News and knowhow for farmers

Harnessing Trap Crops for Pest Control and Increased Yields

Farmers are finding effective solutions to pest infestation and increased crop yields through the use of trap crops.

Natural pest-resistant crops, including sorghum, Napier grass, and desmodium, offer a cost-effective pest control method while reducing the need for pesticides. By strategically planting trap crops alongside cash crops, farmers can mitigate damage caused by pests and preserve natural enemies, resulting in improved crop quality, reduced pesticide use, and substantial cost savings.

These crops act as a barrier, attracting pests away from cash crops and concentrating them in the border areas. By reducing the number of pests and diseases spread in the center, trap crops help preserve the natural enemies of pests.

Successful Examples of Trap Crop Implementation

Sorghum and Maize

Farmers in Marimanti, Tharaka Nithi, have effectively reduced stem borer damage to maize by planting sorghum as a perimeter ring. Birds, such as weaver birds, prefer sorghum, protecting the maize from attack.

Napier Grass

Surrounding crops with Napier grass has led to increased yields. Research conducted by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KARLO) demonstrated that planting pigeon peas along the borderline of an okra plot significantly reduced aphid infestation, resulting in higher okra yields.

Desmodium and Maize

A study in Western Kenya revealed that using a trap crop of Napier grass surrounding maize, along with an intercrop of desmodium, repelled insect pests and suppressed the parasitic weed Striga hermonthica.

Ensuring Trap Crop Effectiveness

To maintain the effectiveness of trap crops, it is recommended to harvest and dispose of them properly. Crop residues should be burned or buried deep in the soil to prevent them from acting as pest reservoirs in subsequent seasons. For instance, stalk borers can lay eggs on young maize after the larvae stages bore into the stems of sorghum. Burning crop residues breaks the cycle and helps prevent pest resurgence.

Additional Benefits of Trap Crops

Trap crops offer various benefits beyond pest control. Farmers can utilize harvested sorghum for porridge flour or chicken feed. Dry sorghum stalks serve as fodder or fuel wood, especially during colder months.

In the Western Kenya study, soil fertility improved, leading to substantial maize yield increases. Furthermore, Napier grass and desmodium legumes provide fodder for cattle and help suppress the notorious Striga weed, which severely impacts maize and cowpea yields in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Conclusion

The implementation of trap crops presents a sustainable and cost-effective solution for farmers facing pest challenges.

By utilizing crops like sorghum, Napier grass, and desmodium, farmers can control pests, reduce pesticide use, and improve overall crop yields. The success of trap crops extends beyond pest control, offering additional benefits such as increased soil fertility and suppression of harmful weeds.

Agricultural extension workers strongly recommend trap crops as an effective strategy to protect important food crops from pests.

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