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New Neem Formulation May Revolutionize Pest Control

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WATER SOLUBLE NEEM POWDER NOW AVAILABLE

What a year it has been for the introduction of safer products for the organic lawn and garden market. Earlier last spring a selective weed killer hit the market that can help replace toxic chemicals such as 2,4-D, with many folks calling this chelated iron the “holy grail” of lawn weed control.

In the past month, news has spread of another product that may have an even greater impact as an insect control. A Boston-based company known as ArborJet is introducing a water-soluble powder known as AzaSol, which is derived from an evergreen Indian neem tree, Azadirachta indica.

Neem oil has been used medicinally and as an insecticide for more than 5,000 years — including the last 40 in the United States. The breakthrough with the AzaSol product is its high concentration of active ingredient, Azadirachtin, and the fact that, since it’s not in an oil formulation, it readily dissolves into a water solution.

The potential, quite frankly, is enormous.

BACKGROUND ON NEEM

Ancient Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro civilizations in India were the first known users of neem as medicine and insect repellents. Other uses were also mentioned in the Indian scriptures of the Charak Samhita and Sushruta Samhita, including the bathing of infants in neem oil, or using neem control for insect bites or to cure other skin ailments. It’s even used in some cultures as birth control.

Back In 1971, an American lumber importer named Robert Larson had seen all the ways the tree was used in the Indian culture and began importing the neem seed to Wisconsin. He called his neem oil extract Margosan-O, which gained clearance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1985. Soon afterward he sold out to the W.R. Grace Co. and the race has been on ever since to formulate neem into everything from shampoo to toothpaste and, most especially, to the gardening and farming world as an insecticide.

Neem oil is used to repel or kill numerous troublesome insects, including the mealy bug, beet armyworm, aphids, the cabbage worm, thrips, whiteflies, mites, fungus gnats, beetles, moth larvae, mushroom flies, leafminers, caterpillars, locust, nematodes and the Japanese beetle. Neem oil is not known to be harmful to mammals, birds, earthworms or some beneficial insects such as butterflies, honeybees and ladybugs. It can be used as a household pesticide for ant, bedbug, cockroach, housefly, sand fly, snail, termite and mosquitoes both as repellent and larvicide. Neem oil also controls black spot, powdery mildew, anthracnose and rust.

OVERALL EFFECTIVENESS

Neem oil, or Azadirachtin, is not a “contact” insect killer, meaning it doesn’t behave like Raid and “knock ’em dead” instantly. That often leads first-time uses to question the product’s effectiveness in certain situations.

Azadirachtin is a proven natural antifeedant, growth regulator, anti-ovipository and insect repellent, but it can take time to see the full effect of an application. The Azadirachtin blocks insects’ hormone receptors so they forget to eat, to mate, or they stop laying eggs. Some lose the ability to fly. Often, eggs don’t hatch, or the larvae don’t moult, so subsequent generations don’t survive. The complex modes of action are still being studied by scientists around the globe and the various uses for the compound are still being considered.

What we do know now is that neem products are becoming more and more prevalent in the marketplace as people look for safer alternatives to toxic chemicals. The new formulation being introduced to the United States by ArborJet will only escalate the range of uses.

AVAILABILITY

ArborJet has the product ready for sale today in packet sizes ranging from three-quarters of an ounce to several ounces and it is registered with the Boards of Pesticide Control in most U.S. states including California and New York. Its initial market push will be in the tree industry, where the company plans to utilize the water-soluble AzaSol in its patented tree injection systems to combat the hemlock wooly adelgid among other insects.

In the weeks and months ahead, however, company officials will be meeting with representatives from the agricultural, garden retail and other specialty industries to discuss other uses. AzaSol is labeled for outdoor plants, food crops, mushroom houses, plants grown indoors or in greenhouses, shade cloth, interiorscapes and nurseries; it can be applied via soil drench, chemigation, injection or spray.

“AzaSol will change the way the industry looks at azadirachtin products,” said Russ Davis, Chief Operating Officer of Arborjet in the official press release: Here’s the press release: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20101111006210/en/Insects-Beware-Arborjet-Introduces-AzaSol™-TCI-Expo. “It’s great news for landscapers, fruit growers and nursery care professionals who until now have struggled with the stability of azadirachtin (neem oil) products. Since AzaSol is the first powder-based water soluble product, it not only enables us to overcome this issue but also offers the highest concentrated product available at a very competitive price.”

With questions about obtaining AzaSol, or about potential range of usage, call 781-935-9070.

About The Author

Paul Tukey

An international leader of the green movement, Mr. Tukey is a journalist, author, filmmaker, TV host, activist and award-winning public speaker, who is widely recognized as North America's leading advocate for landscape sustainability and toxic pesticide reduction strategies.

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  • sean

    Very exciting development. Neem’s been around for a long time and it has all sorts of funky properties in the soil, all positive. I’m curious about the process.

    Sean Fuller

  • Hank

    Paul, you wrote that Soluble neem powder kills; “numerous troublesome insects, including the mealy bug, beet armyworm, aphids, the cabbage worm, thrips, whiteflies, mites, fungus gnats, beetles, moth larvae, mushroom flies, leafminers, caterpillars, locust, nematodes” etc.

    Should we not be concerned that some of what is to be ‘killed’ may be beneficial in some ways, notably as part of the food chain for other forms of life?

    I would be especially concerned that this product would destroy nematodes which some of us have been persuaded to buy in quantity, to assist in the production of healthy lawns.

    What say you?

    • Paul Tukey

      Hank,
      Ideally organic systems can reach a balance where no pesticides are needed. For situations where they are needed, either to save a crop, a tree, a lawn, then using the insect or weed killer that is least toxic — both to the environment, to humans, pets, aquatic life etc. — is the way to go. For centuries in other cultures, neem oil has been that insecticide of choice. It generally only targets chewing, sucking insects and has minimal impact on overall soil biology.

      It’s a great question, though, and one I want to continue to pursue. I’ll pass your question along to the scientists.

      PT

  • Richard Howe

    Is AzaSol certified by OMRI?

    • Paul Tukey

      Richard,
      Scores of products containing neem oil have been approved by OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute). AzaSol is currently going through the approval process for OMRI and also the National Organic Program. According to ArborJet, those approvals are expected soon.

  • Gary O’Brien

    How does the price compare to the oils on the market, which are really, really expensive?

    Gary O, Saskatoon

    • Paul Tukey

      Gary,
      You’re correct that straight neem oil products are very, very expensive. In the California wine/marijuana growing region of Mendicino County last week, one shop was selling a concentrated pint for more than $100. The neem oil contains 1.25 to 1.75 percent active ingredient Azadirachtin by weight, whereas the AzaSol powder contains 6 percent Azadirachtin. The scientists we’ve met with say that the both the efficacy and the relative cost equation are going to be improved when AzaSol gains wide distribution.

  • Karen Gilroy

    I am concerned about the statement that it is sometimes used as birth control. Do we have any idea in what way it could work as birth control? That strikes me as a red flag.

  • http://www.safelawns.org Sean McGovern

    How does neem oil or powder differ from pyrethrins, which are also a botanical insecticide derived from the chrysanthemum flower?

    Sean McGovern, Galveston, Tx.

  • http://www.safelawns.org Connie Petrie

    Mr. McGovern,
    The benefit of neem is that it doesn’t have the same aquatic toxicity associated with pyrethrin. Both neem and pyrethrin are have been used for decades in organic agriculture, sometimes in the same formulation. Like any pesticide, it should be used judiciously, but neem is far safer than just about anything else out there.
    Connie P., Oklahoma City

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