For the last five years I have been helping a fast-growing organic farm in Panama called Simply Natural.
It has been amazing to see the company grow from a concept to a 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 about what farms do for natural pest control or IPM (Integrated Pest Management) systems.
On this visit, I learned that one of Simply Natural’s keys to success is neem. Neem is an incredible tropical tree from India with 1,001 uses. You may have noticed it as a featured ingredient in your natural toothpaste or floss.
As it turns out, it is also a useful tree for commercial tropical agriculture.
The neem tree produces an incredible amount of foliage and acts as a biological corridor, or screen, keeping out pollution from neighboring properties. Furthermore, in the case of organic mango farming, the leaves contain chemicals that naturally repel a lot of insects usually attracted to mango.
As it was explained to me on my farm visit, neem trees surround Simply Natural’s mango farm, acting as a completely natural and effective insect shield.
What’s more, producers are able to harvest the neem tree berries and process them into an oil, which they then mix into a solution for use as a foliar spray in their mango orchards. This helps to ensure the health of the tree and fruit, and keeps yields high.
Neem trees, similar to most mango varieties, are drought tolerant. They are happiest in environments with an extended dry season. That’s why the neem tree thrives in places like Coclé, Panama, where Simply Natural is located. Producers need only a minimal amount of water to establish a neem tree, and they can usually simply plant it and leave it to grow according to its nature.
The next time you are enjoying an organic mango, you may want to thank a nearby neem tree!
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