Background of the Invention
Field of the Invention
This invention relates to pesticide compositions, and more specifically
to storage-stable pesticide formulations containing azadirachtin as the active
Description of the Prior Art
The biological activities of the neem tree seeds have long been recognized.
Of primary importance are the potent pesticidal properties of azadirachtin, the
main active ingredient in the neem seed. Azadirachtin is a tetranortriterpenoid
that causes feeding inhibition and growth disruption in various insect, mite, nematode,
There are various methods known in the prior art to extract azadirachtin
from neem seeds, including the use of solvents such as methanol, ethanol, water,
methylene chloride, chloroform, hexane, methylethylketone, butanol, petroleum
benzene, ether, acetone, methyl tertbutyl ether, diethylcarbonate, etc. In general,
it has been found that the efficiency of the extract yield can be increased by
increasing the solvent polarity, i.e., from hexane to ethanol, ethanol to methanol,
methanol to water, etc. However, while various studies have examined relative
solvent extraction efficiencies, little attention has focused on the shelf life
stability of azadirachtin in solution.
The most significant limitation to the successful use of azadirachtin
as a pesticide and insect repellant is the lability of the azadirachtin in solution.
One study has shown that heat and sunlight (UV radiation) cause rapid degradation
of azadirachtin. J. Environ. Sci. Health, A17(1), 57-65
(1982) by J. B. Stokes and R. E. Redfern. Sunlight degradation of azadirachtin
can be effectively reduced by addition of UV absorbing additives such as para-aminobenzoic
acid (PABA), neem oil, angelica oil, castor oil, or calmus oil.
Other factors known to affect the storage stability of azadirachtin
are the concentration of azadirachtin in solution and the pH of the solution. U.S.
Patent No. 4,556,562 (Larson) discloses improvement in storage properties of azadirachtin
in aqueous ethanol emulsions by adjusting the concentration of azadirachtin in
the range 2000 to 4000 ppm and adjusting the pH in the range 3.5 to 6.0.
It now has been discovered that the stability of azadirachtin in
solution is decreased in the presence of protic solvents, in particular water,
acids and bases.
Summary of the Invention
It is an object of this invention to provide a non-toxic, natural
pesticide formulation based on an extract from neem seeds with improved storage
Another object of this invention is to provide a process for preparing
storage stable azadirachtin formulations wherein the formulation is characterized
by its non-degrading solvent system.
Another object of this invention is to provide a storage stable neem
seed extract formulation having azadirachtin as the active pesticidal ingredient
wherein the formulation is characterized by incorporating solvents which are non-degrading
In accordance with the present invention, there have been provided
certain novel pesticide formulations containing azadirachtin as an active ingredient,
said formulations characterized by the particular non-degrading nature of the
solvent system with respect to azadirachtin. As used herein, the term non-degrading
relates to aprotic solvents that do not cause the decomposition of azadirachtin
in solution. The aprotic solvents of this invention are characterized by the absence
of any acidic or basic functionalities. The azadirachtin formulations of this
invention, by virtue of their non-degrading solvent systems, offer improved shelf
life stability over the prior art ethanol-water based formulations.
The present invention is directed to storage stable azadirachtin
compositions which have been formulated using non-degrading solvent systems. As
used herein, the term "storage stable" refers to formulations that have retained
at least 80% of their active ingredient content after one year at room temperature
(25°C). It has now been discovered that the stability of azadirachtin is substantially
decreased by the presence of protic solvents, in particular those solvents having
acidic or basic functional groups specifically water, acids and bases. There are
basically two non-degrading solvent systems acceptable for use in the azadirachtin
formulations of the invention, namely alcohols and "aprotic" solvents. In accordance
with the present invention, azadirachtin formulations with enhanced stability
are obtained when the solvent system of the formulation is comprised of either
greater than 50% by volume alcoholic solvents containing less than 5% water, or
greater than 50% by volume aprotic solvents containing less than 15% water.
Aprotic solvents are defined as polar solvents having moderately
high dielectric constants, which do not contain acidic hydrogen, Morrison and Boyd,
Organic Chemistry 3rd. Edition, 31 (1974). The various factors that determine
whether a given solvent is protic or aprotic are only qualitatively understood.
