminate the technology all over Africa while advancing
studies to understand the scientific basis of its effectiveness
against the fall army worm.
ICIPE’s development partners for investing in finding solutions
to Africa’s agriculture problem over the years.
recently been adapted to drier areas through the incorporation
of drought tolerant companion plants.
It also controls
maize ear rots and mycotoxins, while improving soil health and
providing high quality fodder, since the companion crops are