Neem oil in fruit orchard

(Westfield NC USA)

I have a small orchard of 17 fruit trees. This year I couldn't find the spray I would usually use, which was a blend of Malathion, which kills spider mites, aphids, and similar insects and arachnids, Carbaryl, a general insecticide, and Captan, a fungicide.

Instead I used a fruit tree spray of which the main ingredient was Neem oil, with which I was not familiar.

I had my suspicions when the label said to apply the spray at the first sign of insect damage. As any orchardist knows, to have clean fruit you must begin spraying long before that -- when damage is first evident it is too late; the insects have already pierced your immature fruit and laid their eggs inside.

So I used it as I would the other spray, before blossoms opened, at petal drop, and about every 2 weeks afterwards. As usual, I could not spray as often as I should, because weather conditions, etc. always conspire to interfere. But the first few sprays are the most important, and I did get those right.

My peach and plum trees were loaded this year. But I was very disappointed when the peaches began to ripen, as virtually all of them were infested with worms, I suppose curculios (a type of weevil). Brown rot also claimed very many of the ripening peaches, as I don't think the spray contained any fungicide (I threw away the empty bottle so I'll have to check that the next time I'm in the store).

What I know is that the wastage was truly awful, and there was hardly a perfect peach in the lot. The plums were so heavily infected with brown rot that we hardly got any to eat, and what we did get was mostly picked and eaten slightly green, not full-flavored because it wasn't ripe enough. They rotted before they could ripen fully.

I am never going to depend on Neem oil products again; they may be environmentally better but they don't do the job. Our local hardware, where I bought the stuff, is carrying fewer and fewer of the effective pesticides and more and more Politically Correct "green" insecticides that are so safe they wouldn't hurt a fly. I have located another source for the fruit tree spray I used to use, and will be buying it there in the future.

Comments for Neem oil in fruit orchard

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Using neem oil
by: Birgit


You say you are or were not familiar with neem. I would suggest you familiarise yourself with it and with the way it works.

You can not simply replace a highly toxic and persistent chemical cocktail like the one you are using, with a ready made fruit tree spray containing some neem, and expect to get identical results. You won't.

That is a mistake many people make and that's why many people end up disappointed.

A few pointers:

Neem extracts and ready made products are nowhere near as effective as raw, cold-pressed neem oil that you prepare yourself. Processing, heat, moisture and UV light destroy many of the active components in neem oil. I always recommend a high quality, raw, cold-pressed oil with a high Azadirachtin content for use against any bugs. I myself would never use ready made sprays at all.

The inseciticidal/pesticidal components of neem oil are not stable in a watery solution, so any water based sprays need to be made freshly and used immediately.

Neem oil is not stable in the environment (moisture and UV light break it down very quickly). Repeated, regular application, especially after rain, is ESSENTIAL for control. If you spray some persistent chemical cocktail it is enough to get a few early sprays in. The chemicals will still be there months later (and when you eat the produce). But a few early sprays are not enough if you use a natural substance that breaks down fast.

I am very sorry that you lost your crop, but not surprised.

Related pages:
Neem Oil Spray - Buy or make your own
Neem Oil Insecticide - How it works

More on Neem in the orchard
by: KLBM

To Birgit -- So now I not only have to take the time to spray at least every two weeks, but have to repeat after every rain, as well as concoct the preparation myself? It is too much trouble. I did read up on Neem after I made my comment. Supposedly it acts as a fungicide as well. The ready-made spray I used was 70% Neem and did not work. No wonder there are so few organic farmers/gardeners.

Natural vs chemical solutions
by: Birgit

Depending what other ingredients your spray had it might have actually been a good product. Some oils are just blended with a potassium soap or similar to make them easier to dissolve. Though 70% seems too low for it to be that. And "neem" does not say exactly was in it. Raw oil? Processed extract? Anyway...

I am not trying to convince you to use neem oil. It obviously isn't what you are looking for.
Anyone who wants a ready made spray that knocks bugs and diseases immediately and thoroughly and has a lasting effect will not be happy with neem oil. You need to apply (and ultimately eat) pretty toxic stuff to get that effect.

Neem oil is not a simple replacement for chemical cocktails. It requires a different approach to bug and disease control.

I just tried to explain why you did not get the results you were looking for.

Neem in Fruit Tree Orchard
by: Rietha Crafford

I believe you have just proven to be an idiot. Neem you have to spray every 7-10 day. Don't blame the product if you were wrong, as you yourself admitted that you did not spray when you were supposed to. This oil works!

by: Anonymous

Neem oil takes time to work. Over the course of seasons, it stops the larva from being viable the next year. I am an organic grower. We bought some property that has peach and pear trees. The peaches 1st season were taken over with bores. It is slow and each year coming back around and bearing more and more fruit to be eaten each year. I stay away from chemicals because we are what we eat; literally!

