Neem Oil is a vegetable oil derived from the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), native to India. The traditional uses of the neem tree are countless, from medicines to body care, fertilizer, ropes, and lubricants. Today neem oil is used all over the world as a biopesticiide in organic farming, including orchards.
Neem oil applied to you crops deters insects from feeding on leaves and laying eggs. Neem can help protect against many common pests such as spotted lanternfly, beetles, aphids, leaf miners, and mites, while leaving beneficial insects such as butterflies, honeybees, and ladybugs unharmed. In addition to deterring feeding insects, neem functions to suppress moulting of certain pest insects including codling moth and plum curculio. Neem oil may also help with powdery mildew, rust, and many other common fungal diseases by boosting the plant’s immune system.
Neem Oil Sprays
Neem oil is most commonly sold as a concentrated solution which should be mixed at the rate of two tablespoons per one gallon of water for foliar (leaf) application. However, we recommend purchasing pure organic neem oil; mixed with water, pure neem oil is reported to be more effective than the commercial product. Both products need to be diluted before spraying to avoid damaging plants! The recommended ratio for growing season spraying is 2% pure neem oil or 1/3 cup per gallon of water. Along with diluting with water, pure neem oil will also need an emulsifier, such as Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap. An emulsifier is a substance that encourages one liquid to mix with another, in this case oil and water. Only about 1/16th of a teaspoon of soap is needed per gallon of diluted neem oil spray.
As with any spray, apply in the morning or evening and avoid the heat of the day. Throughly wet both sides of leaves with your neem oil spray to ensure full coverage. It can be used preventively by re-applying every 7-10 days. Neem oil can be applied to leaves throughout the growing season and also used as a dormant oil applied to trunk and branches in the fall, winter, and early spring. Double the neem concentration in dormant applications.
This edition of POP TIPS prepared with assistance from 2014 POP Intern Megan Bazin.
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