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biodynamic gardening

biodynamic gardening

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Published by: Watts Garden Club of Los Angeles CA USA on Nov 25, 2010
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 is a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technologyis a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technologyis a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technologyis a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology
www.attra.ncat.org 
By Steve Diver — NCAT Agriculture SpecialistFebruary 1999
Introduction
Biodynamic agriculture is an advanced organicfarming system that is gaining increased attentionfor its emphasis on food quality and soil health.Biodynamic agriculture developed out of eightlectures on agriculture given in 1924 by RudolfSteiner (1861
1925), an Austrian scientist andphilosopher, to a group of farmers near Breslau(which was then in the eastern part of Germanyand is now Wroclaw in Poland). These lectures,as well as four supplemental lessons, arepublished in a book titled
Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture
, originally published inEnglish as
 An Agricultural Course
(1).The Agriculture Course lectures were taught bySteiner in response to observations from farmersthat soils were becoming depleted following theintroduction of chemical fertilizers at the turn ofthe century. In addition to degraded soilconditions, farmers noticed a deterioration inthe health and quality of crops and livestock.Thus, biodynamic agriculture was the firstecological farming system to develop as agrassroots alternative to chemical agriculture.A basic ecological principle of biodynamics is toconceive of the farm as an organism, a self-contained entity. A farm is said to have its own
800-346-9140
Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural
B
IODYNAMIC
F
ARMING
&C
OMPOST
P
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ATTRA is the national sustainable agriculture information center funded by the USDA’s Rural Business -- Cooperative Service.
Abstract:
 
Biodynamic agriculture was the first ecological farming system to arise in response to commercial fertilizers and specialized agriculture after the turn of the century, yet it remains largely unknown to themodern farmer and land-grant university system. The contribution of biodynamics to organic agriculture issignificant, however, and warrants more attention. The following provides an overview of biodynamic farming and includes additional details and resources on the specialized practice of biodynamic composting.
Contents
Biodynamic Preparations....................................... 3Biodynamic Compost............................................. 3Liquid Manures & Herbal Teas.............................. 8 Planetary Influences.............................................. 9Community Supported Agriculture......................... 9Food Quality.......................................................... 9Research into Biodynamics................................... 10 Journals & Newsletters.......................................... 10 References ............................................................ 11Contacts................................................................. 12 Suggested Reading on Biodynamic Farming ........ 13Suggested Reading on Biodynamic Compost....... 14Email Discussion Groups ...................................... 14World Wide Web Links .......................................... 15 Publishers/Distributors of Biodynamic Literature... 15 
 A
LTERNATIVE 
 ARMING 
YSTEMS 
UIDE 
 
 
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Page 2
individuality. Emphasis is placed on theintegration of crops and livestock, recycling ofnutrients, maintenance of soil, and the healthand wellbeing of crops and animals; the farmertoo is part of the whole. Thinking about theinteractions within the farm ecosystem naturallyleads to a series of holistic managementpractices that address the enviromental, social,and financial aspects of the farm. A comparisonof objectives between biodynamic andconventional agriculture systems in Appendix Isummarizes these ideas in table format.A fundamental tenet of biodynamic agricultureis that food raised biodynamically isnutritionally superior and tastes better thanfoods produced by conventional methods. Thisis a common thread in alternative agriculture,because other ecological farming systems makesimilar claims for their products. Demeter, acertification program for biodynamically grownfoods, was established in 1928. As such,Demeter was the first ecological label fororganically produced foods.Today biodynamic agriculture is practiced onfarms around the world, on various scales, andin a variety of climates and cultures. However,most biodynamic farms are located in Europe,the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.While biodynamics parallels organic farming inmany ways
  
especially with regard to culturaland biological farming practices
  
it is set apartfrom other organic agriculture systems by itsassociation with the spiritual science ofanthroposophy founded by Steiner, and in itsemphasis on farming practices intended toachieve balance between the physical andhigher, non-physical realms†; to acknowledgethe influence of cosmic and terrestrial forces;and to enrich the farm, its products, and itsinhabitants with life energy‡. Appendix II is atable that illustrates cosmic and terrestrialinfluences on yield and quality.In a nutshell, biodynamics can be understood asa combination of “biological dynamic”agriculture practices. “Biological” practicesinclude a series of well-known organic farmingtechniques that improve soil health. “Dynamic”practices are intended to influence biological aswell as metaphysical aspects of the farm (suchas increasing vital life force), or to adapt thefarm to natural rhythms (such as planting seedsduring certain lunar phases).The concept of dynamic practice
  
thosepractices associated with non-physical forces innature like
vitality
,
life force
,
ki
,
subtle energy
andrelated concepts
  
