There is a movement in the agricultural industry that is gaining traction with farmers who are interested in becoming more sustainable: that of biodynamic agriculture. It is a holistic farming method that recognises the ‘spirit’ of nature in agriculture.
Biodynamic farming was founded by Rudolf Steiner in 1924 and was the first of the organic agriculture movements. It involves processes such as using compost and mulch as fertilisers, and plant diversity. It aims to enhance and sustain everything involved in the process, from the soil to the people eating the food. Outlined below are some of the common practices of biodynamic agriculture.
This is a method of keeping the soil healthy by allowing a variety of plants to grow on land that is uncultivated. It is done by mixing crops so the plants work in support of each other. If one plant depletes a certain nutrient in the soil, then its companion plant will release that same nutrient back into the soil.
Crop rotation contributes to eliminating soil erosion and reduces parasites and controls weeds and pests. Conventional farming usually practices monoculture, which is the planting and harvesting of one crop each season. While this might seem easier and more straight forward, it goes against the biodynamic meaning and can even be harmful to the very soil it is using.
As with organic farming, biodynamic farming embraces composting and mulching with great vigour. Composting is highly eco-friendly and allows for farmers to reuse their organic waste in a constructive and responsible manner.
It is the source of healthy soil, as the recycled manure and organic waste in the compost pile create humus which is vital to the functioning of the farm and the health of the soil. When humus is spread on fields, it helps to stabilise nitrogen, which aids with crop productivity. There are different ways to treat compost, and these are used in a process called ‘dynamisation’. Extracts from animal, plant and mineral manure are turned into sprays and used sparingly to homeopathically treat the compost, stimulating humus and suppressing fungal diseases on plants and crops.
Natural pest control
Biodynamic farming embraces the elimination of all chemical pesticides and herbicides, opting to rather let nature take its course. Say for example, you have a slug infestation. With conventional farming, you would use a chemical deterrent to be rid of these pests. With biodynamic farming, you would let nature take its toll and let natural pest control work its magic.
By eliminating chemicals, the health of the soil improves, allowing for better crop yields and a healthier farm all around. Natural pest control can benefit both your plants and your animals, for example, using ducks to eat snails leads to duck eggs that have been enriched by an escargot diet. This makes them more delicious and nutrient rich.
Moon phase planting
Another aspect of biodynamic agriculture is the practise of moon phase farming. This means that you will coordinate your planting to the phases of the moon. Biodynamic theory believes that, just as the moon affects our tides, so can it affect our plant growth.
The basic idea of this method of planting is that from the new moon to the full moon is the ideal time to sow seeds. From the full moon to the new moon is the ideal time to weed, harvest, reap, plow, and cultivate. You will need to set up a unique planting calendar if you want to follow this, but it is an environmentally-friendly practice that also embraces the more spiritual side of biodynamics.
Using organic inputs
Organic inputs mean more than just using natural pest control and compost, they also mean that you feed your animals with organic fodder and a total mixed ration that uses organically grown ingredients.
Using this type of feed for your animals ensures that they are eating a balanced diet without any added chemicals. Organic seeds and manure are also part and parcel of having the perfect biodynamic farm, as they have a direct effect on the health of the coil and of your crops. If you want to embrace this way of farming, going organic in every aspect is one of the best ways to do so.
Acknowledgement of the life force
‘Life force’ is a concept which separates biodynamic farming from other agricultural methods. It is the acknowledgement that ‘in addition to earthly influences (biology, physics, chemistry), cosmic forces (moon phases, celestial and seasonal cycles) play a role in the life of the farm’
By acknowledging that agriculture and spiritual elements are intertwined, your farming will be a more holistic experience and your farm will become a healthier environment for your crops and animals. Using moon phases for crop planting harkens back to a simpler time, as does using compost, humus and natural pest control. Biodynamic farming believes in the principle that everything is connected, meaning that the health of the soil can directly contribute to the health of the farmers.