India needs to raise plantation of neem trees to 140 million from current 20 million to help meet demand as well as reduce the rise in temperature, according to experts at the World Neem Conference that began Monday in Delhi.

World Neem Organisation (WNO) president BN Vyas, who is organising the two-day event in collaboration with Jhansi-based ICAR-Central Agroforestry Research Institute, said an Amul-type cooperative model for neem can help achieve the task as improvement in collection of neem seeds, from which the oil is extracted, is the key.

He said currently India has 18-20 million of neem trees, and mostly the qualitatively better species are found in Southern States. But, Uttar Pradesh has maximum share of 40 per cent in the total count of neem trees.

Addressing media, A Arunachalam, director of Central Agroforestry Research Institute, said though there are several types/varieties of neem trees, the government has been able to grade 170 types, so far, while the work is ongoing. He said as there is a target to bring in 26 million hectares of wasteland under agro-forest cover by 2050, there is a vast potential to increase the number of neem trees.

Raising income

He said farmers can raise additional income from neem trees as it starts yielding fruits within 3-5 years, though good quality seeds can be harvested after 15 years. On an average, 15-20 kg is plucked from one tree in a year, though there is potential to harvest up to 25 kg. He also said that it has been observed that wherever neem trees are there, those areas are cooler by 3-5 °C from other areas.

The Director General of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Himanshu Pathak said that the government has placed renewed focus on the planting and utilisation of the neem tree, which is deeply intertwined with India’s culture. He underscored the role of neem in advancing India’s agricultural landscape.