On 18th September 2012, Prof. Zeyaur Khan, the leader of the widely-reputed icipe Push-Pull Programme, received the 2011 TWAS Prize for Agriculture. TWAS award ceremony was held in Tianjin, China hosted by Chinese Academy of Sciences. Prof. Khan is recognized for his discovery and wide-scale implementation of the Push-Pull Technology – a pro-poor scientific innovation for enhancing food security and environmental sustainability in Africa. The TWAS Prizes, that include a medal and prize money, are awarded by TWAS, The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World, to honour individual scientists in developing countries in recognition of an outstanding contribution to knowledge. Based in Trieste, Italy, TWAS promotes scientific excellence and capacity in the South for science-based sustainable development, through a range of programmes that includes research grants; awards and prizes; fellowships and associate fellowships.
The TWAS Prize adds to Prof. Khan’s growing list of accolades for his work as the leader of the push-pull programme, an innovative technology that simultaneously addresses the three key constraints of cereal production in Africa: stemborers, striga weed and poor soil fertility.
The push-pull technology was developed by Prof. Khan at icipe in collaboration with Rothamsted Research in the United Kingdom, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and various national partners, with funding from Gatsby Charitable Foundation (UK). Further research and development of the technology has been funded by the European Union, the Kilimo Trust (East Africa), Biovision Foundation (Switzerland) and McKnight Foundation (USA), among others.
The technology involves intercropping cereals with a repellent plant such as desmodium, and planting an attractive trap plant, for instance Napier grass, as a border crop around this intercrop. Stemborers are repelled or deterred from the target crop (push) and at the same time they are attracted (pull) to the trap crop, preventing damage on the cereal crop.
In addition, desmodium provides a novel means of in situ reduction of the striga seed bank in the soil through efficient suicidal germination: The plant stimulates the germination of striga seeds and inhibits their growth after they germinate.
Today, more than 50,000 farmers in eastern Africa are practising the push-pull technology on their farms, dramatically improving their cereal yields. Moreover, the technology enables small-scale farmers to venture into dairy cattle and goat keeping, as both desmodium and Napier grass are excellent fodder crops. In addition, desmodium fixes nitrogen and helps retain moisture through natural mulching, and prevents soil erosion; and it is also a perennial crop, which enables it to exert its striga control effect even when the host crop is out of season.
Khan is recognised for his discovery and wide-scale implementation of the push-pull technology – a pro-poor scientific innovation for enhancing food security and environmental sustainability in Africa... More..