Farmer courts insect-friendly neem extracts to boost sunflower yields

One Kilifi farmer has resorted to locally available neem tree extracts to control insecticides after realising inorganic pesticides repel bees, which are essential in pollination.

 Alex Mwangemi grows sunflowers, but he discovered with time that bees were repelled or killed by strong insecticides, therefore, adversely affecting yields.

“Seed and oil production from sunflower solely depends on pollination. Shying away of bees means no yields. In the course of researching on the benefits of neem trees, I realised its extracts are safe organic pesticides. I have found it working,” he said.

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 According to the Agriculturalist, a US online information repository, bees pollinate one sixth of the world’s flowering plants. The site adds that 400 of these are agriculture plants.

Onions, carrots, tomatoes, beans are just but a few examples.

Mwangemi, who extracts neem oil for sale, soaks briquettes from seed husks in water over night. One kilogramme of briquettes in dipped into two litres of water. By the following day, the ‘juice’ is ready for use.

Ten litres of the concoction is applied on a quarter an acre of sunflowers.

“It is a safe biopesticide whose residue is broken down to harmless components. Some inorganic pesticides irritate the skin eyes, breathing system and other organs. But I have never experienced the same with either neem oil or briquette extracts,” the Marikebuni Village farmer said.

Azadirachtin is the active ingredient that gives the neem tree the healing and killing properties, according to the US National Pesticide Information Centre.

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 Although oil can be used as a pesticide too, the farmer prefers to extract it for sale.

The oil relieves pain in aching teeth.  Its disinfecting property makes it a preferred ingredient in toothpastes, cosmetics, detergents, pesticides, among other external application products.

Using the briquettes as cooking energy and application of the oil on the skin also repels mosquitoes. This effectively prevents spread of filaria worms and plasmodium parasites, which cause elephantiasis and malaria respectively.

PHOTO courtesy of westseedfarm.com