For the last five years I have been helping a fast-growing organic farm in Panama called Simply Natural. It's been truly amazing to see the company grow from concept, to fully established commercial farming operation in such a short period of time.
Given my background in horticulture and relative understanding of commercial organic agriculture, I am always curious what farms do for natural pest control or an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) system.
On this visit I learned that one of their keys to success is Neem. Neem is an incredible tropical tree from India with a 1001 uses. You may have noticed it as a featured ingredient in your holistic toothpaste or floss. In fact it is a very useful tree for commercial tropical agriculture.
The tree has an incredible amount of foliage and acts as a biological corridor, or screen, for pollutions on neighboring land and properties. Furthermore, the leaves contain chemicals that naturally repel a lot of insects that otherwise would be attracted to the mango.
As it was explained to me on my farm visit, the mango farm is surrounded in Neem trees as a natural repellent to a lot of insects.
Furthermore, the berries from the neem trees are harvested and processed into an oil, which is then mixed into a solution that is used as a foliar spray on the mangos and mango trees. This helps to ensure the health of the tree and fruit, and keeps yields at a high level.
Neem trees, like most mango varieties, are drought tolerant. They are happiest when they have an extended dry season. Therefore in places like Cocle, Panama, where Simply Natural is located, the neem tree thrives. Only a minimal amount of water may be needed to establish the tree, but mostly it's a tree that can be planted and left to its nature to grow.
Next time you are enjoying an organic mango, it may be thanks to a nearby neem tree!