The push-pull technology and the reduction of mycotoxins

  • 01st September 2016
  • by secretary
22 August  2016. Bitwa, Kenya. Recent observations from icipe indicate significantly reduced attack of maize by ear rots and mycotoxins with the push-pull technology, implying potential contribution of the technology to food safety.

This is a PAEPARD video interview with Prof. Dr. Zeyaur R. Khan, Principal Scientist and Leader of the Push-Pull Programme at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) Thomas Odhiambo Campus Mbita Point 40305, Kenya . He is also Adjunct Professor of Entomology, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA.

What is the push-pull technique? 

Push-pull is a novel cropping system where we use two companion plants. One group of companion plants attracts the stem borer and another group of companion plants repels it. And the repellent companion plant also controls striga and increases the soil fertility. Recently we discovered that the maize which grows in the push-pull system has less – significantly less – aflatoxin. This was also reported by the farmers. This was exciting for us and we have started working on this aspect of research. We are looking into the co-relation of the stem borer attack in the second generation and aflatoxin either through the effect of desmodium which is the repellent plant in the push-pull on the aflatoxin in the soil. It is still quite premature but we would like to undertake research so that in addition to striga control, stem borer control we could also provide the farmers the aflatoxin control. And that would be really exciting for us and for the farmers.

Is this fundamental research or applied research? 
We are going to do some fundamental research as we would like to look into the chemicals which are produced by the root system of desmodium and their effect on the fungus in the field and see what happens because many of those chemicals which are produced by the root system of desmodium are anti-fungal chemicals. We would like to see their effect and to know which kind of chemicals can control aflatoxin. But we would also like to do some of the fundamental research where we would like to co-relate the stem borer damage with the aflatoxin incidence in the maize crops.

Which research donors may be interested?
The initial funding came from the McKnight foundation and we reported the McKnight foundation some of the preliminary findings but we are looking for some donors. Actually the push-pull is presently funded by the European Union and they are also keen on aflatoxin. It will thus be probably a future research agenda for us and we look for a donor platform to fund this for Africa.

The film is about the research and development of the climate-adapted push-pull technology ( developed by icipe, and funded by the European Union.
It features farmers in western Kenya who have benefited from the adapted Push-pull technology and its transformational impact on their livelihoods.
It shows how the technology controls Striga weeds and insect stemborers and improves soil fertility, resulting in dramatic yield increase in cereals by at least 3 tons per hectare.
Each year, resource poor farmers in sub-Saharan Africa incur huge losses of their harvested produce especially during storage. Most losses occur due to insects, and mold infection. The later causes grave health hazards are linked to mycotoxin contamination. Farmers, respond to the challenges by mixing their stocks with insecticides, which are also dangerous to health and environment. In recent years, interest in hermetic storage as alternative for insecticides to stop insects that devour stored grain has increased, and the technologies are being promoted among rural farmers. This video demonstrates that hermetic storage bags could be used to help reduce exposure these challenges under ordinary on-farm conditions.