(Bihar Times)I was in Chandigarh last week to speak at a gathering of all India organic farmers. Hundreds of people had come from all over India and the range of seeds and food was truly stunning. As usual I bought something from every stall and came back with sacks full of different rice ranging from black from Manipur and Karnataka to red rice from Kerala and Chhattisgarh to sweet smelling rice from Sundarbans. I bought ragi and five different kinds of rajma, achars and papads and hundreds of seeds – including that of a jungle potato that grows above ground. These kinds of melas make my heart sing and I start to believe there is a future for India after all – inspite of the way that we have almost destroyed farming and farmers and their crops since 1960 when the first pesticides came in. My organization People For Animals did the first organic fair in Delhi three years ago and it was so small compared to the huge movement it has become now.
One of the books I bought at the mela was Debug Your Home The Natural Way brought out by Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PANAP) (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) I have written about natural pesticides many times : specially Citrus Peel, Garlic and Neem. This article is about how to make them at home and I am reproducing them from the book.
Neem: The neem (azadirachta indica) is a tall tree with bitter tasting leaves. It is one of the most effective medical plants in India used to treat a host of animals like diabetes and heart disease. It is reputed to have antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
How to make neem seed kernel extract-
Neem trees bear fruits once a year. It is better to harvest the fruits rather than collect fallen ones - fallen fruit in contact with the soil can be infested with fungus.
Make sure the fruits are yellow (not greenish yellow or yellowish green) before harvesting. Put a plastic sheet under the tree and beat the branches with a stick. Collect the fallen fruit from the plastic sheet. Throw away bad or mouldy ones.
Remove the pulp of the fruit by twisting the fruit between thumb and index finger. The seeds should be milky white in colour. Dry them upside down on a mat or sheet in the shade for two or three days. They should not be exposed to rain or direct sunlight.
Store the seeds in well-aerated baskets or gunnysacks (not in plastic bags) - they should be kept dry. The seeds used to make the kernel extract should be between 3-7 months old.
Take 75gm of neem seeds. Pound the seeds gently, just hard enough to break the seed coats. Then remove the seed coats and any bad kernels. Pound the good kernels (make sure no oil comes out) into a fine powder.
Mix the powder into one litre of light soapy water (oily soap is better). Filter or sieve the solution before using as a spray. The soap will help the powder stick onto the leaves. Be sure to cover the leaves completely with the spray-on top and underneath them. Apply once or twice a week.
How to make neem (seed) oil-
Put some of the neem kernel extract/powder you made earlier into a large bowl and add a small quantity of water, just enough to form a paste. Knead the mixture with the palm of your hand for a few minutes, pressing the neem paste firmly against the side of the bowl until the oil begins to come out. 1kg of neem kernel extract should produce about 150 ml of neem seed kernel oil. Neem acts in various ways against different insects – as repellent, feeding inhibitor, egg-laying deterrent, growth retardant, sterilizer and toxin.
Neem oil spray is more effective against aphids and stem borers than neem seed kernel extract. Mix 30 ml of neem oil thoroughly with 1 litre of water and a little soap. Use immediately.
How to make neem leaf extract-
Neem leaf extract is particularly effective against leaf-eating insects like grasshoppers, locusts and caterpillars.
Soak 1 kg of crushed/pounded green neem leaves in 5 litres of water overnight. The next day, filter the mixture and use it as a spray. (This method is recommended over the next one.)
Alternatively, you could boil the leaves in water until the green colour disappears from the leaves. Cool and filter the mixture before use.
CITRUS PEELS: Citrus peels are effective insecticides against aphids, fleas, mites, houseflies, fruit flies and many other insect-pests. Home-made citrus peel oils are safe and can be used as an effective insecticide for plants, humans and animals (except cats who are sensitive to citrus peel mixtures/oils). Mix the oil thoroughly in light soapy water and use as a spray for plants. The oil can also be safely applied to human skin to ward off insects.
How to make citrus peel oil-
Place ¼ cup of cut citrus peels (oranges, limes, lemons) in a plastic bag, seal the bag and lightly tap the peels so as to crush them lightly.
Mix the contents with a cupful of light oil (e.g., almond, olive, soybean, sesame or canola oil) in a glass jar. Cover the jar tightly and shake. Leave the jar to stand in a warm place (like the kitchen).
Drain out the contents into a muslin or cheesecloth sieve and squeeze the remaining contents to get out as much oil as possible, store in a glass bottle with a tight cover in a cool, dark place. Will keep for up to six months.
Tear mint leaves (pudina) and put these with citrus peels in a glass jar. Put lightly heated oil over the leaves and citrus peels until they are covered.
Cover the jar and let it stand in a dark place for a few weeks.
Drain and store the oil in a cool, dark, dry place.
Garlic: Garlic has antibacterial, antifungal and insecticidal qualities. Garlic oil not only kills insect-pests but also kills beneficial insects and microbes. Use it only on affected plants and not as a general spray for the whole garden. A garlic, neem oil and soap combination produces good results. Alternatively, soak crushed garlic with water and alcohol. Test spray first on a few leaves for sensitive ornamental plants.
How to make garlic oil-
Soak 100 g of finely minced garlic cloves in 2 teaspoons of any lightweight oil (e.g. canola, sesame, soyabean or neem) for at least 24 hours.
Slowly add 1 litre of water with some oily soap mixed into it. Stir thoroughly and strain into a glass jar/bottle for storage.
Use at a rate of 1 to 2 tablespoons of mixture to 1 litre of water to make a spray.
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