Would you drink round up or permathrine? Absolutly not! Then why would you spray the fruit you are to eat with it? Washing it does not wash off what is inside the fruit or 100% of what you have sprayed directly on it. Good things take time. Fruit bearing trees are no exception, if you are organic, as some of us are.

Neem has done us well, also for our tomato plants. Again it kills the life cycle, not the bug itself. So after a while no bugs will be found. Tea tree oil may be something to look into as well.

Good Lord!
by: Anonymous

The slow and steady pace of neem is a lot like cancer. It doesn't show up at first, then later on it's there. To bad your old cocktail is linked to causing that. People are eating food without man made pesticides from last 2,099,938 years. Time people have been eatting crap is more than 60 years.

It Works!
by: Davilyn

I have a small vegan organic farm in the high desert of California. I use neem oil when the first three true leaves appear and once a week for five weeks. I do not have any pests. The few that fly in are so unnoticeable that they might as well not be there. As we have an exceptionally long season here (Feb through Nov) I start spraying Azasol in late July, again for five weeks. No pests. I put the spray in a solo backpack sprayer and I am done in no time. It’s cheap, it’s highly effective, and doesn't really take much time for the huge benefits it provides.

Neem Oil Works When You Do the Work!
by: Anonymous

Neem oils work when you follow the correct instructions. I would never by any product with neem oil added to you. It makes more sense to get the concentrated oil and dilute it according to the directions given. I have 13 fruit trees in my garden and I sprayed all my fruit trees and veggies. My peach, plum, fruit cocktail and apricot trees are problem free.

I had an awesome harvest last year. I began using neem oil just last year and got GREAT results because I followed the instructions to the letter and it was not hard. I did it after work in the span of less than 45 minutes. If you want good results, you must do the work!!!

How to Spray and Make Spray for Fruit Trees
by: Lia

I have 3 new fruit trees I planted last summer. Got them on sale hoping they would live. The buds look good, especially on the peach. One is sweet cherry and one is plum. It is Feb 17 and I live in zone 5. I was going to make spray out of neem leaves dried. How much dried leaf to a gallon of water? I have them in/ along a patch of raspberries. I will spray them when they get 3 true leaves once a week for 5 weeks as advised above. These are my first fruit trees.

Making Neem Leaf Extract
by: Davilyn

Follow this link to learn how to make neem extract from leaves.

Citrus Scale, Dogs and Hair
by: Nature's Great

I had terrible infestations of citrus scale this winter (indoor trees this time of year.) Read up on neem and decided to buy the oil and make my own spray. Used 5 tsp of neem oil to 1 qt of water with 2 tsp of liquid soap (follow recipes available). I sprayed leaves top & bottom plus top of soil of all plant containers. I sprayed every 6-7 days till got under control. Now every 2 weeks. WOW! What a blessing to finally get this problem under control. The trees are looking great and responding nicely. I'd originally purchased tiny bottle for the dogs. They loved it! This is one natural product that they actually seem to want used on them. Used for fleas, plus one dog had wore the hair off his tail chasing the fleas so I rub the oil on and slowly but surely the hair is returning. Great for their dry skin also. I've recently started doing a neem/olive/jojoba oil treatment for hair and scalp. My hair is shinier, softer and smoother. It also conditions my scalp. Yes, the smell can be over whelming but I've grown to like it. If the dogs with such sensitive noses can deal with it, so can I. The benefits outweigh the smell.

Neem is not a Fungicide as Far as I Know.
by: Anonymous

Probably should have used it along with copper spray. I have sprayed all the trees and vines with copper and they are fine but there is a persistent white deposit on the apple tree that I'm assuming is some kind of insect. I will spray this with neem oil. It actually washes off with water but that is not killing it.

Neem oil
by: Anonymous

I just bought Monterey neem oil. Haven't used yet. It says it’s ready to use for organic gardening. Read ingredients, only 9% neem and 99.1 other ingredients. Ugh! I'm so taking this back. Ok now my question, a good product for my small apple tree would be? Age 2nd season only…

More Clarification Needed
by: Anonymous

What are you looking to protect the apple tree from?

Also, regarding inert ingredients; OMRI does not include or require testing of inert ingredients (the 99.1%) for organic certification. If directions start talking about protecting yourself (mask, inhalation, touching skin, etc) then they have added an inert ingredient that is toxic. In effect OMRI certification is a joke. I use Theraneem Organix. Its pure and cold pressed which is what you want.

Questioning this through logic
by: Anonymous

It seems to me that a person who works for a living and just wants some fruit from their trees does not have the time to spray neem oil as often as it seems to be needed, according to the posts I've just read.

Obviously, this site is oriented to persons who are looking to alternatives to chemicals. And neem oil may very well be just that.

