Farmers in Kenya.

The 'Push-Pull' cropping system: feeding people, feeding the soil

Rothamsted Research

Researchers: John Pickett and Zeyaur Khan

Funders: BBSRC; International Foundation for Science, EU; Rothamsted International African Fellowship

A novel ‘push-pull’ cropping system has been developed by a research collaboration between Rothamsted Research and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Kenya).

This agricultural advance, which can double maize yields, involves attracting insect pests (stemborers) with trap plants (pull), whilst driving them away from the main crop using a repellent intercrop (push).

Chemicals released by the intercrop roots also induce abortive germination of the parasitic striga plant, providing very effective control of this noxious weed.

The companion plants provide high value animal fodder, facilitating milk production and diversifying farmers' income sources. Furthermore, soil fertility is improved and soil degradation reduced.

The technology is appropriate and economical as it is based on locally available plants, rather than on expensive external inputs, and fits well with traditional mixed cropping systems in Africa.

To date, it has been adopted by over 40,000 smallholder farmers in East Africa, where maize yields have been increased from 1 t/ha to 3.5 t/ha, achieved with minimal inputs.

Find out more information at the "push-pull" website.