Neem Cakes for Gardening
by Alec McClennan, on March 10, 2018
Benefits of Using Organic Neem Cakes as a Soil Amendment
The use of Neem, in its various forms, in gardening and farming for amending the soil is a well-known practice. What is good about Neem too is that various research studies have been done, and it has been proven that Neem extracts are non-toxic to humans. These extracts also aren’t toxic to birds, to beneficial insects and help to protect crops from over 200 crop eating pests.
Where Does Neem Come From?
Neem comes from the Neem tree which is a tropical evergreen tree. This tree is native to India as well as other southeastern countries on the globe. Now the Neem tree also has many other uses besides just for enhancing soil. The seeds bark and leaves all contain compounds of the Neem tree are proven antiseptics, antivirals, antipyretics, anti-inflammatories, and antifungals in their uses. The Neem tree is thus called “the village pharmacy” in India because of all the ways it’s used. However, Neem does have a garlic-like odor as well as a bitter taste so you aren’t going to find it soon in American restaurants.
Ways Other Parts of the Neem Tree are Used
Every part of the Neem Tree has a use and these have been well documented:
- The Neem Oil which is extracted from the Neem Seeds has insecticidal and medicinal properties and is used in pest control.
- Neem Seed Cake is used as a soil amendment which enriches the soil and lowers nitrogen loss. Plus it works as a nematicide.
- The leaves of the Neem Tree can be used to treat chicken pox and warts. It is used by applying the leaves in paste form directly to the skin. Neem leaves too are used to make a tea to reduce the fever caused by Malaria. Also, the leaves can be added to hot water to brew a foot soak to treat various foot fungi. It can also be used by adding it to the bath water for a relaxing time in the tub.
- The twigs of Neem Trees are used in both India and Africa as toothbrushes. You can buy toothpaste with Neem extract commercially too.
- Both the leaf and the seed of the Neem Tree produce pain relieving, anti-inflammatory and fever reducing compounds. This can aid in the healing of cuts, burns; earaches sprains and headaches.
- The bark and roots in powdered form can be used to control fleas and ticks on pets.
- Skin infections such as acne, psoriasis, scabies, and eczema can be treated with the anti-bacterial properties of Neem.
As you can see, Neem has many beneficial uses.
What exactly is Neem cake?
Neem Cake is the de-oiled residue that can be used after Neem kernels are crushed for their oil. In this seed kernel are nutrients like NPK (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) as well as nortriterpenoids and isoprenoids. These nutrients are nematicidal in nature so the seed cake ends up with these properties.
Neem Cake is used in agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and the turf industry as an organic fertilizer as well as a natural nematicide. Neem Cake is used as an organic fertilizer because of the various micro and macro nutrients which it is composed of. It will control, at the same time, soil based pathogens as well as nematodes. It will also inhibit nitrification of the soil plus enhance the efficiency of nitrogen providing fertilizer.
Why Should You Use Neem Cakes?
There are several reasons why you should use Neem Cake as a soil amendment:
- It’s bio-degradable and can be used with many other different types of fertilizers.
- It will enhance the efficiency other fertilizers you use because it will inhibit nitrification.
- It's free from any heavy metals so it’s safe for crop use.
- It has a slow release, which means the nutrient release is uniform. This ensures constant growth of your crops or plants during the growing season. Because it will release the nutrients slowly that means your crops will have nutrients throughout the growing time.
- The Neem Cakes act as a nutrient for plants instead of being a nutrient collector. The Neem Cake contains NPK (nitrogen- phosphorus-potassium) plus other micro nutrients so your plants are fed continually.
What Are Some Other Benefits of Using Neem Cakes?
There are other benefits to using Neem cakes as well such as:
- Neem Cakes are more cost efficient because the fertilizer in them lasts longer. The Neem Cake remains effective until the next crop is planted because of its long sustaining organic fertilizer compounds too. This, in turn, cuts the cost of having to add extra nutrients; always a bonus.
- This soil amendment is twofold. It will provide a better crop yield because it will provide the nutrients that crops need. And secondly, it helps to cure diseases and will control the growth of nematodes and harmful plant pathogens. Plus, the crop yield is15-25% higher when using Neem Cakes than with any other fertilizer.
- Neem Cakes can also improve the organic content of the soil by providing lots of micro and macro nutrients. This also improves the fertility of the soil in which your plants or crops are planted.
- The use of Neem Cakes too will increase the water holding capability of the soil and improve soil structure. With the soil improvement there will be an increase in beneficial organisms like earthworms also. Plus, Neem Cakes will control harmful organisms like nematodes and pathogens. And the use of these cakes reduces the alkaline content in the soil because when they decompose, this produces organic acids.
Neem is also compatible with the microbes in your soil and will improve the rhizosphere micro flora which will help to ensure your soil is fertile too. Additionally, Neem Cake will help improve to the texture of your soil, the organic content and water holding capacity as stated as well as helping to keep the soil aerated for root development.
How Do Neem Cakes Work Against Nematodes?
Nematodes are hidden enemies that lurk in your soil ready to destroy or reduce crop yield in both your crops and your plants. Neem Cake uses different mechanisms to help control nematodes and plant pathogens which are soil borne.