is a commonality that alsounderlies many systems of alternative andcomplementary medicine. It is this latter aspectof biodynamics which gives rise to thecharacterization of biodynamics as a spiritual ormystical approach to alternative agriculture.See the following table for a brief summary ofbiological and dynamic farming practices.
The higher, non-physical realms include etheric,astral, and ego. It is the complicatedterminology and underlying metaphysicalconcepts of Steiner which makes biodynamicshard to grasp, yet these are inherent in thebiodynamic approach and therefore they arelisted here for the reader’s reference.
Life energy is a colloquial way of saying
etheric
life force. Again, Steiner’s use of terms likeetheric forces and astral forces are part andparcel of biodynamic agriculture.Biodynamic farmers recognize there areforces that influence biological systems otherthan gravity, chemistry, and physics.
Bio-Dynamic Farming PracticesBiological PracticesDynamic Practices
Green manures Special compost preparationsCover cropping Special foliar spraysComposting Planting by calendarCompanion planting Peppering for pest controlIntegration of crops and livestock HomeopathyTillage and cultivation Radionics
 
 
//
 
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Page 3
Dr. Andrew Lorand provides an insightfulglimpse into the conceptual model ofbiodynamics in his Ph.D. dissertation
Biodynamic Agriculture
  
A Paradigmatic Analysis
, published at Pennsylvania StateUniversity in 1996 (2).Lorand uses the paradigm model described byEgon Guba in
The Alternative Paradigm Dialog
(3)to clarify the essential beliefs that underpin thepractices of biodynamics. These beliefs fall intothree categories:1.Beliefs about the nature of reality withregard to agriculture (ontological beliefs)2.Beliefs about the nature of the relationshipbetween the practitioner and agriculture(epistemological beliefs); and,3.Beliefs about how the practitioner shouldgo about working with agriculture(methodological beliefs).Lorand's dissertation contrasts the ontological,epistemological, and methodoligical beliefs offour agricultural paradigms: TraditionalAgriculture, Industrial Agriculture, OrganicAgriculture, and Biodynamic Agriculture. Asummary of these four paradigms can be foundin Tables 1
4, Appendix III.
The Biodynamic Preparations
A distinguishing feature of biodynamic farmingis the use of nine biodynamic preparationsdescribed by Steiner for the purpose ofenhancing soil quality and stimulating plantlife. They consist of mineral, plant, or animalmanure extracts, usually fermented and appliedin small proportions to compost, manures, thesoil, or directly onto plants, after dilution andstirring procedures called dynamizations.The original biodynamic (BD) preparations arenumbered 500
508. The BD 500 preparation(horn-manure) is made from cow manure(fermented in a cow horn that is buried in the soilfor six months through autumn and winter) andis used as a soil spray to stimulate root growthand humus formation. The BD 501 preparation(horn-silica) is made from powdered quartz(packed inside a cow horn and buried in the soilfor six months through spring and summer) andapplied as a foliar spray to stimulate and regulategrowth. The next six preparations, BD 502
507,are used in making compost.Finally, there is BD preparation 508 which isprepared from the silica-rich horsetail plant(
Equisetum arvense
) and used as a foliar spray tosuppress fungal diseases in plants.The BD compost preparations are listed below:
 
No. 502 Yarrow blossoms (
 Achillea
 
millefolium
)
 
No. 503 Chamomile blossoms (
Chamomilla
 
officinalis
)
 
No. 504 Stinging nettle (whole plant in fullbloom) (
Urtica
 
dioca
)
 
No. 505 Oak bark (
Quercus
 
robur 
)
 
No. 506 Dandelion flowers (
Taraxacum
 
officinale
)
 
No. 507 Valerian flowers (
Valeriana
 
officinalis
)
Biodynamic preparations are intended to helpmoderate and regulate biological processes aswell as enhance and strengthen the life (etheric)forces on the farm. The preparations are used inhomeopathic quantities, meaning they producean effect in extremely diluted amounts. As anexample, just 1/16th ounce
  
a level teaspoon
  
of each compost preparation is added toseven- to ten-ton piles of compost.
Biodynamic Compost
Biodynamic compost is a fundamentalcomponent of the biodynamic method; it servesas a way to recycle animal manures and organicwastes, stabilize nitrogen, and build soil humusand enhance soil health. Biodynamic compost isunique because it is made with BD preparations502
507. Together, the BD preparations and BDcompost may be considered the cornerstone ofbiodynamics. Here again, “biological” and“dynamic” qualities are complementary:biodynamic compost serves as a source ofhumus in managing soil health and biodynamiccompost emanates energetic frequencies tovitalize the farm.

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