Push-Pull Pest Control – Learn About Using Push-Pull In Gardens



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By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

With several species of bees now listed as endangered and dwindling monarch butterfly populations, people are more conscience of the harmful side effects of chemical pesticides. These not only harm beneficial insects, but they also poison birds, reptiles, amphibians and animals that eat the insects. Chemical residue remains on food crops, causing illnesses in people who eat them. They also get into the water table. Because of all these harmful effects, farmers and gardeners all over the world have been implementing newer, safer pest control methods. One such method is push-pull technology. Read on to learn more about how push-pull works.

What is Push-Pull Technology?

It can be a real challenge to avoid harsh and dangerous chemical pesticides that not only damage our environment by poisoning pollinators, but can also poison us. With push-pull methods, however, this may be changing.

Push-pull pest control is a chemical free method that has become very popular in Australia and Africa for food crops. How push-pull works is by using companion plants that deter and repel (push) insects away from important food crops and decoy plants that attract (pull) pests to different locations where they are trapped or preyed upon by beneficial insects.

An example of this push-pull strategy for pest control is the common practice of interplanting plants like corn and Desmodium, then planting sudangrass around these corn fields. The Desmodium contains essential oils that repel or “push” stem borers away from the corn. The sudangrass then plays its role as a “pull” plant by not only attracting the stem borers away from the corn, but also attracting insects that prey on these borers – a win-win for everyone.

How to Use Push-Pull Strategy for Pest Control

Below are examples of some common plants and the role the can play when using push-pull in gardens:

Push Plants

  • Chives – repels carrot flies, Japanese beetles and aphids
  • Dill – repels aphids, squash bugs, spider mites, cabbage loopers
  • Fennel – repels aphids, slugs and snails
  • Basil – repels tomato hornworms

Pull Plants

  • Sorghum – attracts corn earworms
  • Dill – attracts tomato hornworms
  • Nasturtiums – attracts aphids
  • Sunflowers – attract stinkbugs
  • Mustard – attracts harlequin bugs
  • Zinnia – attracts Japanese beetles

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Push–pull agricultural pest management

The 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.


What Is Push-Pull Technology: Using The Push-Pull Strategy For Pest Control - garden

‘Push-pull’ strategy successfully controls pests, weeds

Research published online recently demonstrates the benefits of using ‘push-pull’ approaches for controlling insect pests and weeds. ‘Push-pull’ entails mixing, into a field of crops, plants that repel insect pests (‘push’) and planting, around a crop, diversionary trap plants that attract the pests (‘pull’).

The researchers, from Kenya and the UK , found that the approach produces real and tangible benefits for subsistence farmers and, if adopted widely in African countries, could have a huge impact in reducing crops lost to pest infestation. The main target was a series of lepidopterous pests attacking maize and other cereals.

Although the area given to the cereal crop itself is reduced under the ‘push–pull’ system, higher yields are produced per unit area. In areas of Kenya , Tanzania and Uganda where the approach has been adopted, the profit a farmer can produce per hectare has increased by between three and four times the amount generated by standard practices.

An important spin-off is that the companion crops are valuable forage for farm animals. Leguminous intercrops also provide advantages with regard to plant nutrition and some of the trap crops help with water retention and in reducing land erosion. A major benefit is that certain intercrop plants provide dramatic control of the African witchweed (striga).

The research was published in a special themed double issue on ‘Sustainable Agriculture’, in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Lim Li Ching
Third World Network
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Integrated pest management: the push–pull approach for controlling insect pests and weeds of cereals, and its potential for other agricultural systems including animal husbandry

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Volume 363, Issue 1491, p. 611-621.

(Theme Issue ‘Sustainable agriculture. I’ compiled by Chris Pollock, Jules Pretty, Ian Crute, Chris Leaver and Howard Dalton)

Ahmed Hassanali [1], Hans Herren [1], Zeyaur R. Khan [1], John A. Pickett [2], Christine M. Woodcock [2]

[1] International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, PO Box 30772, Nairobi, Kenya
[2] Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 2JQ, UK

This paper describes the ‘push–pull’ or ‘stimulo-deterrent diversionary’ strategy in relation to current and potential examples from our own experiences. The push–pull effect is established by exploiting semiochemicals to repel insect pests from the crop (‘push’) and to attract them into trap crops (‘pull’). The systems exemplified here have been developed for subsistence farming in Africa and delivery of the semiochemicals is entirely by companion cropping, i.e. intercropping for the push and trap cropping for the pull. The main target was a series of lepidopterous pests attacking maize and other cereals. Although the area given to the cereal crop itself is reduced under the push–pull system, higher yields are produced per unit area. An important spin-off from the project is that the companion crops are valuable forage for farm animals. Leguminous intercrops also provide advantages with regard to plant nutrition and some of the trap crops help with water retention and in reducing land erosion. A major benefit is that certain intercrop plants provide dramatic control of the African witchweed (striga). Animal husbandry forms an essential part of intensive subsistence agriculture in Africa and developments using analogous push–pull control strategies for insect pests of cattle are exemplified.

Item 2
http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/media/releases/2008/080108_pests.html

Diversionary tactics save crops from pests in developing countries

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, UK

Research published today (8 January) by scientists funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) reveals the effectiveness of using ‘push-pull’ agricultural techniques in developing countries to save crops from insect damage. Scientists at BBSRC-sponsored Rothamsted Research, working with researchers principally from icipe in Kenya , have found that the approach produces real and tangible benefits for subsistence farmers and, if adopted widely in African countries, could have a huge impact in reducing crops lost to pest infestation. The researchers also show that the ‘push-pull’ approach has intriguing potential for reducing animal infections, and potentially even to control human disease.

