Push-Pull: A fatal attraction for pests and parasites

Plants and insects communicate extensively with each other. For example, they send out mating calls and false promises, and this is the characteristic used by Push-Pull.

The Push-Pull method of cultivation has been used successfully in East Africa for maize and sorghum (millet) since 2006: it produces significantly higher yields thanks to biological pest control, improves soil fertility and generates healthy feed for livestock. Push-Pull is a great example of bringing Biovision’s approach to the field. How does it work exactly, whats the potential of it? We spoke with Dr. Stefan Diener, our expert at Biovision, and produced an infograph in order to make it clear.



Click on the image to view and download the infographics.

Who developed Push-Pull?

Our partner institute icipe in Nairobi, under the direction of Professor Zeyaur Khan, developed this method around the year 2000. When we heard about it at Biovision, it was clear to us that this method aligns perfectly with our vision: healthy food produced by healthy people in a healthy environment.

The lack of nutrients, not just a lack of food, is a major problem in sub-Saharan Africa. Can Push-Pull help?

Push-Pull offers maize farmers the opportunity to significantly increase their harvest yield, while also freeing up cropland. Consultants encourage the farmers to cultivate their maize together with various other beneficial crops. This promotes food diversity while increasing food security by minimizing the risk of a farmer losing everything to a drought or storm.

Is Push-Pull a method that every farmer in sub-Saharan Africa can and should practice?

Not necessarily. Every smallholder household is its own universe, with its own strengths and weaknesses. Some have an affinity for chickens, others for cattle, others for cabbage. One family has good land, but not enough helping hands, another lacks the money for seeds, another needs fodder for livestock.  But if a farming family believes that it can rely on maize or millet, Push-Pull can be beneficial in many ways.

Push-Pull is already used in East African countries, but in many places the method is still unknown. What is the potential of the method?

Push-Pull still has a lot of potential, as the method covers different needs. It is useful in places where pest infestation is a problem, where witchweed overgrows entire areas, and where soil is depleted. Where pastures are scarce, it is attractive  for producing fodder.

What is Biovision doing to exploit this potential?

We are working to bring knowledge about the method to small farmers. Together with our local partner organisation, we work with small farmers to adapt the method to local conditions. Since there is a bottleneck in seed production for the auxiliary plants Desmodium and Napier grass, we are working with local producers to ensure that everyone who can use the method gets the seeds they need.