**Peter Storey, England.** In EDN 387 you mention the “hopeful” sign that many neem trees are going through a period of heavy flowering. This is not a hopeful sign. Unusually heavy flowering in trees can be a sign that the tree is having one last fling. It will use up its carbohydrate reserves and may die the next season. One of the signs of citrus decline is heavy flowering which is followed by death of the tree in one or two years. When plants (trees in particular) have a higher proportion of carbohydrates than nitrogen, their regulatory mechanism senses that they have plenty of reserves to produce fruit and so produce many flowers. In the opposite case, when nitrogen is higher than normal, the plant produces more leaves so as to make more carbohydrates.
When roots are damaged by disease or pruning, the plant is less able to take up nitrogen and the ratio of carbohydrates to nitrogen increases. This is a signal to the plant that things are not so good and that it is likely to die. To ensure that it reproduces itself, it sends out a lot of flowers.
[Ed: This reminds me of the technique of girdling used by some homeowners to bring fruit trees into earlier bearing. A complete circle is cut around the trunk wide enough to shock the tree but narrow enough that it eventually fills in and does not kill it.]
Dr. Jason Yapp, Agricultural Services & Development Manager, Rural Development Corporation, Malaysia. “I would like to reply to Nigel Florida’s inquiry regards to successful tropical mushroom cultivation (EDN 343). Our organization has been successful in introducing the cultivation of shiitake mushrooms to our target poor farmers (income less than M$500 per month (US$200). The elevation is 7001500 m and night/day temperatures 15°/30°C. We have a central factory to pack, sterilize, and inoculate spawn. Currently we have over 250 contract farmers involved and are expanding to produce 10,000 bags per day.”
“Our current efficiency is only 0.18 kg mushroom per 1.2 kg bag. Main problems are high contamination of the bags, high temperature and low humidity leading to small thin mushrooms (grade C). Trials are in progress to produce other lowland mushrooms.”
If you want to correspond with Dr. Yapp, his address is Kompleks Ibu Pejabat KPD; 9 km, Jalan Tuaran; Beg Berkunci 86; 88998 Kota Kinabalu; Sabah, Malaysia.
Timothy Volk, MCC, Nigeria. “I noted Eddie Visser’s comment in EDN #37 on coating roots of seedlings with a mud solution. I recently was on a study tour in Togo and saw villagers doing the same thing. However, rather than using mud alone, they also mix in some cow manure and sand. We were able to see that the seedlings (leucaena mostly) did not dry out during the day and that earlier planted seedlings were doing very well despite a poor rainy season. In addition the manure provides a small amount of nutrients to promote early root growth.”
Larry Radice, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, Tanzania. After reading in EDN 37 about use of moringa to treat a skin infection, “I thought I might share with you and your readers my experience using neem tree leaves to treat scabies.”
“I lived in Tanzania for almost 8 years. One day while visiting a friend’s home I noticed his daughter had a very bad case of scabies. … I was told that she had gone to the local clinic, bought some medicine, but it had run out and the scabies had not cleared up. … Her scalp was horribly encrusted and she had no hair in the infected area.
"I knew that neem tree leaves had insecticidal properties and that scabies is caused by a small mite. So I thought it would be worth a try…. I had the mother take neem tree leaves, about a hand full, and pound them into a mush adding a bit of water. I believe she then heated this boiling off the excess water and leaving a paste. I told her to apply the poultice to the infected area twice a day for five days, leaving it to dry on the scalp.
"When I visited the home again two weeks later I had hardly said hello before she was excitedly telling me that her daughter was well. In fact by the third day the scabies was drying and by the end of that first week she could see new hair growing. When I saw the child the scabies were gone. I suggested the cure two other times and in both cases I later heard that the scabies had cleared up, but unlike the first case I did not get to see the results for myself.”
Nicola Mears, Ecuador. “Here in coastal Ecuador the area has been transformed in the last 20 years from tropical forest to cattle farms, so the ecology has changed dramatically. Perhaps this is why we have a population of ticks that is absolutely out of proportion. Controlling them has become worse over the past 5 years. All animals must be sprayed with insecticide at least weekly. Until a correct dose was established many cattle and horses were lost (and who knows how many children were affected). I am continually asked if there is a biological control for ticks. We are experimenting with the idea from EDN 352 of using chickens in the feedlot to help. If anyone can shed anymore light on the situation, the community of Muchacho and I will be very grateful.” [ECHO will be glad to forward any suggestions you send us to Nicola, as well as make note of them for ourselves.]