Friday, 13 September 2013

The ABCs - B is for Biodynamic Farming

What Is Biodynamics?

Biodynamics is a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, food production and nutrition. The word 'biodynamic' is derived from the Greek words where 'bio' means life and 'dynamic' means force.

The purpose of biodynamic farmers is to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible FROM WITHIN the farm itself. The farm itself is a living organism.

Founder Of Biodynamics

Rudolf Steiner (1861 - 1925) is the man who founded biodynamics. He was a highly trained scientist and respected philosopher. Steiner had come to a conclusion that our world would be in a serious state of destruction if we did not begin to incorporate the understanding that the spiritual world and its interrelationship with the physical world. He saw that it would be increasingly difficult for us to grow food. He believed that there is a very strong connection between the cosmic and terrestrial, the heavens and the earth, the stars and the soil.

The Principles of Biodynamic Farming

1. Plant Diversity

This is a method where the farmers allow a variety of plants to grow on uncultivated land. This is done to keep the soil healthy. The crops that are planted support each other. When a certain plant is depleted where a certain nutrient is concerned, its companion plant will release that nutrient which is needed.

2. Crop Rotation

Crop rotation and an assortment of animal life are very important in maintaining the biodynamic farm.

Many conventional farms today practice monocropping. This is where they plant the same crops and harvest at the same time year after year after year. That is how diseases and pests spread.

A well-designed crop rotation will reduce pests and diseases in the farm.

Benefits of Crop Rotation
  • Crop rotation replenishes nitrogen through the use of green manure in sequence with cereals and other crops. 
  • Crop rotation mitigates the build-up of pathogens and pests that often occurs when one species is continuously cropped.
  • Improves soil structure and fertility by alternating deep-rooted and shallow rooted plants.

3. Animal Life

A biodynamic farm setup is a mixed farm with livestock and fodder crops, producing its own manure for the crops.

As animals have feelings and instinct, on biodynamic farms, they are allowed to 'express their feelings'. And by believing that animals are astral beings who are allowed to 'bond' and 'express' their 'astral self', the manure that they produce contain 'astral forces' that will breathe new life and benefits into the earth.

For more information about animal life in biodynamic farming, click on Animal Husbandry in Biodynamic Agriculture.

4. Composting

Biodynamic Preparations of Composts
  • BD500 - Also known as 'horn manure'. This is made from cow manure which has been fermented in a cow horn which has been buried in the soil for six months (which is through autumn and winter). It is used as a soil spray. The purpose of this compost is to help stimulate growth of the roots and help form humus.
  • BD501 - Called horn-silica. Made from powdered quartz which is packed inside a cow horn which has been buried in the soil for six months (which is through spring and summer). This is applied as foliar spray. The purpose of this compost is to stimulate/regulate growth of plants.
  • BD502 - Yarrow blossoms (Achillea millefolium) This enhances the plant's ability to absorb potassium in a balanced manner. Helps the roots to absorb and retain fine doses of silicic acid. (Silicic acid is the plant's natural self defense against pests and sicknesses.)
  • BD503 - Chamomile blossoms (Chamomilla officinalis) Stimulates plant growth and stabilizes the nitrogen content of the compost.
  • BD504 - Stinging nettle (Urtica dioca) This is made from the whole plant when it is in full bloom. Enhances the ability of the plant to absorb iron. 
  • BD505 - Oak bark (Quercuc robur) This enhances the plant's ability to absorb calcium.
  • BD506 - Dandelion flowers (Taraxacum officinale)
  • BD507 - Valerian flowers (Valeriana officinalis)
  • BD508 - Prepared from horsetail plant. Used as a foliar spray which is to suppress fungal diseases in plants.
  • BD509 - Barrel compost which consists of BD502 - BD507 which are combined in different combinations to make compost.
  • Tree Paste - This helps rejuvenate a tree's cambium (cells which multiply) and helps build resistance to the attack of fungi, insect, and beetles. Tree paste is made from a mixture of casein, silica, clay and cow manure.
One to three grams of each preparation is added to a dung heap by digging 50cm deep holes with a distance of 2 meters from each other. BD507 is stirred into 5 liters of water and sprayed over the entire compost surface.

The oak bark preparation have been found to improve disease resistance in zucchini. 

5. Homeopathic Solutions

This is where homeopathy is applied to agriculture to influence the biological processes of plants to either accelerate or delay growth. 

Homeopathic nosodes and autonosodes are used to assist in controlling plagues and diseases by the use of the same disease of the plant, plants that have been damaged by plagues or even the actual plague.

A nosode is prepared from a viral or bacterial culture. This carries the molecular imprint of the pathogenic agent. When it is prepared according to homeopathic procedures, the remedy is free of toxins. A nosode is also called oral vaccine. 

Autonosodes are homeopathic remedies which are created from the patient's own disease-causing material, such as bodily fluids or warts. (taken from medical dictionary)

This is to ensure no chemicals or pesticides are used. 

To read more on agro-homeopathy, click on LINK.

6. Life Forces

Biodynamic farmers have a planting calendar which is based on the lunar and astrological influences on soil and plant development. They follow the phase of the moon and the zodiacal constellation the moon is passing through.
To read more on planting calendar rhythms of the biodynamic farming, click on LINK. (I found it to be very interesting.)

Biodynamic Farming Trivia

1. Biodynamic farming practices open pollination of seeds. The farmers basically grow their own seeds.

2. In order for a farm to be biodynamic, it must first be certified organic. And the farm has to have at least 3 years of organic farming.

3. To receive certification as a biodynamic farm, the farm must follow these standards: agronomic guidelines, greenhouse management, structural components, livestock guidelines, and post harvest handling and processing procedures.

4. Germany's biodynamic farms produce 45% of the world's biodynamic agriculture.

5. Demeter International is the largest certification for biodynamic agriculture. It is difficult to obtain and must be renewed annually.

6. The name Demeter is used in reference to the Greek goddess of grain and fertility.

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