- When Neem Cakes are used at the earlier stages of a crop cycle, this provides protection from nematodes and plant pathogens. The Neem Cakes do contain, in their makeup, nortriterpenoids and isoprenoids which are nematocidal. So the earlier it’s used in planting, the more protection that is provided.
- Crops will show nematocidal properties in the roots too as a systemic feature because of using Neem Cakes in the early stage of your crops or plants’ cycle.
- When it organically decomposes, the Neem Cakes release fatty acids, Ketones, aldehydes, Amino acids, free sulphur and carbohydrates. These affect the nematode population because the metabolites are nema-toxic in nature. Plus, the by-products of the Neem Cake decomposing will increase the microbes in the soil parasitic activity on nematodes. The end result is a reduced population of nematodes.
- As an extra feature, Neem Cakes can manage pest control of insects and pests. This is because the cakes contain salannin, nimbin, azadirachtin and azadiradione as major components. These components cause seven types of activities to happen in the soil: a) antifeedant, b) attractant, 3) repellent 4) insecticide, 5) nematicide, 6) growth disruptor and, 7) antimicrobial.
Using Neem Cakes With Urea
Urea is produced by animals and humans but it is also produced synthetically with anhydrous ammonia. This is a form of nitrogen fertilizer with a NPK (nitrogen- phosphorus-potassium) ratio of 46-0-0. When Neem Cake is used with urea and other fertilizers with nitrogen in them, it increases their efficiency because it reduces the rate of nitrification. This then reduces the rate that the nitrogen is released and increases the length of time nitrogen is in the soil. Now Neem Cake makes the soil become more fertile because it has an ingredient in it that blocks soil bacteria from turning nitrogenous compounds into nitrogen gas. This is what prolongs how long the nitrogen is available in the soil for both the growing of long duration crops and short duration crops.
What Kind of Neem Cakes Are Available?
Neem Cakes come in different types of packaging and there are different ways to use them. Below is a list of the different types of cakes available:
- Neem Cake granules are used as a fertilizer and manure in farming and in agriculture. The cake is made from the Neem Tree seed residue; it’s environmentally friendly too and has the highest azadirachtin content as it is made from all the parts of the Neem Tree.
- Neem Cake Powder is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur and calcium. It’s a natural product and is used for growth and a high yield of crops. The nutrient content and fertility of the soil increase when Neem Powder is mixed with it.
- Neem Cake manure helps in producing a greater crop harvest than synthetic manures. It not only helps to increase the fertility of the soil but also acts as a pest repellent.
- Neem Cake Bio Mix is a mixture of bio and organic fertilizer with Neem being one of its main ingredients. It is used to enrich the soil by providing essential required nutrients.
- Neem Cake Fertilizer is the most favored product used for plant fertilization by farmers and gardeners. It also acts as a bio fertilizer by providing the required nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus necessary for growing crops and plants. Its use basically ensures a high yield of crop. Neem is used for both cash and food crops, such as sugarcane and vegetables.
Tips on How to Apply Neem Cakes
Neem Cakes are applied when you are preparing your soil for sowing. You will need to plough the soil deeply and mix the Neem Cakes thoroughly in doing this. By mixing the cakes thoroughly through the soil, this will yield you better results with your harvest. Neem Cake not only works as an organic fertilizer, but it can also be used as an IPM fertilizer when used with mixed crops. When using it in mixed crops, it enhances the IPM techniques. IPM is Integrated Pest Management which is an ecosystem approach to grow healthy crops. It is an approach which uses different crop management and growing strategies to yield the most crops with a minimum use of pesticides.
If you are planning to switch from a chemical fertilizer to Neem Cakes, you will need to apply both over time still while in transition. Reduce the chemical fertilizer you are using continuously until you are just using the Neem Cakes in place of the fertilizer. Since Neem Cakes are effective longer and decompose so slowly, their use is more cost effective as well as better for the environment in the long run.
How to Apply Neem Cakes
The following methods of application for Neem Cakes will work best:
- Plough the soil deeply that’s to be amended with Neem Cakes. This will give you better control of nematodes that are lurking around ready to eat whatever you plant. This will bring them to the surface and disrupt where they are living.
- Mix the Neem Cake thoroughly at the rate that’s recommended with the soil you are amending. When you do it this way, it gives you better results than if you only apply it to the surface of the ground.
- If Neem Cake is mixed with the soil around the roots of plants, vegetables bushes and trees, it will boost the immune system of the plant. Some of the crops which benefit from using Neem Cakes are:
- Oranges by controlling the citrus nematodes
- Tomato by controlling Tomato Seedling nematodes
- Tobacco by controlling Root Knot nematodes
- Fodder trees by controlling nematodes
- Rice, when used with Urea, by increasing the nitrogen uptake and slowing the release of the fertilizer urea.
Neem products haven’t any bad effects on humans or animals and the effects on the agricultural crops which are produced are beneficial. This makes Neem an acceptable alternative to harmful fertilizers and pesticides. Neem Cakes are a totally organic plant food which will increase productivity of your crops and improve your soil’s fertility.