Rewinder Magazine

What is biodynamic organic farming?

Entendiendo la agricultura ecológica biodinámica: un enfoque sostenible y equilibrado para el cultivo de alimentos
Biodynamic Agriculture is a holistic approach to agriculture in which vitality is the priority. Its origins lie in the series of lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in 1924. Biodynamic farmers give back more to the earth than they take away from it when they grow crops and raise animals. The farm is considered as an organism in which plants, animals and human beings are jointly integrated. The most significant difference is that biodynamic agriculture works with the vital energies in nature and not only with material needs. One aspect of this is the consideration of cosmic rhythms in plant production and animal husbandry (for example, in a crop; planting and harvesting should be timed if possible on favorable days). Biodynamic agriculture is an organic farming method based on the theories of Rudolf Steiner , the founder of anthroposophy . In practice, 2 fundamental aspects distinguish it from organic farming and other methods: the use of preparations obtained with the very particular processing of certain medicinal plants such as chamomile and dandelion and taking into account the influences of the stars for the carrying out agricultural and livestock work. This type of agriculture considers farms as complex organisms. 1​ Emphasizes the interrelation between soils, plants and animals, treating the whole as a system in balance, seeking to balance the provision of nutrients due to the output of crops and other products outside the farm with the production of these nutritional elements. by raising animals that provide manure for composting and growing plants as green manures. 2 As in other forms of organic farming, the use of industrial fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides is prohibited. Biodynamic agriculture differs from other types of organic farming in the use of vegetable and mineral preparations as additives for compost and sprays for the soil, as well as in following a planting calendar based on the movement of the stars.

History

The development of biodynamic agriculture began in 1924 with a series of eight lectures on agriculture given by Rudolf Steiner at Schloss Koberwitz in what was Silesia , Germany, (now in Poland , east of Wroclaw ). 6 The course was held at the request of farmers who became aware of soil degradation conditions and a deterioration in the health and quality of crops and livestock due to the use of chemical fertilizers. An agricultural research group was subsequently formed to test the effects of biodynamic methods on soil, plant and animal life and health . Today, biodynamic agriculture is practiced in more than 50 countries around the world. Demeter International is the main certification agency for these methods for farms and gardens. In the United States , the Biodynamic Agriculture and Gardening Association was founded in 1938 as a New York State corporation. In Australia , the first biodynamic preparations were made by Ernesto Genoni in Melbourne in 1927 and by Bob Williams in Sydney in 1939. Since the 1950s, research work has continued at the Biodynamic Research Institute (BDRI) in Powelltown, near Melbourne, Australia, under the direction of Alexei Podolinsky. 8 In 1989 Biodynamic Agriculture Australia was established as a non-profit association.

Biodynamic cultivation method

Biodynamic farmers conceive of the farm as an organic entity that in turn contains interdependent organisms. Emphasis is placed on crop and livestock integration, nutrient recycling, soil maintenance, and crop and animal health and wellness. Farmers are also part of the whole. 9 Green manures and crop rotation are widely used.

biodynamic preparations

Steiner prescribed nine different preparations to aid fertilization, which are the cornerstone of biodynamic agriculture, and described how these were to be prepared. Steiner believed that these preparations transferred terrestrial supernatural powers and cosmic forces to the ground. 10 The prepared substances are numbered from 500 to 508. The first two are used for the preparation of the fields, while the other seven are used to make compost.
  • 500: (composting horn) black earth mixture prepared by filling a cow's horn and burying it in the earth (40 to 60 cm below the surface) in autumn. It is left to break down over the winter and recovered for use the following spring.
  • 501: Powdered ground quartz prepared by filling a cow's horn and burying it in the spring and scooping it out in the fall. It can be mixed with the 500 but it is usually prepared alone (mixing a tablespoon of quartz powder in 250 liters of water). The mixture is sprayed at low pressure on the crop during the rainy season, in order to prevent fungal diseases. It should be sprayed on a cloudy day or close to morning to prevent burning of the leaves.
Both the 500 and 501 are used in the field by mixing one teaspoon of the contents of the horn in 40 to 60 liters of water.