The proton donating or proton accepting interaction is usually greatest when the
atom attached to the proton is nitrogen or oxygen. This behavior has been attributed
to hydrogen bonding. In general, the hydrogen bond strength increases with increasing
acidity of the proton-donating group, and increasing basicity of the proton-accepting
group. Aprotic solvents suitable for use in this invention will be those solvents
that do not contain acidic or basic functional groups and do not degrade into acids
or bases, including, but not limited to, ketones, nitriles, substituted aromatics
such as alkyl or halogenated aromatics, amides, sulfoxides, alkyl carbonates,
chlorinated aliphatics, aromatic aldehydes, sulfones, ethers, esters, and the like,
or mixtures thereof. The preferred aprotic solvents for use in this invention
include, but are not limited to, acetone, 2-butanone, 3-methyl-2-butanone, cyclohexanone,
acetonitrile, xylenes, chlorobenzene, methylene chloride, chloroform trichloroethane,
ethylene chloride benzaldehyde, sulfolane, methyl-t-butyl ether, dibutyl ether,
ethyl acetate, propyl acetate, amyl acetate, dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO), dimethylformamide
(DMF), dimethylacetamide, diethylcarbonate, propylene carbonate, ethylene carbonate,
and mixtures thereof. Various other solvents having the above aprotic characteristics
are known to those skilled in the art, and the choice of a particular solvent is
not per se critical to the invention, provided that azadirachtin has a high degree
of solubility therein, and the solvent does not cause degradation of the azadirachtin
by proton donating or proton accepting interactions.
Suitable alcoholic solvents for use in this invention include, but
are not limited to, methanol, ethanol, propanol, isopropanol, butanol, 2-butanol,
t-butanol, benzyl alcohol, and the like, and mixtures thereof.
Solvents which are unacceptable for use in the solvent systems of
this invention are those protic solvents characterized by the presence of acidic
or basic functional groups which can undergo proton-transfer reactions that result
in charged species such as RCOO&supmin; or RNH&sub3;&spplus;. Those solvents known
to degrade azadirachtin include bases such as amines or hydroxides, acids such
as mineral acids or carboxylic acids. However, the final azadirachtin formulations
of this invention may contain minor amounts of these solvents, typically less than
1% by volume for the control of pH and the like.
The storage stable azadirachtin formulations of this invention can
be prepared by either of two general procedures.
A first embodiment of this invention is to extract azadirachtin and
neem oil together from dried neem seeds that have been coarsely ground to about
5 mesh. The ground neem seeds are extracted by using a polar solvent having azadirachtin
solubility. If desired, the polar solvent extraction may be repeated to optimize
the extraction efficiency.
Because dried neem seeds retain between 6 and 15% water, this polar
solvent extraction, in addition to extracting azadirachtin, also extracts a significant
amount of water. The neem seed extracts typically contain about 20% by volume
water. Since water is an azadirachtin-degrading, protic solvent, its presence in
neem seed extracts above the previously defined allowable limits will reduce the
storage stability of the azadirachtin formulations. It has been discovered that
the allowable limit to the amount of water in a neem seed extract is dependent
upon the aprotic/protic character of the particular solvent system of the extract.
Specifically, if the solvent system is comprised of greater than 50% by volume
aprotic solvents such as ketones or esters, the concentration of water must be
less than 15% by volume of the total solution. Alternatively, if the solvent system
comprises greater than 50% alcohol solvents, (which are more protic) the concentration
of water must be less than 5%, preferably less than 2%, and most preferably less
than 1% by volume of the total solution.
There are various techniques to reduce the concentration of water
in the final solutions to within the above defined acceptable limits including,
but not limited to, further extracting the neem seed extracts with a water-immiscible
solvent, diluting the extracts with an appropriate aprotic solvent, or drying the
extracts over a suitable adsorbent.
A preferred embodiment of this invention is to extract dried neem
seeds that have been milled to a coarse powder of about 5 mesh with a non-polar,
azadirachtin-insoluble aprotic solvent such as hexane to remove the neem oil from
the seeds. This "cleanup" extraction is then followed by a second extraction of
the defatted neem seeds using a more polar, azadirachtin-soluble solvent. As in
the first embodiment, this extraction may be repeated to optimize the extraction
The final azadirachtin pesticide formulations of this invention preferably
contain 5 to 50% emulsifying surfactant, 0 to 40% neem oil, 0 to 1% para-aminobenzoic
acid or its esters, and less than 1% acetic acid or sodium hydroxide to adjust
the pH to between about 3.8 and 4.2.
Without further elaboration, it is believed that one skilled in the
art, using the preceding detailed description can utilize the present invention
to its fullest extent.
The following examples are provided to illustrate the invention in
accordance with the principles of this invention, but are not to be construed as
limiting the invention in any way except as indicated in the appended claims.
All parts and percentages are by weight unless otherwise indicated.
