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Content: Neem leaves taken directly from the trees can be used for preventing infestation of insect pests in stored grain. Also, shade-dried leaves can be used whole and in powdered form in various ways for warding off pests. Proven, centuries-old methods are described and a suggestion is made that farmers should plant neem trees on poor land near where they live.
Information on this subject area was requested by DCFRN participants in 40 developing countries.
Presenter: George Atkins
Interviewees: G. Venkataramani (“Venkat”), Agricultural Correspondent, The Hindu, Madras, India
Dr. Ramesh C. Saxena, International Rice Research Institute, Manila, Philippines
Dr. A. Abdul Kareem, International Rice Research Institute, Manila, Philippines
Before using this information, please read the notes at the beginning and the end of item 4 in this package about this and related DCFRN items.
Some people call neem “The Wonder Tree.” That’s because there are so many things about it that can help us. We’ve talked before about how both seeds and leaves of the neem tree can be used to control insect pests that harm our growing crops.
Today, let’s think about ways that we can use neem leaves to keep pests from attacking our stored grain.
It doesn’t matter whether we store grain in pots, baskets, sacks, or bins, neem leaves can be used; and we can use them in different ways.
“Venkat” Venkataramani, a farm journalist in Madras in India, told me that, for centuries, farmers in his country have simply picked green leaves off the neem tree. He says you can do it too.
Put a thin layer 1-1/2 centimetres (about 1/2 an inch) thick of the fresh leaves in the bottom of the container. On top of that, put in 30 centimetres (1 foot) of sun-dried grain. Then a 1-1/2 centimetre (1/2 inch) layer of neem leaves; on top of that, another 30 centimetres (1 foot) of dry grain, then another layer of neem leaves and so on with a good layer of leaves on the top, close it up and the grain is safe.
Dr. Ramesh Saxena of the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines told me that, if you store your grain in a large container of some kind like a large pot, a basket, or a wooden grain bin, there’s another way that you can protect the grain. You can use green neem leaves that have been dried in the shade to keep their green colour and then ground into a powder with a pestle and mortar. Here’s how some Indian farmers do it.
They mix the neem leaf powder with clay and water. They make this into a sticky mud plaster and they plaster the inside walls of the container with it. After the plaster is dry, they put a layer of shade-dried neem leaves all over the bottom. Then they fill the container with grain. They put a layer of dry neem leaves on the top and then close the structure. This is a very simple but effective method of storing grain.
Dr. Saxena told me that when neem leaf plaster is used on the grain container walls this way, it will keep pests from getting into the grain for a full year. He reminded me, though, that you should only put dry grain into the container that is free from pests.
If the grain is already infested, then the protection will not be good.
But when you’re mixing up the mud plaster, how much neem leaf powder do you need? Dr. Abdul Kareem of India’s Tamil Nadu University is working with Dr. Saxena and he told me you need …
… ten grams of neem leaf powder for every kilogram of clay before mixing in the water.
These two neem specialists recommend another way of using neem leaves to protect stored grains from insect pests. This method has also been used for many centuries. They recommend using powdered neem leaves when storing your grain in sacks. And how do you do that?
If anyone is using gunny bags, it is very simple. You can mix the neem leaf powder with the grain. One or two kilograms (two to four pounds) of neem leaf powder mixed thoroughly with 100 kilograms (200 pounds) of seed can protect it for about six months.
So, once again, that’s one or two kilograms (two to four pounds) of neem leaf powder mixed thoroughly with 100 kilograms (200 pounds) of your grain and it should be safe from pests for six months. But what about this grain that has powdered neem leaves mixed in with it? Can it still be used for human food?
Yes, in fact neem leaves are eaten by people who have medical problems, sick stomach, malaria, and so on, and it in no way affects the flavour. There is no trace of bad taste or smell.
Today, you’ve heard of several ways that you can use leaves from the neem tree to protect your stored grain from insect pests. All of them have been successfully used by farmers in India and other countries for hundreds of years. Of course, it’s a lot easier to use these simple no-cost methods of pest control if you have a neem tree close at hand.
Neem trees grow quickly from seed so if there are no trees of this kind nearby, perhaps someone in your area knows where you can get some seeds. One of the great things about neem trees is that they will grow well in very poor stony soil. Also, they are hardy and easy to grow. Dr. Saxena told me that where they grow, they purify the air and that the wood they produce has many different uses. Best of all, termites and ants will not attack the wood from neem trees. So you can use it for building structures that will last a long time. He recommends that:
Neem trees should be planted wherever there is barren land. Every farmer who can do so should have about four to six neem trees, not on good farming land but on fallow land or around the homestead.
Thank you very much, Dr. Ramesh Saxena and Dr. Abdul Kareem, here at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines.
Serving Agriculture, the Basic Industry, this is George Atkins.
1. This item is the fourth of four items on neem in this package. It may either be used alone or in the proper sequence together with the other items as part of a series.
2. For other notes that apply to this and the other three stories on neem, see item 4 in this package.
See item 4 in this package.