Bio-Dynamics - Living Agriculture
For Our Future
There are laws against humans killing each other;
Societies to prevent cruelty to animals;
Ecology targets plants;
Mother Earth is treated like dirt.
|(Alex Podolinsky, 2004)
New Impulses have again and again arisen in History. One can never "go back" to a past. With the breakdown of natural plant growth conditions through forced factory farming methods, and deteriorating environmental conditions, a new agricultural impulse became necessary. This new impulse is carried by the correct application of the Bio-Dynamic Method.
Typifies soil compaction worldwide
due to heavy machinery and reduction
microbes and worms through effects of
chemicals and fertilisers.
|Photo 2:The same soil showing typical result of one year bio-dynamic activation building soil structure and humus.
Foundation for this method of agriculture is understanding and supporting the production of humus in the soil (see below). However, there is no such thing as "permanent" humus. Humus exists only at the height of a PROCESS of continuous becoming. "Permanent" Humus would be dead material - nothing better than organic matter of little dynamic consequence.
The Bio-Dynamic Method therefore requires understanding of, and appreciation for, the livingness of Nature and the need to work in dynamic-movement-form-oneness with the farm as a living individuality. Each and every farm and farmer is different, therefore the bio-dynamic method has no single recipe to offer. There are basic principles to understand, but each bio-dynamic farmer must be constantly active in supporting the livingness of his farm in all areas of his operation.
By recognising that plants are daughters of Sun and Earth, bio-dynamic farmers not only consider the mineral requirements of production (a plant consists of about 2-5% mineral elements), but they also work to ensure their crops and pastures are healthy with structured soil providing air for soil biology, humus development and access to sunlight and warmth. The latter are responsible for the quality components of Taste; Aroma; Refined Forms and Colours. Animals and Humans feeding on such plants are healthy and vibrant.
DEVELOPMENT OF SOIL STRUCTURE AND HUMUS BUILDING AS FOUNDATION TO THE BIO-DYNAMIC METHOD AND AUSTRALIAN DEMETER CERTIFICATION
The Bio-Dynamic agricultural method - biologically-dynamically - activates the life of soil and plants. There are sprays and soil starter preparations, outlined in the "Agriculture Course" of Dr. Rudolf Steiner given to farmers and scientists between the 7th and 16th of June, 1924 in Silesia Germany, to achieve this (named 500 - 507 respectively). These dynamically activating preparations and sprays, correctly made and applied, along with general farm management which is designed to allow their advantageous working, eg.
- soils brought to and maintained in an aerobic state;
- soil cultivation undertaken in support of soil life;
- direct disc seeding of crops or pasture, or tyne seeder as demonstrated in "Soil Cultivation" Video, and in German, J. Heer's video "Pflugloser Ackerbau".
- sheet composting, including, rotational grazing, slashing and harrowing;
effect results in soil development.
Under correct Bio-Dynamic Management, it is not necessary to rely on large applications of compost or organic matter, which, in practical terms, could not be applied on commercial multi-thousand hectare farms.
Evidence of the results of the DEMETER Bio-Dynamic Method are shown in the above Photographs. Photograph 1 - a dead, compacted soil, and Photograph 2 - the same soil, after one year without the addition of any inputs other than one mechanical aeration, sowing down to pasture species and two applications of the basic soil activator prepared 500. In a living soil, worms and microbes continue to make new humus out of old organic matter, clay particles, and with the contribution of their own bodies. Sustainability of humus is guaranteed by soil structure as depicted in photograph 2. Loss of soil structure results in loss of Humus.
To receive DEMETER certification a farm must demonstrate such soil structure and humus development.
QUALITY PRODUCE ARISES FROM STRUCTURED SOIL
(SCIENCE BEHIND THE AUSTRALIAN DEMETER SYMBOL)
By design of nature: the water intake of plants and the intake of nutrients should be two different activities. The old dark roots are the water intake roots, the fine white hair roots are the feeder roots. Unlike man and animal, the plant has no independent warmth organisation. Cosmic Sun Warmth and Light activate the plant's metabolism. White feeder hair roots take in water soluble minerals held in the colloidiness of humus. As soon as the Sun withdraws and it is cooler, the roots slow down or cease feeding. A continuous variation. No science can ever predict what the needs of a plant are at any one moment. In naturally fed plants this is determined by the Sun. In such a situation the plant never indulges, never eats too much and all it draws in is slowly assimilated and converted. This process is possible in the biological soil condition shown in Photograph 2, where then the plant can assimilate nitrogen into a nutritious protein. (For a more detailed explanation please refer to 'Bio-Dynamics Agriculture of the Future'.)
When the sun decrees not to feed, the white hair roots become inactive; but, as long as it is in leaf, the plant continues to take in water, via the water roots, in order to transpire.
