Maize is a staple crop; that is, commonly planted on a commercial scale. Its by-products are essential to humans and animals, especially in animal production.
It is a primary component of animal feeds; it is the best source of energy for farm animals. Irrespective of the level of production, the yield from a maize farm is always economical. Though, a 100% yield cannot be attained; 70% yield is a success but anything below 40% is awful and considered as a great loss. The reduced yield of a maize farm is not natural; it is often caused by some factors, chiefly pests, and diseases.
These two factors are great threats to crop production. However, their effects can be mitigated; Striga and Stem borer are destructive pests to maize crop.
What is Striga?
|Striga below the maize plant|
Striga is a parasitic weed that impedes the growth of cereal crops like maize, rice, sorghum, millet, sugarcane, etc.; Striga is a hardy weed; its seeds can reside in the soil for a long period, say 15 years. They germinate mainly when cereal crop is planted.
Striga affects a cereal crop by attaching itself to the roots of the cereal crop like maize; it competes with the maize plant for nutrients. It has more tendencies to gain more nutrients than the maize plant; thus, making the maize plant becomes smaller and weaker. This leads to a great reduction in the yield and, at times, complete crop failure.
What are stem borers?
How to control Striga and Stem Borer
As dreadful as these pests are, they can be controlled but controlling them is more technical. Using synthetic herbicides and pesticides is not enough to control these pests. It is not economical as it greatly increases the cost of production.
Also, using tolerant or improved seeds seems better but it is hard to come by and very expensive. Using organic pesticides is very good but it is not always effective as expected owing to the method of preparation or handling. The best method to control Striga and Stem borer is the Push-pull system.
What is a push-pull system?
The push-pull system is a combined method of controlling both Striga and Stem borer simultaneously. This system is the most effective in controlling Striga and Stem Borer. It is non-toxic as it does not involve the use of chemicals; it is 100% organic. It involves intercropping maize with desmodium spp plant, surrounding the plot with Napier grass (Elephant grass).
With this approach, your maize plant is free from the effects of these pests; thus, making the maize plants attain their growth potential. The desmodium spp plant is leguminous in nature; it adds nitrogen to the soil and also serves as cover crops to control erosion.
How does a Push-pull system work?
As said earlier, the push-pull system involves planting the Napier grass (Elephant grass) and desmodium spp plant together with the maize plant to control the Stem borer and Striga.
The desmodium spp plant by nature produces a pungent smell that repels the adult stem borer; also, it secretes a chemical that prevents Striga from attaching to the roots of the maize plants.
|Napier or Elephant grass|
For Napier grass (Elephant grass), it attracts the adult stem borers; the adult stem borers lay their eggs on the Napier grass (Elephant grass) instead of the maize plants. When the eggs hatch, the Napier grass (Elephant grass) produces sticky glue that traps and kills the young stem borer.
How to establish a push-pull plot
If you intend to plant maize on a large plot, you have to divide it to about 50m by 50m for the efficiency of the push-pull system. In a very large plot, the Napier grass (Elephant grass) would be too far away from the maize plants; while in smaller plots, there would be no space to accommodate the maize plants, Napier grass (Elephant grass) and the desmodium spp.; Thus, a 50m by 50m plot is the ideal plot for this practice.
Plant three rows of the Napier grass (Elephant grass), all around the plot with a spacing of 75cm between rows and 50cm between plants, forming a fence around the plot. Plant the maize in the Napier grass (Elephant grass) hedge, that is, inside the plot. Use a spacing of 75cm between maize rows and 30cm between seeds in a row. Ensure that the first row of the maize plant is about 1m away from the Napier grass (Elephant grass).
Make a channel of 2cm deep with a pointed stick in the middle of the space between the maize rows to plant the desmodium spp. For a 50m by 50m plot, about 600g of desmodium spp seeds is enough to plant the plot. Mix a handful of the desmodium seeds with two handfuls of sand to ensure an even sowing of the tiny desmodium seeds, cover the soil slightly after sowing.
In case you cannot find the desmodium spp. seeds, you can use the root splits or cuttings. They should have at least two internodes. After about 3 weeks of planting, carry out your first weeding. Prune the desmodium spp. plant at 6 weeks so that they do not outgrow your maize plant. Prune the desmodium spp. plant and serve your livestock.
This is how to plant maize with a push-pull system on the same plot. With this approach, your maize plants are free from these pests’ invasion and effects. Do not be dismayed about the land usage; it is of no sense when you plant with optimal land utilization which later results in low yield. Take the pain to adopt this system on your maize farm to have a reasonable yield with good market value.
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