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27.05.2005 Regional News

Neem tree adopted for pests' control

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Nyankpala (N/R), May 27, GNA - Farmers in the Northern Region have adopted extracts from neem leaves and seeds to control insects and pests.

The neem has an active ingredient called "azadirachtin" that is found in all parts of the tree with the largest concentrations in the seeds that can be extracted and used as an insecticide for the control of more than 400 species of insects.

Dr Mumuni Abudulai, Research Scientist and Entomologist with the Savannah Agricultural Research Institute at Nyankpala, said this when he taught farmers how to use the insecticide on a demonstration farm on Thursday.

The leaves are pounded in a mortar and the pulp strained in water overnight for application while the dried seeds are decorticated to obtain the kernel. The kernel is pounded, mixed with water and squeezed to obtain the oil. The Area Development Programme of World Vision Ghana organized the forum for 150 farmers operating under its Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Food Security Programme in the Tolon/ Kumbungu District. Dr Abudulai said the leaves and the seeds could also be grounded into powder and used directly to dust crops in the field or to protect grain.

He said the major mode of action of the neem is that its properties have been identified to be useful in agricultural industry because they have a powerful insect growth regulator. It also acts as an anti-feedant and as an ovipositor deterrent and the neem does not kill the insects immediately.

The insects die during their development and there is reduction in the overall population over a period time. Dr Abudulai said most insects exposed to neem would stop feeding shortly after exposure thereby ending the damage to the plant. He said the application of the neem also inhibits adult insects from laying eggs on treated plant surfaces and this helps to prevent re-infestation of treated crops.

Dr Abudulai said unlike synthetic chemicals such as endosulfan, neem-based materials have low environmental persistence between four and eight days in the field and are relatively non-toxic to mammals. "Honey bees, parasitic wasps and predators such as spiders, ants and lady bird beetles are not harmed by neem product. The neem tree offers a safe alternative to conventional insecticide in integrated pests management programme".

Dr Abudulai said last year the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) sponsored cowpea and Okro farmers and entrepreneurs of cotton companies to adopt the use of neem insecticides in crops. Mr Clement Juayibim, World Vision Area Development Programme Officer In-charge of Food Security, said his organization's intervention was assist farmers to prevent pests from destroying their crops. "Our goal is to enhance food production and to raise income levels of farmers."

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