On dead soils, like shown on Photograph 1, little or none of that natural feeding takes place. There is insufficient biological activity; there is no structure or humus; worms and microbes are lacking. If plants are to grow on such a dead soil, water soluble fertilisers have to be applied for the basic requirements of the plant. Therefore, when the plant takes in its water requirements - irrespective of whether the Sun decrees to feed or not - the plant has to take in the water soluble elements.
In the total metabolism of the plant, the intake of water is somewhat similar to us breathing in air. If we stop breathing we die. Plants, when in leaf, must take in water and the water is transpired via the leaves. This process enables light intake; carbon dioxide is taken in; chlorophyll, starch, eventually wood, the sugars etc. are made. The plant's stomach is the leaf. The plant grows from the leaf down into the roots and, likewise, from the leaf does the plant grow upwards. The plant's leaf is the only originating physical substance factory on Earth. Everything else is recycled.
The plant's metabolism has to be understood in principle. With the Soil 2 Photograph situation, feeding is according to the design of nature. Under Soil 1 conditions, as the plant takes in its water supply, it also has to take in the therein contained soluble elements in indiscriminate amounts. As consequence, far too much in elements (mineral salts) is taken into the plant, because this process is not Sun governed. There must be balance of mineral salts and water in each cell, otherwise the plant would collapse. To compensate an excess of mineral salts the plant holds extra water in each cell. If there is too much mineral salt taken up, it remains unassimilated. Under this system, nitrogen is not assimilated into protein, but remains as nitrate salt.
This is the reason for the giant cabbages and lettuces (lettuces as 'crisp' in leaf as a cabbage should be) coming from artificially fertilised production. There is international documentation of nitrate poisoning, sterility problems with cattle, blue babies (methaemoglobinaemia) etc. on account of this.
Exactly the same situation can arise when organic or biological farming is understood as simply applying animal manures and other organic substances in place of artificial fertilisers. Organic fertilisers or manures, eg the nitrogen in chicken manure, is just as water-soluble as nitrogen out of a fertiliser bag. The only addition is a small amount of organic matter. When such fertiliser is applied, after the first rain, everything quickly becomes dark green. The growth result is huge, with blue/black-green leaves and thick stems. This is indicative of nitrogen excess. Cow manure causes similar symptoms although a little less pronounced. It is noticeable when a cattle farmer does not harrow the cow pads. There is much growth around the cow pads, large leaves are dark green and the cows avoid eating such. The magnificent clover around the pads may be the only feed left in the paddock, but the cows choose not to eat it because this dark green growth is bitter due to excess (unassimilated) mineral salts, resulting in the typical nitrate problems.
Organic fertilisers work, basically, along the same lines as water soluble artificial fertilisers. Raw manure must be composted to the degree that the compost heap becomes as colloidal as worm casts (reference "Compost Making" Video by Peterson). Only at this stage is the compost safe to apply. Under such conditions there is nothing left which is water soluble without being encased in the colloid nature of humus. Only then will plants not be force-fed.
HUMUS IS THE BASIS OF ORGANIC MANURING WITHIN THE ORGANISATION OF NATURE
To create humus and soil structure from the typical soil in Photograph 1 (almost all agricultural soils world wide are in this state), is much easier in areas of suitable climatic conditions. In these areas, on wider acreage farming, green manuring could be undertaken. After ploughing in green manure, there is moisture and shade from newly growing weeds or crops ie. there are the essential conditions to incorporate the green manure in the soil. Climatically drier areas with less favourable/regular rainfall seldom have the conditions necessary to incorporate the green manure effectively into the soil. In these areas, without irrigation (and this applies to most of the wide acreage farms), the sun gradually burns the green manure up (termed "straw-fire"), with little increase in organic matter or humus in the soil.
Bio-Dynamic research and practice in Australia has produced a totally new concept of green manuring termed 'sheet composting': Namely, via Bio-Dynamic root activity stimulated by the soil sprays, deep underground soil structuring and humus creation through root activity occurs. Once the roots in a soil like Photograph 2 go deeper, there is the exchange activity of the new plant growth, new root growth, old roots and plant waste turned into humus etc.
For certification, a production method as basic Standard is required. "No-fertiliser and No-chemicals" does not represent a Standard. Soil must be developed for DEMETER Bio-Dynamic certification, and that requires considerable skill. During this process farmers become committed; develop farming skills; awareness of Nature; and observation of soil, plants and animals.
|So with DEMETER quality more is required than just putting on organic fertilisers and calling this 'organic'.
|DEMETER Bio-Dynamic certification requires a basic soil structure and plant development.
|Every aspect of general farm management and soil cultivation has to be reconsidered in the light of such insight.
|DEMETER quality Bio-Dynamic farm practice produces healthy, living, structured soil. Healthy plants and animals are a result.