Neem oil is a natural pesticide extracted from Neem seeds (Azadirachta indicates), a tropical tree native to the Indian subcontinent. All parts of the tree have an antimicrobial and insecticide property that has been exploited for thousands of years by indigenous people. Its excellent safety profile for higher organisms, especially birds and mammals, makes it a better alternative to chemical pesticides.
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Neem oil is not a contact poison. It does not kill insect pests directly. It is of systemic action and affects mainly to the feeding, as well as to the growth and development of the insects. Nothing will happen immediately, even if you spray the oil, so people often come to the conclusion that neem oil is ineffective and everything is hype.
The neem oil must first be ingested by the pests before it can have any effect. Due to this, the toxic effect of the oil is mainly directed to the insects that suck the juices of the plants and the larvae of insects that eat the leaves and the yolks. Many predatory insects and other pollinators that do not eat plant parts are saved.
The most important bioactive agent in neem oil has been called azadirachtin. This compound belongs to a group of phytochemicals known as limonoids. Azadirachtin seems to have an action similar to steroids on the metabolism of insects, the interruption of hormone synthesis and other cellular functions. Loss of appetite is an obvious result and causes a reduction in insect feeding. The larval metamorphosis and the adult molt are also affected. However, insects do not thrive and reach sexual maturity, so their populations decline.
It is known that neem phytochemicals have several recognized modes of action.
Food controls – Caterpillars that feed on leaves sprayed with neem oil develop an aversion to eating. It is thought that they experience a feeling of nausea. Apart from Azadirachtin, two other substances, namely Melatrol and Salannin, are identified as causing this effect. Growth retardation – Insects grow and develop through a series of metamorphic stages. This process is regulated by specific enzymes, but the neem compounds suppress their production, effectively preventing the formation of chrysalis and moult. This practically stops the development of larvae in pupae and nymphs in adults. Larval malformation – Larvae exposed to neem compounds can sometimes develop abnormally, becoming malformed adults that are unable to reach sexual maturity. Adult sterilization – Adult insects can become sterile as a result of ingesting neem oil. This action helps control the insect population. Mating interruption – The action of neem compounds on hormonal pathways associated with mating creates confusion in insects, disrupting their normal sexual behavior. Dissuade oviposition – Gravid females exposed to neem oil often show oviposition deterrence and abstain from laying eggs. Egg poisoning – Although neem oil has no contact toxicity, insect eggs that come in contact with it often do not hatch or become misshapen larvae.
Azadirachtin is generally safe for mammals, but it is known to cause mild irritation of the skin and respiratory tract by contact and inhalation of people and animals. Therefore, sufficient precautions should be taken when handling and spraying neem oil formulations.
Neem oil is used in many insecticide formulations available in the market, but you can mix your own potent formula with pure neem oil. There are mainly three ways in which neem oil can be used for effective pest control in the organic garden.
3 ways to use Neem oil as an insecticide and for pest control
1. Neem oil as foliar spray.
Neem oil can be mixed with water and used in spray pumps to cover the aerial parts of plants that are attacked by pests. As you know, oil and water do not mix, the oil remains as a separate layer on the surface of the water. A surfactant is required to counteract this. Liquid detergents, especially dishwashing liquids, are ideal surfactants for the home gardener.
To make a foliar spray you need:
1 quart of warm water 2 teaspoons organic neem oil 1 teaspoon of dishwashing liquid
Mix them all together and pour in a spray. Spray the foliage and the stem, making sure the mixture reaches the bottom of the leaves where the insects usually hide. This formula can be used safely in all kinds of vegetables, herbs and fruits. However, it can burn the tender parts of the plant, especially if the plant is under water stress. Minimize this risk by watering the plants a few hours before spraying.
The azadirachtin decomposes fairly quickly once the oil is diluted, so use the spray within 2-3 hours after mixing. Depending on the insect pests that affect your crops, the application must be repeated several times during a period that matches the duration of its entire life cycle. In the case of fast-reproducing insects with short life cycles such as Mites, the plants should be sprayed every three days for at least 2-3 weeks.
2. Neem oil in horticultural oil.
Horticultural oils based on petroleum and vegetable oils are often used as protective sprays in crops, especially fruit trees. The dormant oil used in late fall and winter is a typical example. These oils do not usually contain any toxic component; Its function is to suffocate the insects that spend the winter and their larvae, thus reducing their population in the following season.
Horticultural oil is well accepted in organic culture, but has a limited effect since it has no residual action. Adding neem oil to the formula can make them more effective by reducing the chances of insects and their larvae reaching sexual maturity and reproducing. Insect eggs that have been sprayed with neem oil often do not develop
You can add neem oil to any commercial horticultural oil, such as Oil for all seasons in the proportion of 1 tablespoon per liter. Mix well and sprinkle on the trees, paying special attention to forks, knots and dead branches.
3. Neem oil as soil soaking.
The use of neem oil as soaked soil is the most effective and healthy way to control organic pests. The oil is absorbed through the roots and disseminated to each part of the crops, so that no insect pest that ingests any part of the plants is saved. Avoiding airborne spray means that oil has no chance of causing respiratory irritation to people and pets.
Another advantage of using it as a soil soaker is that it can take care of soil pathogens, especially nematode worms. In fact, the neem has a long history of use as a vermifuge in its native areas. Soaking of the soil is especially beneficial for tomatoes and melons that are highly susceptible to nematode infestation.
Antimicrobial action of neem oil.
Most of the agricultural uses of neem oil are focused on its insecticidal action, but it has an excellent antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal action.
Neem leaf paste and powder are traditionally used as a wound dressing for people and animals. A large number of fungal and bacterial infections of the skin, from ringworm to impetigo, are treated with neem oil. Neem leaf tea is used for stomach infections and as a prevention against chicken pox.
It has been shown that neem oil also has a similar broad-spectrum antimicrobial action against plant pathogens.
Mix 2 tablespoons of neem oil in a gallon of water to obtain an antifungal spray against the following infections:
Mold Dusty mold Black point Botrytis Anthracnose
It has been found that treating plants at the first sign of disease, or even in anticipation of potential infections, is more effective than trying to control full-blown infections. Repeat the application once a week until the danger passes.
Prevent better than cure
Since the neem oil has a systemic action that takes between 2 and 3 weeks to show the results, it is ideal to prevent diseases and infestations of pests. Treat the young seedlings as soon as they are planted in the garden soaking the soil with the neem oil mixture. Repeat weekly until they are well established.
Do you need a bottle of neem oil for your garden? We recommend This bare organic Neem unrefined Neem oil.
Reference: https://www.naturallivingideas.com/neem-oil-for-plants/, by Susan Patterson
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