Neem - Foundation of life
Classification of Neem
Neem is a miracle tree found in India. It is called a miracle tree because it can cure diseases, cure illness, control pest and can act as a fertilizers as well. in this hub i would like to add some scientific information about neem, as far as medicinal value is concerned that is present in other hubs and i do not want to repeat it. In this i would like to share the agronomy of this plant.
Names: Neem, Nimba, Indian lilac (english), Azad Dirakth (Persian)
Scientific Name: Azadirachta indica
There are some other species of this plant like Azadirachta juss and A. azaderac . Out of these the common of these is A. indica which is native of India and almost each part of it is used in medicine.
Origin and Spread
Neem is native of India, Pakistan, Thailand, Burma or Thailand. Its actual origin is still debateable, but it is for sure that it originated in the Indian subcontinent and from there it spread to different parts of the world. as neem is considered in India as a very important part of the household and is very much respected for its medicinal value, it spread with the migration of people. it is said that when people from India were taken as slave to the Fiji islands, with them they took the seeds, kernels of neem. As neem can grow in various temperature, it flourished in tropical and warmer climates of Fiji and from there is spread to the south Pacific islands. Now neem is cultivated in central and south America, West Indies and Australia as well. I did a little bit of research on Internet and found that it is also available for sale in some parts of America as well.
Neem twigs used as toothbrush and toothpaste
Agronomy of Neem
Propagation: Neem can easily propagated by seeds during the monsoon season, spring season. Although it can be grown by cuttings but the best way to propagate is seeds as they are available in abundant in the monsoon season in India. You can collect the seeds directly from the plant and propagate straight into the soil or in the seed raising mix. They do not have any dormant period. The viability of seed is around 3- 4 weeks after harvest unless they are stored under the proper moisture and humidity (special conditions). If you want to propagate it for yourself you should not try to store it and propagate it as soon as you harvest the seed. You should protect the seedlings from frost in the early stages of growth. once the tree establishes itself you do not have to worry about it.
Hardiness:- It is a very hardy plant and can tolerate heavy prunning, cutting and damage by insects, animals etc. It is highly adviced to protect it in early years so that you can have a single, strong sturdy stem and a very large canopy. It can easily live up to 200 years.
Leaves:- It has smooth, compound leaves with resin secreting glands near the shoot apex; thats the reason that you sometime find ants climbing the tree to suck the nectar from the new growth. You do not have to worry about it but if you very much concerned you can spray it with imidacloprid (confidor) easily available in the market. It will take care of ants and other sucking pests on your plant. Once it eastablishes itself you do not have to worry about it. The damaged tissues sometime secret gum which has its own medicinal value.
Flowers:- Neem flowers are white in color. Flower buds of neem open in the evening and produce some scent at night which attracts many pollinators. In India it flowers between January to May which means that in will start flowering during the end of winter and will flower upto very hot summer. In other words it starts flowering at 10 degree celsius (day temperature) to 26 degree celsius (day temperature).
Fruiting:- Neem starts fruiting after 3 years and in about one decade it can produce up to 45 kg of fruits annually.
Climate and Soil :Neem is evergreen tree. It grows to the height of about 20 meters and a girth of 25 meters. it can grow on soils ranging from sandy soil (less in nutrients) to a very rich and fertile black soils of volcanic origin. As far as temperature is considered it can tolerate very high temperature but is susceptible to frost. Neem performs better in the areas which have an annual rainfall ranging from > 400mm to 1200mm. The tap root of neem is nearly twice the height of the plant which makes it survival possible in deserts as well. The best soil to grow neem should be well drained, the pH does not matter and it can compete with any sort of weeds. It can tolerate acid soils aswell.
Neem -foundation of life
Chemicals in Neem
It has thousands of chemical but the chemical which is very important is Azadirachtin. It is a terpenoid which as medicinal and pesticidal properties. Neem terpenoids are present in all parts of the plant but most abundantly found in seed kernels. The kernels contain about 30-40% oil whereas the azadirachtin content of the kernel vary from 0.2 to 0.6%. Besides the terpenoids, neem also contains more than 20 sulphur containing compounds responsible for the pungent smell when crushed.
Uses of Neem
- It is used in different medical preparations
- Neem oil is used for preparing soap, shampoo,creams and skin care treatment products.
- It is used as a pesticide to control insects, mites, nematodes and other chewing and sucking types of pest withouth harming the beneficial inestcs (honey bee).
- it is also used for mass planting in deserts as it has very low water requirement.
Neem powder is also used to treat diabetes type 2 patients.
Neem leaves are also used for storing the food grains.
Neem twigs are used as toothbrush in some parts of the world.
There is a lot of information availble on internet on the use of neem, so i would not like to repeat it.
Neem and Pest Control
Neem has been very effective to control the pest in your garden. There are few products available in the market to conrol the pests in your garden.
- Neem oil: anybody who knows organic farming knows about it. Neem oil is a safe alternative to use on all vegetables and fruits as it does not have any with holding period so you can consume straight after spraying (better to wait for at least one day).
- Neem Granules: This also a very popular product readily available in the market. if you do not want to spary with the neem oil you can spread the neem granules and get rid of the pest
- Neem coated Urea(fertilizer containing 46% nitrogen): This is a product which is not readily available in the retail stores because it is not very popular and you do not apply only urea in home garden but if you have a very big garden and use urea as a source of nitrogen you can get it from specific suppliers. As nitrogen is immobilised in few hours after application, this can improve the nitrogen availability to the plants.
how to prepare neem spray
Sustainability and Neem
In my opinion if we think of sustainability we should think of neem as well. Neem oil and other neem products are readily avialable in market and you can use them in your garden or better if the climate permits you can plant a neem tree in your backyard.
i can assure you one thing that you will never have to pay for toothpaste or toothbrush in your life if you have this tree in your backyard. This will save you a lot of money.
In the end i acknowledge all the images i have used from the flickr.com (Thanks a lot)
Neem Powder available in Nz
- Neem 600WP
This website sells some of the neem products in form of wettable powder which you can use in greenhouse, garden etc
Pest Contorlled by Neem
Neem can control a wide range of pests like whitefly, aphids, jassids, mites and caterpillars. However to achieve the best result some procedures need to be followed.
- If there is high intensity of pest problem use neem with conjuction of other pesticides available in market and then you can slowly decrease the use of synthetic chemicals and just use neem by itself.
- You can use neem in conjuction with other insecticide as an alternate spray to break the resistance in the pests.
- If using a wettable powder, mix it and use it immediately. The delay in using can decrease its potency.
- It is better to spray in the morning or evening, better morning to get the best results.
- Regular spray (every 7 -10 days) can achieve best results. Spray at early stages of insect development are more effective than on the adult stages.