Exploiting Chemical Ecology for Developing Novel Integrated Pest Management Strategies for Africa

  • Zeyaur R. KhanEmail author
  • Charles A. O. Midega
  • Jimmy Pittchar
  • John A. Pickett
Part of the Sustainability in Plant and Crop Protection book series (SUPP)


Push-pull, a novel approach for integrated management of insect pests, weed and soil fertility, was developed through the exploitation of chemical ecology and agro-biodiversity to address agricultural constraints facing millions of resource-poor African farmers. The technology was developed by selecting appropriate plants that naturally emit signalling chemicals (semiochemicals) and influence plant-plant and insect-plant interactions. Plants highly attractive for egg laying by lepidopteran cereal stemborer pests were selected and employed as trap crops, to draw pests away from the main cereal crops. Among these, Pennisetum purpureum produced significantly higher levels of volatile cues (stimuli), used by gravid stem borer females to locate host plants, than maize (Zea mays) or sorghum (Sorghum bicolor). Despite its attractiveness to stemborer moths, P. purpureum supported minimal survival of the pests’ immature stages. Plants that repelled stem borer moths, notably Melinis minutiflora and forage legumes in the genus Desmodium, were selected as intercrops, which also attracted natural enemies of the pests through emission of (E)-β-ocimene and (E)-4,8-dimethyl-1,3,7-nonatriene. Desmodium intercrop suppressed parasitic weed, Striga hermonthica, through an allelopathic mechanism. Their root exudates contain novel flavonoid compounds which stimulate suicidal germination of S. hermonthica seeds and dramatically inhibit its attachment to the host roots. We identified and selected new drought- and temperature-tolerant trap [Brachiaria ( B. brizantha × B. ruziziensis ) cv. mulato] and intercrop plants (Desmodium, e.g. D. intortum) suitable for drier agroecologies. The new trap and intercrop plants also have appropriate chemistry in controlling stemborers, a new invasive pest, fall armyworms and parasitic striga weeds. Opportunities for semiochemical delivery by companion plants, including plant-plant signalling and early herbivory alert, are explored for developing future smart integrated pest management (IPM) strategies.


Biodiversity and basic science Chemical ecology Push-pull technology Novel pest management Fall armyworm Climate change 



Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council


Biological Interactions in The Root Environment


Department for International Development


Fall armyworm


Coupled gas chromatography–electroantennography


Gross domestic product


Herbivore-induced plant volatiles


Integrated pest management


Open pollinated varieties


Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation


Sustainable Development Goals


Sub-Saharan Africa



We gratefully acknowledge financial support to ICIPE provided by the following organizations and agencies: the European Union, Biovision Foundation, UK Department for International Development (DFID), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Kenyan Government. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of these donors. The studies within the push-pull program are conducted in collaboration with Rothamsted Research of the UK, which receives grant-aided support from the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with additional funding provided under the Biological Interactions in the Root Environment (BIRE) initiative. Various roles played by all partners and collaborators, including farmers, are greatly acknowledged too.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zeyaur R. Khan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Charles A. O. Midega
    • 1
  • Jimmy Pittchar
    • 1
  • John A. Pickett
    • 2
  1. 1.International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe)NairobiKenya
  2. 2.Cardiff University, School of ChemistryCardiffUK

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