Pest/disease control

Field evaluation of a new third generation push-pull technology for control of striga weed, stemborers, and fall armyworm in western Kenya

Production of cereal crops in sub-Saharan Africa is threatened by parasitic striga weeds and attack by stemborers and the invasive fall armyworm (FAW), compounded by increasing hot and dry conditions. A climate-smart push-pull technology (PPT) significantly reduces effects of these biotic challenges. To improve further resilience of the system to climate change, more adapted and suitable companion plants were identified and integrated in a new version of PPT, termed ‘third generation PPT’. Our study evaluates field performance and farmer opinions of this new version in comparison with the earlier version, climatesmart PPT, and farmers’ own practices of growing maize in controlling stemborers, FAW, and striga weeds. Trials were conducted across five locations in western Kenya for two cropping seasons in the year 2019 following a one-farm one-replicate completely randomized design. We assessed infestation on striga, stemborers, and FAW, and yield performance of the three cropping systems. We also sought the opinions of the hosting farmers through semi-structured questionnaires that were administered through individual interviews. Both PPT plots recorded significantly (P < 0.05) lower striga count, FAW, and stemborer damage,
and higher grain yield than in plots that followed farmers’ own practices. There was no statistically significant difference between the two PPT plots except for stemborer damage for which the third generation PPT recorded higher damage than the climate-smart PPT. However, farmers preferred the third generation PPT for important traits possessed by its companion plants which their counterparts in climate-smart PPT are deficient. The cultivar Xaraes was rated as ‘very good’ for resistance to spider mites,
biomass yield, and drought tolerance while Desmodium incanum was rated ‘very good’ for seed production and drought tolerance. The third generation PPT is based on companion crops that are more resilient to hot and dry conditions which are increasing rapidly in prevalence with climate change. This version therefore presents a better option to upscale the technology and meet different needs of farmers especially in
arid and semi-arid conditions.

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Cheruiyot et al., 2022