Neem trees provide safe no-cost control of many insects, Part 1 – introduction



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Many problems are caused by using poisonous chemical insecticides. Farmers who use neem trees for dealing with insect pests do not have these problems. This item is an introduction to the value and use of neem.

Information on this subject area was requested by participants in Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Nepal, Nevis, Nigeria, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Republic of China, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Presenter: George Atkins

Interviewee: Dr. Ramesh C. Saxena, International Rice Research Institute, Manila, Philippines.

Special notes

Before using this information, please read the notes at the end concerning this and related items.
2. The neem tree (Azadirachta indica, known also as Melia azadirachta or Melia indica) is known by different names in different countries, e.g., Aria-bepu, Azadina d’Inde, Bowtimaka, China berry, Dharak, Indian lilac, Kohumba, Margosa, Margousier, Neeb, Nib, Nim, Nimb, Nimba, Nimmi, Persian lilac, Tim, Vaypum, Vepa, and Veppa. Please use the term most familiar to the farmers you serve.

Every farmer knows how much damage insects can do. Some of these insects are adult insects such as moths, flies, hoppers, or beetles. Others are insect larvae; that’s caterpillars, worms, or grubs. They attack the roots, stems, leaves, fruit, or seeds of plants when they’re growing in the field or garden. Also, they may attack the fruit or seeds after being harvested or at any time when in storage. Insects can indeed be a terrible scourge!

Fortunately, there are some good insects that attack some of those bad ones. A big problem can occur, however, when chemical insecticides are used to kill the bad insects. Often the good ones are killed at the same time.

There’s another major problem with many chemical insecticides. Not only do they kill good insects, but after using them for a few years, the chemical poisons become less and less effective against the insects they are intended to control. You could say that the insects get used to them. The answer to that problem has often been to use more and more of the insecticide, or to develop new, more poisonous chemicals.

The more new chemical insecticides that are developed and the more poisonous they become, the more danger there is of people and animals being poisoned, getting sick, and even dying from the poison. If you use chemical insecticides, you should be extremely careful and you should be sure to practise ALL of the Pesticide Safety Rules. That applies to all members of your family and your neighbours too.

Fortunately, in many cases, there are much safer ways to deal with insect pests. We’ve discussed a number of them in the past. Today, I want to talk about a tree that can be very helpful in dealing with insect pests.

Perhaps you already know about the neem tree or margosa tree. If it grows in your area, you know how useful it is for shade, and for wood. But did you know that parts of the neem tree can be used to control insect pests? Unlike many chemical pesticides, these parts of the tree and products you can make from them are safe to use and they don’t cost any money.

Dr. Ramesh Saxena is a pest control expert at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. He tells us that most chemical pesticides contain just one chemical poison, but that neem has 127 different ingredients that affect insects in a number of different ways. Thus, it’s not easy for them to get used to neem like they do with chemical insecticides. Here’s more that he said about neem.

Many parts of neem trees can be used: the leaves, the seed, the seed kernel, even the bark. The entire tree has bitter properties, but the part that is most effective in repelling insects is in the seed kernel. In a recent survey, I found that neem will control 195 different kinds of insects. It has a tremendous range of activity against sucking- and chewing-type insects which are common anywhere.

Neem repels insects. It also brings about some behavioural changes like reducing the appetite. The effect of neem is very subtle.

Neem has been used for thousands of years in India, for controlling insect pests on farms, in households, and even in public health and in veterinary practice.

In our next couple of visits, we’ll learn how you can use neem seeds to protect your growing crops from many chewing and sucking insect pests. Before finishing today, however, here are a few final words from Dr. Saxena about whether or not neem is poisonous to people in any way.

As a result of the latest research, we know that neem compounds are not toxic in any way. In fact, it has been known for centuries that neem is safe for human beings. As I always say, the only way someone can be hurt by neem is climbing a neem tree and falling out of it and breaking a leg. Otherwise, neem is not known to hurt warm-blooded animals and that includes human beings.

Thank you very much, Dr. Ramesh Saxena, here at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.

Serving Agriculture, the Basic Industry, this is George Atkins.




1. This item is the first of four items in this package on the subject of neem. If using the series, please use them in the proper sequence.

2. For maximum benefit to your audience, you might wish to use this item in association with information from:

Knowing Insect Life Cycles Helps You Control Pests. DCFRN Package 10, Item 8, repeated in this package as Item 8

Preventing Insect Pest Damage to Crops, DCFRN Package 10, Item 9.

3. The neem tree has been used for dealing with insects for thousands of years in parts of Asia. Over the past century, its special value has also been recognized in many other parts of the world. It has thus become established as a common species in many places, although it is not found in all developing countries.

Information sources

Information sources for this series (Package 16, Items 4, 5, 6, 7)

1. Dr. Ramesh Saxena, International Rice Research Institute, Manila. Philippines.

2. Dr. A. Abdul Kareem, International Rice Research Institute, Manila. Philippines.

3. G. Venkataramani, Agricultural Correspondent, The Hindu, Madras, India.

4. DCFRN participant Augustine Aborah, Kumasi, Ghana: Information based on an article in The Mirror by Albin Korem.

5. DCFRN participants: Ravi Damodaran, Madras, India; Instifanus N. Danmalle, Bauchi, Nigeria, and Ennias Michello, Monze, Zambia.

6. Axel Bosselman, Consultants Concerned, Hobart, Australia.

7. P. Strzok, Agency to Facilitate the Growth of Rural Organizations (AFGRO), Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S A. Information on techniques used in West Africa.