The neem tree

Disease ControlForestry

Photo from Natural pesticides from the Neem tree and other tropical plants, GTZ, 1985. Following a recent article on using Periwinkle in the treatment of some cancers, here are some details of how to make use of another plant, the Neem tree (Azadirachta indica), which is known by many different local names e.g. Aria-bepu, Asadina d’Inde, Bowtimaka, Dharak, Margosa, Neeb, Nib, Nimmi, Vaypum, Veppa, etc.

Neem is a useful tree which can help in dealing with insect pests. But unlike many chemical pesticides, it is safe to use and does not cost any money. The Neem tree has been used for dealing with insects for thousands of years in parts of Asia. It is a common species in many countries. If you are unable to find this tree where you live, you can obtain seed from:
Dr Martin Price, ECHO, 17430 Durrance Road, North Fort Myers, Florida, USA. It grows well on poor soil.

Photo from Natural pesticides from the Neem tree and other tropical plants, GTZ, 1985

Preparing a spray to protect from insect damage…

1. Collect and Store

Collect the Neem seeds when the fruit is ripe, and store them until you need to use them. Gather seeds from under the tree, or collect ripe fruit. Wash off the soft, fleshy part. Dry the seeds well in the sun, over several days. Store them in baskets or woven sacks (don’t use plastic or tins – the seeds will go mouldy).

2. Grind the seeds

When you see insect damage on your crops, begin preparing the spray. You will need one big double handful of seeds for every litre of spray which you make. Crush or grind the seeds into a coarse powder with a mortar and pestle or a grinding stone. Add the right amount of water and stir well. Leave the mixture covered overnight.

3. Filter the mixture

Next day filter the mixture through a cloth. If you are using a sprayer, use a very fine cloth or you will block the spray nozzle.

4. Apply the spray

The mixture is now ready to use. Apply with a sprayer or watering can, or use a small brush or a bundle of leaves to flick it over the vegetables. Use it all up on the same day – it will not keep. This spray will control many different kinds of insect pests.

If the seeds aren’t ripe use the leaves…

Spray made from the ripe seeds is most effective. But if you have no ripe seeds available, you can also make spray from the leaves! Use 1 kilogram of Neem leaves for every 5 litres of spray. Put the leaves in a pot and cover them with the water. Boil the mixture until the green colour is gone from the leaves. Let the water cool and remove the leaves. Apply the liquid as before.

If fuel for firewood is scarce, you can pound and crush the leaves and leave them to soak overnight in cold water. The spray is not so strong, but is still effective.

Other ideas for using Neem…

  • Add layers of dry Neem leaves in the containers where you store your grains after harvest to keep out storage pests.
  • Dry Neem leaves in the shade so they keep their green colour. Grind them into powder with a pestle and mortar. Mix this powder with water and clay to make a sticky plaster (Use 10 grams of powder for every 1 kilogram of clay). Spread it over the inside walls of the pots and baskets which you use to store grain. This plaster will keep out pests for a year. You can also mix this powder in with the grains. Use 1 kilogram for every 50 kilograms of grain. The grain is still quite safe to use as human food.

hese methods have been successfully used by farmers in India and other countries for hundreds of years. Do readers know of any other uses for the Neem tree?

Compiled from information provided by DCFRN.