For many centuries now, the efforts of the gardeners to come up with an effective and non-toxic insecticide have proven futile. It has always been our dream and collective responsibility to ensure that our families, food and environment are well protected. Most of the chemicals usually not man made have a low percentage of effectiveness except the popular neem oil.
Neem oil is extracted from the neem tree which is scientifically referred to as Azadirachta indica. It naturally occurs as a pesticide in the seeds of a neem tree. Its color ranges from brown to yellow, it also has a bitter taste and a garlic-like smell. It is native to Asia and Tropical India. In the recent past, the neem tree has caught the attention of numerous gardeners because its oil is used as an insecticide and it is highly effective and safe.
The oil is extracted from different parts of the tree but it is mostly obtained by pressing the neem seeds which have the highest concentration of oil. This is due to the presence of the compound Azadirachin. This compound usually acts as a repellent and reduces the feeding of insects.The oil is effective for eliminating many pests including:
- White flies
- Fungus gnats
- Mealy bugs
How to Grow and Care for a Neem Tree
Neem is a hard wood tree which is relatively easy to grow. It has the capability of tolerating temperatures of up to 50C (120F). Temperatures of below 35C make the tree shed its leaves and it cannot tolerate climates that are wet, have prolonged drought or cold temperatures. Fresh neem seeds can be planted directly in the ground or be started in pots and later transplanted outdoors at three months.The trees require sunlight and moisture.Light,balanced and good quality fertilizer can be sprinkled too.
Use of Neem Oil in the Garden
Neem Oil Foliar Spray
Foliar Spray is the most useful especially in application to young plants which are growing.It prevents the insects from feeding on the plants and usually interferes with the hormones of the insects thus preventing them from growing to the adult stage of laying eggs. In the spraying procedure, one should test the oil on a small part and observe if there are any damages.If none,then the spray should be applied adequately in indirect sunlight only to avoid the burning of foliages and to allow it to be slowly absorbed into the plant.
Neem Oil Fungicide
It is very useful against mildews,rusts and fungi if applied in a low percentage solution for instance 2 percentage.It is also helpful for other issues such as:Sooty mold,black spot and root rot.
Neem Oil Insecticide
It is usually absorbed and distributed from tissue to tissue by the plant. Insects intake the insecticide during feeding from the plant’s vascular system.The chemical stops insects from feeding and maturing of larvae. The mating behavior is interrupted too and the oil can lead to death of insects by coating their holes of breathing. This insecticide can repel mites too and can manage over 150 other species of sucking and chewing insects.When using this insecticide,one should ensure the leaves are completely coated.
Benefits of Neem
Neem is usually known for its inability to persist in the environment.It is therefore easily degraded by environmental factors such as rainfall and ultra violet light. Most neem products tend to have a low toxicity to mammals.Due to the quick degradation of neem products there a negligible effect on beneficial organisms which are not targeted unlike other pesticides. The Azadirachin compound is also known for its different modes of action therefore doing away with the fear of pathogens easily developing resistance against these neem-based products.
Limitations of Neem
These neem-based pesticides tend to have a low persistence in the environment.They can be easily degraded by environmental factors such as:ultraviolet light,rainfall and temperature.In order to achieve the desired results one may have to perform applications repeatedly.Since it mainly inhibits the growth of insects, it is highly effective in the early stages of development.Treatment is highly discouraged in stressed,wilted or plants that have been newly transplanted due to their root development being limited.
As we have seen, neem does more good than bad to us and to the environment at large. Using the neem products will ensure safe soils,safe food and a safer earth in general.We should highly encourage the use of these traditional pesticides for the good of all of us.