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New ways of fighting armyworm, weeds here

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The Department of Agricultural Research Services (Dars) plans to introduce a technology known as Push-Pull, currently under trial, to help farmers fight cereal-eating pests and weeds.

So far, trials have been conducted in five districts of Salima, Nkhotakota, Mzimba, Lilongwe and Ntchisi, with three on-station trials and 30 on-farm trials.

Senior Deputy Director of Agricultural Research Services, Thomson Chilanga, said Push-Pull works as a Climate Smart technology in controlling the Striga [kaufiti], Stemborer and the fall armyworm while offering other economic and environmental benefits.

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Chilanga said the technology is cost-effective, especially to smallholder farmers, since it is based on companion cropping, a system that can easily be adopted by local farmers.

“The impact assessment of Push-Pull conducted in previous years, to establish its impact on the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, found that the technology has contributed meaningfully to farmers’ families,” Chilanga said.

The technology uses Desmodium legume intercrop that has a push effect on pests and Napier or Brachiaria grass planted on the borders. The grass has a pull effect.

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This combination saves the maize crop from pests and weed infestation.

The revelations were made in Salima District during a technology validation workshop organised by Total Land Care, in collaboration with the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe).

Icipe research scientist, Jimmy Pittchar, said the technology has over 140,000 adopters in Eastern Africa in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

Pittchar said they are working out modalities to bring the technology to more farmers after two seasons of validation trials, taking into consideration its performance, recommendations and suggestions on the challenges.

Biovision Foundation of Zurich Programs Officer, Stefan Diener, said the technology is being tested in comparison with other farming practices, such as Conservation Agriculture, in cereal production.

Diener said they want to see to it that Malawi adopts new technologies that enable smallholder farmers generate profits in their agricultural activities while improving food and nutritional security.

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