Climate-adapted Companion Cropping Increases Agricultural Productivity in East Africa

28th Aug 2015

A recent article in the journal Field Crops Research shows that a companion cropping system known as “push-pull” could help farmers in sub-Saharan Africa cope with the parasitic Striga weed. Production of cereals – the staple crop for millions of farmers in the region – is severely constrained by Striga. The push-pull system not only overcomes these constraints, but also provides additional soil fertility and forage grass benefits to smallholder farmers. This study examined the effectiveness of the new system in controlling Striga and stemborer pests, improving maize grain yields, and farmers’ perceptions of the technology to assess potential for further adoption. The system uses a border crop and an intercrop, both of which are drought-tolerant, and incorporates them into a “climate-adapted push-pull.” The study found highly significant reductions in Striga and stemborer damage to maize plants in the push-pull group as compared to the control. Mean yields were 2.5 times higher than in the maize monocrop plots. Farmers also rated the push-pull plots as superior in reducing Striga, as well as improving soil fertility and maize yields. Overall, the authors write, “These results demonstrate that the technology is effective in controlling both weeds and pests with concomitant yield increases under farmers’ conditions. It thus provides an opportunity to improve food security, stimulate economic growth, and alleviate poverty in the region while making agriculture more resilient to climate change.”

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