Two kgs of neem seeds were first milled to a coarse powder of approximately
5 mesh and then extracted with hexane under mild agitation for 24 hours to remove
the neem oil. A 0.5 kg portion of the oilless seeds was then extracted with 1
liter of 95% ethanol at 70°C for four hours to remove the azadirachtin. The ethanol
extraction was repeated twice more on the remaining portions of ground neem seeds,
yielding a final extract having a composition of 4.5 g/l azadirachtin and 16.5%
H&sub2;O. The ethanolic extract was separated into 4-100 mls samples. To these,
3A° mole sieves were added at the rate of 20, 30, 40, 80 g of sieves per sample.
The samples were sealed and analyzed after agitating 12 hours at room temperature.
The results are presented in Table I.
Amount of Sieve Added grams
Final H&sub2;O Content %
Capacity g H&sub2;O/g sieve
Samples from Example 1 were then formulated into a usable formulation
by blending in Tween-20, neem oil, PABA, and punctilious ethanol. The final content
of each formulation was made-up to contain 20% Tween-20, 10% neem oil, 1% PABA,
and pH 3.8. The samples were then placed in sealed containers, stored at 55°C in
an incubator, and periodically assayed for Azadirachtin A content.
Azadirachtin A Content of Formulated Samples
Hours of Storage at 55°C
Results show conclusively that low water content formulation is more
Multi-Stage Extraction of Azadirachtin with Methylethylketone (MEK)
The extraction procedure was carried out in a batch operation by
grinding two kilograms of neem seeds to a five-mesh particle size, extracting the
neem oil from the ground seeds by placing them in a 15 liter glass vessel with
ten liters of hexane and agitating for 24 hours at room temperature. The solvent
was filtered through #41 Whatman paper and the dry seed cake was retained. The
defatted seeds were divided into five lots weighing 500 grams each.
The multi-stage extraction of azadirachtin with MEK was run at 60°C
for five hours under atmospheric pressure. The first lot of seeds was placed in
a two liter, single neck, round bottom flask to which one liter of MEK was added.
The flask was connected to a Rotovap and operated at the stated conditions. Solvent
recovery was by filtration through a Buchner funnel using #41 Whatman paper. The
recovered solvent was stored overnight at room temperature in a one liter polyethylene
bottle. The solvent volume was adjusted to one liter using fresh MEK prior to
each successive extraction.
The MEK extract was formulated by adding 20% Tween 20 and 1% PABA,
blended and placed in an oven at 55°C and sampled periodically for the preserve
of Azadirachtin A. The results presented in Table III show that the MEK extract
had much greater shelf-stability than the ethanol extract with 11% H&sub2;O.
Time at 55°C (hours)
A crude ethanol extract of neem seed containing both Azadirachtin
A and Azadirachtin B was diluted with an aprotic solvent to provide the desired
solvent mixture. In several cases (lines 5 and 6), water was added to increase
the water content of the mixture. The 100% propyl acetate solution (line 7) was
prepared by dissolving a mixture of solid Azadirachtin A and Azadirachtin B (isolated
using the process described by D. R. Schroeder and K. Nakanishi, J. Natural
Products, 50, 241-284 (1987)) in reagent grade propyl acetate (PrOAc) that
had been dried over 3 Angstrom molecular sieves. For each solvent system, the original
solution was split. One portion was used to determine the initial water content
and initial azadirachtin concentrations. The remaining portion was placed in a
sealed vial and heated at 75°C for the time indicated. The heated samples were
then analyzed for azadirachtin content. Table IV indicates the relative amount
of azadirachtin that remained after heating.
Effect of Aprotic Solvent of Azadirachtin Stability
** % of original concentration after 40 hours at 75°C.
* after 48 hours at 75°C.
Tween 10/Neem Oil
Tween 20/Neem Oil
A crude mixture, containing 8% Azadirachtin A and 6% Azadirachtin
B, obtained from a purified neem seed extract (prepared according to the process
described by D. R. Schroeder and K. Nakanishi, J. Natural Products, 50,
241-284 (1987)) was dissolved in each of the solvents indicated in Table V. The
reagent grade solvents were dried over 3 Angstrom 5 molecular sieves prior to use.
For each solvent or solvent combination, the initial solution was split into three
portions. One of the three was used to determine the water content and initial
azadirachtin concentrations. The remaining samples were placed in sealed vials
and heated at 75-85°C for 48 hours. The samples were then analyzed for azadirachtin
content. Table V indicates the relative amount of azadirachtin that remained after
Stability of Azadirachtin in Different Solvents
* 3:1 ratio of 2-Butanone.Ethanol.
** % Azadirachtin remaining after 48 hours at 75-83°C.
w/w % H&sub2;O