Preparation of organic fertilizer

The following plants prepared as follows are used in the preparation of compost: Yarrow flowers ( Achillea millefolium ) introduced into the urinary bladder of a deer, exposed to the sun during the summer, buried during the winter and removed in the spring. Chamomile flowers ( Matricaria recutita ) introduced into the small intestines of cattle, buried in enriched soil in the fall, and removed in the spring. Stinging nettles ( Urtica dioica ) in flower, introduced underground surrounded by fossil carbon for a year. Oak bark ( Quercus robur ) cut into small pieces inside the skull of a domestic animal, covered by fossil carbon and buried in a place where plenty of rainwater falls. Dandelion ( Taraxacum officinale ) flowers within the peritoneal membrane of cattle, buried in the ground during winter and removed in spring. Valerian flowers ( Valeriana officinalis ) in infusion. Horsetail ( Equisetum ) One to three grams of each preparation is added to the manure, in holes 50 cm apart at a distance of 2 meters, except for preparation 507, which is mixed in five liters of water and sprayed on the total surface of the organic fertilizer. Each preparation is intended for a particular decomposition process in the composting mass.

sowing calendar

Biodynamic agriculture considers that the stars influence the soil and the development of the plant, which is why it follows its own calendar, specifying, for example, which rhythms of the moon are the most appropriate for planting, growing or harvesting various types of crops. crops.

Treatment of pests and spontaneous plants

Biodynamic agriculture considers that the basis of pest and disease control of an organism comes from healthy, strong and balanced work in the entire agricultural individuality. During the process of achieving this balance, the ashes of a plant or animal organism that has been trapped or collected from the fields and then incinerated can be used. A biodynamic farmer perceives spontaneous plants and the vulnerability of cultivated plants as a consequence of imbalances in the soil. As an example, to control field mice ( Apodemus sp. ) the application, when Venus is in the constellation of Scorpio, of a preparation obtained by incineration of their skin is prescribed.

seed production

As with all organic farming crops, biodynamic farming also encourages the use of traditional local varieties as opposed to commercial varieties.

Demeter Certification

The original organization Demeter-Wirtschaftsverbund was founded in 1932, in Germany, in order to certify the production and processing of food products according to the standards of biodynamic agriculture and to grant the right to use the trademark Biodinamica . In 1997 Demeter-International was founded, bringing together associations from various countries, for closer cooperation in the legal, economic and spiritual spheres.

Efficacy studies

A long-term evaluation study of biodynamic, organic and conventional farming systems 15 indicates the greater biodiversity of the biological community of organic farms. According to their results, biodynamic farms have better soil structural quality and better biological indices compared to controls using non-organic methods; but without significant differences with other organic methods. The deciding factor is probably the use of compost.

critics

Luis Ayerbe, director of the Spanish National Center for Plant Genetic Resources He qualifies this type of practice as absurd. In a 1994 analysis, Holger Kirchmann concluded that Steiner's instructions were hidden and dogmatic, and cannot contribute to the development of alternative and sustainable agriculture. Many of Steiner's statements are untestable because no clear hypotheses can be scientifically made from his descriptions (for example, it is difficult to prove that they have harnessed "cosmic forces" in food). Kirchmann claimed that when biodynamic farming methods were scientifically tested, the results were unconvincing. In a 2004 overview of biodynamic agriculture, Linda Chalker-Scott, a professor at Washington State University (USA), pointed out that many of the biodynamic research papers compared to conventional agriculture were not separated from the use of biodynamic preparations from practices used in organic farming. He argues that biodynamic agriculture is a "mystical and unscientific approach" to agriculture. The term "biodynamic" should not be used interchangeably with "organic" agriculture. Chalker-Scott concluded that the scientific evidence for biodynamic preparations is limited and there is no evidence that the addition of these preparations improves plant or soil quality in organically managed landscapes.

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