Friday, January 15, 2010
For 4,500 years, ancient people used this to keep mosquitoes away from their sleeping quarters, and to keep boring insects from getting into homes and granaries. Neem was used to treat certain diseases and cure illness in India. Neem is a well known ayuvedic cure for ulcers, and to eliminate bedbugs, fleas and ticks. Ancient people used Neem twigs to brush their teeth, rub the oil on their bodies as a repellent while working in forests or fields. Farmers put the leaves in storage containters.
Gardeners are now using Neem tree extract to use against insects. Studies have shown that extracts are far more effective than DDT, and the current insect repellent known as DEET. DEET can cause cancer in children. DEET is also used in pet insect repellents, in shampoos for ticks and fleas and can harm your pet, even kill it as it licks off the DEET and consumes a very toxic substance.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the use of Neem extracts and oils as insect repellent, and has tested it to be a non toxic substance. Neem tree is related to another Asian evergreen, the mahogany tree. Native to India and Burma, this tree grows in most Southeast Asian, and Southern China forests. Neem trees are often found nearer to forests in semi- temperate climates, but all Neem trees require a wet rainy season, and a dry period where it bears fruits. Birds can nibble on the Neem tree seeds, and forest animals ingest the seed and it passes through their digestive system killing parasites.
Botanists and pharmaceutical companies are studying many plants to find eco-friendly, organic substances to use in gardens, and in homes. Neem has proven to be the most reliable and safe substance to use. There are almost 3,000 different chemicals used in gardens that are highly toxic to people, birds, pets , even fish and are still being marketed as highly toxic substances. Neem has never been properly exploited to replace these toxic substances because it is far easier to continue to produce and market these poisons than to advocate setting aside large masses of forests for the growing of Neem trees. In face it would be much easier to continue logging concessions and mining for minerals by devastating forests than to use natural forest plants for our garden pesticides.
Neem was pronounced highly toxic by mistake by pharmacuetical companies that are now losing to a generation of buyers who are rejecting sythetic pesticides due to the number of birth defects from chemical pollution and poisons being dumped into the atmosphere by overhead spraying by airplane, or by industrial pesticide companies on crops. Neem is very safe, but it is advisable not to spray from the air. Neem sprays are better applied directly to plants, and is better at being a deterrent to insects b promises to provide a truly natural alternative to synthetic insecticides. The reason is because NEEM is only toxic to insects that eat leaves or plants, and not to birds that fly around and eat the insects that may be sprayed with the chemical. Bees do not eat the plant, and therefore would not be poisoned by drinking nectar of flowers sprayed with Neem extract.
The difference with DDT and the other poisonous substances used by chemical companies to produce insecticides is the toxic substances act as nerve toxins, designed to kill any insect, including beneficial insects like bees, on contact. DDT and poisonous substances are targeted at ANY insect, and these broad-spectrum insecticides are so poisonous that one spraying by airplane over a large area can harm any creature that lives in or passes through areas in which they have been sprayed. This includes birds, from sparrows to nectar feeders like hummingbirds, to wild animals like hawks, owls, as well as squirrels, dogs, cats, and even people!
The worse effect is DDT harms the creatures that inhabit the soil, such earthworms, and other beneficial insects that prey on pests like ladybugs and praying mantis. Most manufacturers of insecticides are so toxic, the instructions used in the use of sprays on the yard recommend waiting three days before walking barefoot on the sprayed areas and to keep pets and children away for at least that long. As a safety precaution in many cities, signs must be posted to warn the public that a hazardous chemical has been applied to the lawn. People living as much as a quarter mile away from the insecticide application can be affected by evaporated insecticide and aerosols drifting in the air. In some individuals, this can result in severe reactions like headaches and numbness in the limbs. In others, it can cause less noticeable effects that might never be connected with the true cause of the reaction, toxic insecticides being applied somewhere in the neighborhood.
Neem is also a natural, biodegradable product. Only insects that eat plants are affected by neem, leaving honeybees and other beneficial insects essentially unharmed. As important as azadirachtin is, neem's true effectiveness comes from the interaction of all of the compounds which affect different aspects of an insect's life. Other compounds act as insect repellents, cause insects to lay sterile egg cases, prevent molting, and others simply enhance the effects of other compounds.
The number and complexity of the compounds found in neem, that affect insects, make resistance to neem highly unlikely. This is extremely important as insects are rapidly developing resistance to the major synthetic insecticides. More and more insects are even developing resistance to natural bacterial controls, like Bacillus thuringensis (Bt). Farmers in Mexico and Haiti, and shepherds in Australia, have begun switching to simple, neem-based, sprays from the usual synthetic chemical pest controls. This has allowed the farmers to export mango and other fruit to the United States without the chemical residues that often stopped their shipments at inspection stations.
Neem-based sprays have similarly allowed the shepherds in Australia to produce a pesticide-free wool that is being sold to European buyers for a considerable premium over the standard wool, impregnated with chemical pesticides. Food Storage Throughout the tropics much of the food harvested is lost during storage. More affluent farmers can and do spray their stored food crops with chemical pesticides to prevent worms, beetles and other infestations.
Neem offers the impoverished farmers and even affluent farmers wanting to replace pesticides a natural and inexpensive alternative. A light coating of neem oil protects stored food crops for up to twenty months from all types of infestations with no deterioration or loss of palatability. Soil Amendment - Neem Cake After the oil has been pressed from the seed kernels, the remaining material is called "neem cake." This material has been used for many centuries throughout India as a soil amendment.
Experience has taught farmers there that working the leftover neem cake into the soil of a garden produces larger, healthier plants that have few problems with insect pests. Several studies were done to find out why plants grew better in soils mixed with neem cake.
The studies discovered that neem cake was richer in plant nutrients than manure, killed damaging nematodes, promoted larger populations of earthworms, helped keep nitrogen in the soil available for the plants, and provided significant protection from insects. This combination of effects provides an almost ideal growing condition for the plants. By killing nematodes in the soil, a major plant pest is eliminated. Nematodes suck the juices from the roots of plants to the point where they are unable to supply sufficient nutrients to the plant.
The plants look sickly, fail to grow and may eventually die despite sufficient food, water and care. On the other hand, by promoting larger populations of earthworms, neem cake helps keep the soil loose so that water and nutrients can more easily be absorbed by the roots. Earthworms also enrich the soil by creating readily absorbable nutrients as it feeds on decaying plant material.
Neem cake also reduces the nitrification rate of the soil by suppressing nitrifying bacteria such as nitrosomonas and nitrobacter bacteria. This reduces the need for applications of external nutrients. Some studies have shown that mixing neem cake with regularly scheduled applications of manure can almost double crop yield over manure alone. Don't miss out on the benefits of this safe and effective insecticide.