Adopt push-pull farming technology for multiple benefits

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Over the years, push–pull farming technology has been addressing critical concerns of small holder cereal and livestock farmers. These farmers face many challenges including poor soils, managing pressure of pests and striga parasitic weeds (nicknamed the witch weed), poor yields, and low milk production due to shortage of high-quality livestock fodder.

Planting Desmodium

 Mix 300g of silver leaf Desmodium seeds with fine dry sand; in the ratio of one part desmodium to two parts dry sand.

• Drill Desmodium in the furrows at 75cm row-to-row distance. Then drill farmyard manure along the furrows, mix with soil using a stick, without covering or disturbing the furrow.

• Plant maize in between Desmodium rows. After planting the maize carefully check the germination.

Establishing a push-pull plot

• It is important to ensure the land is cleared, ploughed and the soil broken down until it is fine.

• Using pegs and ropes, measure the first plot of 21m × 21m. A push pull plot can be as small as 10m × 10m, or as big as any shamba.

• Use a string to measure and ensure you have a square. Put pegs at opposite sides of the square at intervals of 75cm each.

Planting Napier grass

• Select healthy Napier grass for planting. Do not plant Napier grass that has stunt disease. Ouma and South Africa varieties are the best varieties of Napier grass for use in Push-pull because they are resistant to Napier stunt.

• Dig holes along the demarcated lines ready for planting Dig holes at each peg on border of the marked plot.

• Apply 2 handfulls of well decomposed farmyard manure in each hole.

• Place a three node cane into each hole at an angle of 30˚ to 40˚ all facing one direction.

• Cover with soil ensuring that two nodes of the cane are well covered.

• If you are using root splits, place them upright into the planting holes and cover the soil.

Repeat the same process for the second and third rows, ensuring that the rows are 75cm apart and 75cm between the plants within the rows.

Weeding and crop management

Early weeding is very important for the successful establishment of a push-pull plot. Carry out the first weeding when the maize is 3 weeks old, and second weeding when maize is 5 weeks old. It is important to distinguish between desmodium and weeds.

Harvesting Napier grass

Harvest the Napier grass one row at a time, starting with the inner row. Give the harvested row time to grow before harvesting the next row.

Harvesting Desmodium

You can harvest desmodium seeds for future use or for sale. Wear polythene over your clothes to prevent the pods sticking on your clothes. Thresh desmodium seeds on a stone using old rubber shoe.

Winnow the threshed seeds.

• Harvest desmodium after harvesting maize from the field. During the first season, do not harvest desmodium until it has established well. Trimmed desmodium will regenerate for the next planting season.

• Do not allow livestock to graze in your push pull field after harvesting maize because direct grazing destroys desmodium and Napier grass.

Farmers can get desmodium seeds from Kenya Seed and its subsidiaries or any KALRO centre near them.

>>Share your experiences with TOF and fellow farmers. Send email to,  leave a comment below this article.


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