It is easy to establish a Push-Pull plot using Brachiaria grass

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Brachiaria is a good alternative to Napier grass when used in push-pull plots since it is drought tolerant and not prone to diseases. Brachiaria grass is more nutritious, possessing 12 per cent protein at harvest unlike Napier, whose protein content diminishes after about four months.

In Kenya like many Sub-Saharan countries, maize, sorghum and millet are the preferred cereal crops of many small-scale farmers. However, most of the farmers continue to experience challenges like poor soils, parasitic weed like striga and pests such as stemborer in the production of cereals.

Striga also known as the witch weed causes between 30% to 100% yield losses thus affecting the livelihoods of many farmers. The parasitic weed attaches to the roots of host plants, and sucks its water and nutrients causing the plant to wither. This hinders crop development, resulting in crop yield losses. Striga flourishes in soils with low fertility. Stemborer, on the other hand, is one of the worst pests that viciously attack maize. According to National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS), the harmful pests can lead to between 13% and 70% losses of the total maize yields.

Agronomic practices such as field sanitation, crop rotation, intercropping, use of organic matter, improved   fallows, and Push-Pull systems are adopted by farmers to help manage striga weed and stemborer. The illustration below shows the Push-Pull strategy at work;



How to prepare and lay out a Push-Pull plot using Brachiaria

1. Using pegs and ropes, measure a plot of 21m x 21m. A Push-Pull plot can be as small as 10m x 10m. If your acrage is big create several plots of the same size. 2. Use a string to measure and ensure that you have a square shape of the land.

3. Put pegs at opposite sides of the square at intervals of 75cm each.

4. When you have finished marking the plot with pegs and strings it should look like the illustration (below).

5. Clear the land, plough and break down the soil until it is fine.

6. Dig holes along the demarcated lines ready for planting.

7. Select healthy brachiaria grass for planting.

8. Dig holes at each peg on border of the marked plot then apply 2 handfuls of well composited farmyard manure in each hole.

9. Place three-node splits into each hole at an angle of 30° to 40° all facing in one direction.

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

11. The rows should be 75cm apart and 75cm between the plants within rows.

12. Next, plant the desmodium.

13. Mix 300g of silverleaf desmodium seed with fine sand; one part desmodium to two parts dry sand.

14. Put desmodium in the furrows at 75cm row-to-row distance.

15. Put farmyard manure along furrows, mix with soil using a stick, without covering or disturbing the furrow.

16. After planting the desmodium, you can now plant maize between desmodium rows. Remember that if you follow good management practices, the brachiaria and desmodium you establish now will benefit you for five or more years.

For more information on Push-Pull -


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