However, I grew up eating fruit from trees grown by large orchard companies. My mother always told me to wash the fruit before eating it. Yes, people have lived without "chemical" spraying for hundreds of years before we started using them, but they did not get the same edible yield from the tree that we do now. When I say edible, I mean edible after you wash it. Despite what they teach at supposed "learned" universities, people have always looked for ways to improve their crop and get more yield for the effort. It seems to me that using a small amount of "chemicals" on fruit trees that yields more fruit per tree that requires washing is more beneficial to the starving people of the world.

It has been proven that the farce of DDT weakening bird egg shells, and thus bird populations, is just that... a farce! Read this:

Now, millions of people are dying of malaria in African countries because DDT is not suitable to the learned upper-class naturalists to control the large mosquito infestations there. But at least the Birds are OK, and DDT never really hurt the birds anyway!

Please, stop the nonsense! Stop smoking what you are smoking and do actual research. A theory is just that... a theory. "Scientists believe" is not the same as "Scientists have proven". A concensus of scientists who believe a thing is not the same thing as a proven fact, replicated by other scientists to prove a theory. Just because many people say something over and over, without facts to back it up, does not make it so.

Look at man-made global warming. It has been admitted by the same people who started this myth that they falsified the facts, yet the same fake studies get quoted over and over.

Just STOP it.

fruit spray
by: Anonymous

Copper is building up in our bodies so don't use copper spray. Neem is the best solution used properly. Won't kill bees or build up in humaan bodies. Ignore the chemical promoting troll paid by monsatan.

Bees and neem oil
by: Anonymous

Please only spray neem oil after the bees have gone to bed for the evening! I am a bee keeper. Neem, used while Bees are forging, on a wet neem oiled plant, will die. After it dries it is safe. It's an excellent product but use carefully around bees!

How Would you Apply Neem to R. Poncianas?
by: Anonymous

Live in Fiji. Have Royal Poncianas being ravaged annually by caterpillars. We can grow Neem trees here. If I make my own oil (from neem seed; how?) and put it the water barrel that's connected to our pressure washer could I (adding a bit of soap), couldn't I repel the caterpillars when they start to eat the leaves?

What about introducing Neem into the roots via neem granuls the way some orchardists do?

Suggestions for controlling Caterpillars that grow on Royal Poncianas that line our roads? (Has to be cost effective). Importing here is expensive given shipping costs and VAT (value added tax).
Ideas? Neem worthy solutions?

toxins on fruit
by: Anonymous

I have heard and use vinegar water to soak veggies and fruit in for approx. 3-4 mins. to remove some of the chemicals they are sprayed with. Sure hope that this is working.

Neem Is just the beginning!
by: Anonymous

Neem oil is only one of an arsenal of sprays needed to have healthy fruit. The real trick is to find two or three sprays that are the least toxic that will keep your trees healthy. This is very time consuming and labor intensive, but the rewards are great.

There are so many diseases and insects out there to kill or wound fruit trees most at different times of the year. I am learning as I go and am watching half my orchard infected with fungal cankers on the trunks of my trees which will kill most of them. A very painful lesson to learn. Prevention is the key. Homework and research is a necessity. Back to school everyone!

Works fine for plum Aphids
by: Anonymous

I have two plum trees which were infested with Plum aphids for three years. I couldn't get rid of them with conventional toxic insecticides. This caused the ruin of appearance as well as the fruit yield and quality. The first year I used nothing but cold pressed Neem oil according to instructions, spraying every 10 days or so during dormant season as well as periodically during growing season. The cycle was finally broken and I had healthy, heavy bearing Plum trees. I now use it as a preventative on the plums.

Citrus grower(Kino) from Pakistan
by: Anonymous

I got 40 acres citrus farm. White paste thing stray covering the fruit as well leaves. Have no idea what kind of disease is it, any one have any idea? Help me out, please.

Tangle Trap
by: K

I have used fake apples (either plastic or wooden spheres), painted with "Tangle Trap". I also paint "Tangle Trap" around the base of each of my cordon espalier apple and pear trees. Hang an inexpensive pheromone lure, at each trap, in the Spring. All of the pests will land on the sphere, thinking that they have found a fruit, into which they will deposit eggs. The pests become stuck, and die, eliminating any chance of wormy fruit. The stickiness of "Tangle Trap" also prevents chipmunks from climbing the trees. Chipmunks were eating dime sized pieces, out of my immature pears. They don't like sticky paws, so I don't have any more damage. I have just applied a fungicide, pre-bud break, to try to deter the cedar apple rust, which appeared, late last season. Heavily wooded here, in Connecticut, so no chance of eliminating every cedar tree, just have to manage it.

Kaolin Clay
by: Another anonymous post

Kaolin Clay could be an option for pest control. I don't know too much about it yet, but a local orchardist I bought fruit from for over 30 years started using it probably in the last 15 years of his business, and was so pleased to be able to tell us that his lovely apples could be eaten safely right off the tree. It will apparently thin with rain, so would need reapplication, but is apparently very successful in preventing insects from eating the fruit. Might be worth checking out. ;)

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