Biodynamic Agriculture

A healthy, well-structured soil rich in humus and high in biological activity is a prerequisite for any sustainable agricultural system.

Decades of experience with the Biodynamic (BD) method on farms throughout the world have shown that these soil qualities can be promoted, and degradation reversed by the correct application of BD techniques.

Mixed farms practicing the Biodynamic method have been in existence for over 65 years with none showing any evidence of loss of fertility or productivity.

Biodynamic practitioners seek to understand and work with the life processes as well as enhance their understanding of the mineral processes used in conventional agriculture. Healthy soil is a prime basis for healthy plants, animals and people.

BD farming practices are of an organic nature, not relying on bringing artificial fertilizers on to the farm, although some organic or natural mineral fertilizer may be necessary during the establishment phase.

On Biodynamic farms we seek instead to enhance the soil’s structure and nutrient cycles as well as plant growth and development with the use of specific Preparations which are made from farm-sourced materials.

These are Biodynamic Preparations numbered 500 to 507 used in conjunction with established agricultural practices such as composting and making manure, crop and pasture rotations, tree planting, the integrated use of livestock, use of rock powders, etc. As the name suggests, these Preparations are designed to work directly with the dynamic biological processes and cycles which are the basis of soil fertility.

Pest and disease control is generally managed by developing the farm as a total organism. However, BD practitioners may make use of specific products for weed and pest control, which they make from the weeds and pests themselves.

Weeds and pests are very useful indicators of imbalances in soil, plants and animals; and the aim in the Biodynamic method is to use such indicators in a positive way.

The Biodynamic Preparations were developed out of indications by Dr. Rudolf Steiner in 1924. They are not fertilizers themselves but greatly assist the natural digestive and enzymatic processes of the soil microorganisms. As such they only need to be used in very small amounts.

Horn Manure Preparation (500) is used to enliven the soil, increasing the micro flora and availability of nutrients and trace elements. Through it the root growth, in particular, is strengthened in a balanced way, especially the fine root hairs develops humus formation, soil structure and water holding capacity.

Horn Silica Preparation (501) enhances the light and warmth assimilation of the plant, leading to better fruit and seed development with improved flavor, aroma, color and nutritional quality.

Compost Preparations (502 to 507), known collectively as the compost preparations, help the dynamic cycles of the macro- and micro-nutrients, via biological processes in the soil and in material breakdown.

Biodynamic Links

History:

Biodynamic agriculture is the oldest certified sustainable farming system and has been an assurance of quality since 1928.

Key criteria for Demeter certification:

In general, Demeter certification is in accord with many practices that characterize the certification of organic farms. However, certain practices are unique to Biodynamic agriculture as briefly mentioned below. Demeter is widely regarded as the strictest and purest of all agriculture certification standards.
Maintenance of a healthy, diverse ecosystem; an expectation that the farmer supports a broad ecological perspective which includes not only the earth, but the cosmic influences and rhythms of which the earth is a part.
Nutrient self-sufficiency, and soil husbandry; use of the Biodynamic preparations to build soil health through enlivened compost, and to stimulate plant health.
Integration of livestock with a requirement that at least 80% of livestock feed be from the farm. (Some horticultural operations may be excused from this requirement.)
Problem solving within the farm organism.
Since 1992, Demeter has prohibited the use of genetically engineered plant materials and organisms.

ORGANIC vs. BIODYNAMIC®

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HISTORY
Following Rudolf Steiner’s agricultural lectures of 1924, Biodynamic farming took hold in Europe. In the 1940’s, English Baron Lord Northbourne, agricultural professor at Oxford and Biodynamic farmer at his family’s estate in Kent, coined the term “organic” from Steiner’s view of “the farm as organism.” In the 1950’s, influenced by the rise of Biodynamic farming in Europe, the American J.I Rodale popularized the term organic in his publication “Organic Gardening.” Because of their allied history, both methods shared a focus on soil health, condemned the use of synthetic chemicals, and encouraged the use of compost, cover crops, and holistic pest and weed management.

CERTIFICATION SYSTEM VERSUS REGULATORY PROGRAM
Demeter was formed in Europe soon after Steiner’s lectures to promote Biodynamic agriculture in Europe through education and certification. In the US Demeter was founded in 1985 as a non-profit, and obtained the certification mark “Biodynamic®” soon after. In order for a farm or agriculturally based product to refer to itself as “Biodynamic” it must have obtained certification through Demeter. This certification system has maintained, as its underlying philosophy, Steiner’s view of the farm as a living organism.
In 2002, with the growth of organic labeling in products across the country, the USDA ruled that a base market definition was needed, and launched the National Organic Program (NOP) to define organic standards and enforce them through federal law. There are national organic regulatory programs in Europe, Japan, Canada and other countries around the world.

KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN NOP ORGANIC* AND DEMETER BIODYNAMIC®

History
-NOP established in US in 2002
-Demeter established in Europe in 1928, and in the US in 1985
Use of imported materials
-NOP permits imported organic fertilizers and pesticides
-Biodynamic® reduces imported materials by addressing its needs from within the farming system
Fertility delivered via a nutrient rich soil component, called humus, created by the:
-Integration of livestock
-Intensive use of green manure (cover crops grown to add nutrients to soil) and legumes
-Rotation of crops
-Application of field/compost sprays
Pest and Disease Control:
-Creation of biologically diverse habitat encourages balanced predator prey relationships
-Humus development contributes to insect and disease resistance
Water:
-Increased humus levels result in soil’s ability to store water
-Preservation of riparian areas emphasized
Livestock feed source
-NOP allows for organic feed imported to the farm from anywhere in the world
-Biodynamic® requires 50% of livestock feed be grown on farm.
Biodiversity requirements
-No specific NOP requirement
-Biodynamic® requires a biodiversity set- aside of ten percent of the total farm acreage
Farm certification
-NOP is crop focused and allows for a designated parcel to be certified
-Biodynamic® is farm focused and requires that the whole farm be certified
Product certification
-NOP processing standard is applied across product types and focuses primarily on ingredients used
-12 Biodynamic® processing standards, developed for specific product types, require minimal manipulation so that the agricultural ingredients used define the product

* We recognize that many organic farmers embrace many of these practices and exceed the NOP standard.