‘Push-pull’ entails mixing, into a field of crops, plants that repel insect pests (the ‘push’) and planting, around a crop, diversionary trap plants that attract the pests (the ‘pull’). In the Rothamsted studies, the ‘push’ plant, desmodium, was also found to give extremely effective control of the parasitic African Witchweed.

The research paper, published online in a special edition of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, shows that using the ‘push-pull’ approach to manage pest problems offers real benefits in areas where economic and ecological factors provide disincentives to employ pesticides and fertilizers. In areas of Kenya , Tanzania and Uganda where the approach has been adopted, the profit a farmer can produce per hectare has increased by between three and four times the amount generated by standard practices. Currently, around 10,000 subsistence households in East Africa have adopted the approach, but the potential impact if the practice were to spread more widely is enormous.

‘Push-pull’ farming harnesses the power of semiochemicals (behaviour controlling chemicals). Scientists can exploit the properties of certain plants releasing semiochemicals that either attract or repel devastating insect pests. Up until now, the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ plants have been harvested and used as cattle feed, but new research in Kenya has shown that traditional food crops, such as beans, can be planted amongst the ‘push’ plants to provide additional food for the farmer’s family.

Professor John Pickett, a leading researcher at Rothamsted Research on ‘push-pull’ approaches, said: “For the first time, we have been able to show the real and tangible benefits that using push-pull farming brings to subsistence communities in Africa . Many farmers in developing countries do not have the resources or predictable rainfall needed to invest in fertilizers and pesticides. By exploiting ‘push’ and ‘pull’ crops, our research has shown that communities can significantly increase the benefit value of the crop their land can produce. At the moment, an impressive number of East African farmers have adopted the technique, but the overall proportion is still small. If more subsistence farmers used ‘push-pull’ approaches, there could be massive improvements in the amount of food they could grow.

“Western farmers could also benefit from adopting the practice. Most areas of farming are under pressure to reduce the amount of pesticide they use and planting complimentary ’push-pull’ crops could be an effective way of doing this.”

Professor Nigel Brown, BBSRC Director of Science and Technology, commented: “This project is an excellent example of the benefits of applying BBSRC science to issues facing farmers in the developing world.”

There are also other potential uses for ‘push-pull’ approaches. The Rothamsted scientists and other international groups are developing techniques that could help control further pests and diseases. Prof Pickett explains: “New studies have shown that the principles of ‘pushing’ an insect away from its target and ‘pulling’ it towards a diversion works effectively to control insect-spread cattle diseases and sleeping sickness, a human disease spread by the tsetse fly.”

The Rothamsted Research group, together with their colleagues at icipe, Kenya , will soon begin work on new BBSRC-funded research aimed at harnessing the weed-controlling properties of the ‘push’ plant, but in a less labour intensive way.

New research on the effectiveness of ‘push-pull’ farming practices in East Africa and a review of the current state of research in this area is published online in a special edition of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B on January 8 2008. ‘Integrated pest management: the push–pull approach for controlling insect pests and weeds of cereals, and its potential for other agricultural systems including animal husbandry’, Hassanali, Herren, Khan, Pickett and Woodcock.

The research conducted by Rothamsted Research is supported by the UK ’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), through grant funding and core support for the Institute. The research was also supported by Gatsby Charitable Foundation, UK and Kilimo Trust, East Africa .


Acknowledgments

The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) appreciates the core support from the Governments of Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, France, Kenya, and the UK. The work on push–pull technology is funded primarily by the European Union, with additional support from the Biovision Foundation and DFID. Rothamsted Research receives grant-aided support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), UK.


Abstract

Fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda (J E Smith), an economically important pest native to tropical and sub-tropical America has recently invaded Africa, causing substantial damage to maize and other crops. We evaluated functionality of a companion cropping system, ‘climate-adapted push-pull’, developed for control of cereal stemborers in drier agro-ecologies, as an added tool for the management of fall armyworm. The technology comprises intercropping maize with drought-tolerant greenleaf desmodium, Desmodium intortum (Mill.) Urb., and planting Brachiaria cv Mulato II as a border crop around this intercrop. Protection to maize is provided by semiochemicals that are emitted by the intercrop that repel (push) stemborer moths while those released by the border crop attract (pull) them. 250 farmers who had adopted the technology in drier areas of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania were randomly selected for the study during the long rainy season (March-August) of 2017. Each farmer had a set of two plots, a climate-adapted push–pull and a maize monocrop. Data were collected in each plot on the number of fall armyworm larvae on maize, percentage of maize plants damaged by the larvae and maize grain yields. Similarly, farmers' perceptions of the impact of the technology on the pest were assessed using a semi-structured questionnaire. Reductions of 82.7% in average number of larvae per plant and 86.7% in plant damage per plot were observed in climate-adapted push-pull compared to maize monocrop plots. Similarly, maize grain yields were significantly higher, 2.7 times, in the climate-adapted push-pull plots. Farmers rated the technology significantly superior in reducing fall armyworm infestation and plant damage rates. These results demonstrate that the technology is effective in controlling fall armyworm with concomitant maize grain yield increases, and represent the first documentation of a technology that can be immediately deployed for management of the pest in East Africa and beyond.

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