For more information, contact Demeter’s Marketing Director Elizabeth Candelario by calling 707.529.4412 or by email at: Elizabeth@demeter-usa.org

A Brief Summary from: An Introduction To Biodynamic Agriculture, Stella Natura 1995

What is Biodynamic agriculture? In seeking an answer let us pose the further question: Can the Earth heal itself, or has the waning of the Earths vitality gone too far for this? No matter where our land is located, if we are observant we will see sure signs of illness in trees, in our cultivated plants, in the water, even in the weather. Organic agriculture rightly wants to halt the devastation caused by humans; however, organic agriculture has no cure for the ailing Earth. From this the following question arises: What was the original source of vitality, and is it available now?

Biodynamics is a science of life-forces, a recognition of the basic principles at work in nature, and an approach to agriculture which takes these principles into account to bring about balance and healing. In a very real way, then, Biodynamics is an ongoing path of knowledge rather than an assemblage of methods and techniques.

Biodynamics is part of the work of Rudolf Steiner, known as anthroposophy — a new approach to science which integrates precise observation of natural phenomena, clear thinking, and knowledge of the spirit. It offers an account of the spiritual history of the Earth as a living being, and describes the evolution of the constitution of humanity and the kingdoms of nature. Some of the basic principles of Biodynamics are:

Broaden Our Perspective

Just as we need to look at the magnetic field of the whole earth to comprehend the compass, to understand plant life we must expand our view to include all that affects plant growth. No narrow microscopic view will suffice. Plants are utterly open to and formed by influences from the depths of the earth to the heights of the heavens. Therefore our considerations in agriculture must range more broadly than is generally assumed to be relevant.

Reading The Book Of Nature

Everything in nature reveals something of its essential character in its form and gesture. Careful observations of nature — in shade and full sun, in wet and dry areas, on different soils, will yield a more fluid grasp of the elements. So eventually one learns to read the language of nature. And then one can be creative, bringing new emphasis and balance through specific actions.
Practitioners and experimenters over the last seventy years have added tremendously to the body of knowledge known as Biodynamics.

Cosmic Rhythms

The light of the sun, moon, planets and stars reaches the plants in regular rhythms. Each contributes to the life, growth and form of the plant. By understanding the gesture and effect of each rhythm, we can time our ground preparation, sowing, cultivating and harvesting to the advantage of the crops we are raising. The Stella Natura calendar which is featured in this catalog offers an introduction to this new study.

Plant Life Is Intimately Bound Up With The Life Of The Soil

Biodynamics recognizes that soil itself can be alive, and this vitality supports and affects the quality and health of the plants that grow in it. Therefore, one of Biodynamics fundamental efforts is to build up stable humus in our soil through composting.

A New View Of Nutrition

We gain our physical strength from the process of breaking down the food we eat. The more vital our food, the more it stimulates our own activity. Thus, Biodynamic farmers and gardeners aim for quality, and not only quantity.
Chemical agriculture has developed short-cuts to quantity by adding soluble minerals to the soil. The plants take these up via water, thus by-passing their natural ability to seek from the soil what is needed for health, vitality and growth. The result is a deadened soil and artificially stimulated growth.

Biodynamics grows food with a strong connection to a healthy, living soil.

Medicine For The Earth: Biodynamic Preparations

Rudolf Steiner pointed out that a new science of cosmic influences would have to replace old, instinctive wisdom and superstition. Out of his own insight, he introduced what are known as Biodynamic Preparations.
Naturally occurring plant and animal materials are combined in specific recipes in certain seasons of the year and then placed in compost piles. These preparations bear concentrated forces within them and are used to organize the chaotic elements within the compost piles. When the process is complete, the resulting Preparations are medicines for the Earth which draw new life forces from the cosmos.

Two of the Preparations are used directly in the field, one on the earth before plant-ing, to stimulate soil life, and one on the leaves of growing plants to enhance their capacity to receive the light. Effects of the Preparations have been verified scientifically.

The Farm As The Basic Unit Of Agriculture

In his Agriculture course, Rudolf Steiner posed the ideal of the self-contained farm — that there should be just the right number of animals to provide manure for fertility, and these animals should, in turn, be fed from the farm.
We can seek the essential gesture of such a farm also under other circumstances. It has to do with the preservation and recycling of the life-forces with which we are working. Vegetable waste, manure, leaves, food scraps, all contain precious vitality which can be held and put to use for building up the soil if they are handled wisely. Thus, composting is a key activity in Biodynamic work.

The farm is also a teacher, and provides the educational opportunity to imitate natures wise self-sufficiency within a limited area. Some have also successfully created farms through the association of several parcels of non-contiguous land.

Economics Based On Knowledge Of The Job

Steiner emphasized the absurdity of agricultural economics determined by people who have never actually raised crops or managed a farm.
A new approach to this situation has been developed which brings about the association of producers and consumers for their mutual benefit. The Community Supported Agriculture movement was born in the Biodynamic movement and is spreading rapidly. Gardens or farms gather around them a circle of supporters who agree in advance to meet the financial needs of the enterprise and its workers, and these supporters each receive a share of the produce as the season progresses. Thus consumers become connected with the real needs of the Earth, the farm and the Community; they rejoice in rich harvests, and remain faithful under adverse circumstances.

 

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