Biodynamic Agriculture | Everything you Need to Know
Biodynamic agriculture is an agricultural system developed by an Austrian philosopher Dr. Rudolf Steiner. It is a more intensive and restricted process than organic agriculture. For example, it does not allow for the use of any form of toxic pesticide, even those labeled as "organic" that can pass USDA standards. Instead, biodynamic farming focuses on creating healthy systems that cooperate to strengthen the health of crops and produce higher yields.
Biodynamic agriculture sees the farm as one total ecosystem and strives to work with nature rather than against it. This article will discuss biodynamic agriculture in more detail and why we choose to use biodynamically grown ingredients in our products.
What Is Biodynamic Agriculture?
Biodynamic agriculture is a form of agriculture similar to organic agriculture but has more strict regulations on the purity and naturalness of its farming methods. Biodynamic agriculture also incorporates farming methods and techniques that follow Rudolf Steiner's Biodynamic philosophy.
According to Rudolf Steiner, "a farm is a single, self-sustaining organism that thrives through biodiversity, the integration of crops and livestock, and the creation of a closed-loop system of fertility." So, Steiner's philosophy of Biodynamic farming focuses on integrating crops and livestock, having them coexist within the farm ecosystem rather than isolating all of the various crops and animals of a farm into separate plots.
Steiner promoted the idea that the farm is a living, interconnected ecosystem, and so the way to ensure a healthy farm is to focus on creating closed-loop systems within the farm. In agriculture, a closed-loop system is a system that does not produce any waste at all. Still, every single material in the system is recycled continuously within the system. Because of this, a closed-loop system is also sometimes referred to as a "zero-waste system."
Essentially, biodynamic agriculture is a system that sees the farm as a living entity and regards the maintenance and improvement of soil life as a basic necessity for agricultural practice. Biodynamic agriculture preserves soil health for generations. While this is common sense, it is quite contrary to the rules of industrial agriculture that degrade soil health and become increasingly dependent on chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
When Did Biodynamic Agriculture Start?
Biodynamic farming started in the early 1920s when a group of farmers concerned with the decline of soil health sought the advice of Dr. Rudolf Steiner. Steiner had spent the majority of his life studying the forces that regulate life and growth, and the farmers were hopeful that Steiner could offer some insight into their situation and how they could improve the health of their soil and crops.
Following this request, Steiner gave a series of lectures and conversations at Koberwitz, Germany, in June 1924. During these lectures, the fundamental principles of biodynamic farming emerged as a unified approach to agriculture that relates the earth's ecology to the ecology of the entire cosmos.
A man named Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, who worked with Dr. Rudolf Steiner during the formative years of the biodynamic philosophy, brought biodynamic concepts to the United States in the 1930s. In 1938, the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association was founded.
What Are Some Farming Practices Unique to Biodynamic Agriculture?
Biodynamic agriculture incorporates many methods and practices exclusive to Steiner's philosophy. Rudolf Steiner had unique soil, plant, animal, and human health approaches. Not all Steiner's methods or philosophies have scientific evidence to support them. Many consider his methods to be rather pseudoscientific. Nevertheless, biodynamic farms are known to produce some of the most abundant and healthy crops in any farming system.
Much of the success of biodynamic farming can be attributed to its emphasis on truly organic agriculture and creating closed-loop systems. In addition, biodynamic farming places a significant focus on soil health and utilizes many methods for enhancing soil health and fertility.
Biodynamic farming also aims to connect the farmer deeper to the cultivated land, as the farmer is an integral part of the ecosystem. But, in Steiner's view, the farm ecosystem also extends beyond the farm itself and integrates the influence of cosmic and earthly forces.
For example, one biodynamic farming method, known as moon phase gardening, is to plant and harvest along with the moon's phases.
According to Biodynamic Agriculture, the new moon is ideal for planting a seed because moisture levels are higher, and moonlight increases each day successively. This practice claims that this supports seed germination and promotes healthy, balanced growth between the leaves and roots of plants.
During a waxing moon, while the light is increasing, it is recommended to plant or transplant flowering annuals and other short-lived plants with leaves, seeds, flowers, or fruits harvested. In addition, they consider this an excellent time to add liquid fertilizers like comfrey tea to the garden.
The full moon is considered an ideal time to plant root vegetables like potatoes and beets, as moonlight decreases each day. They believe this causes more energy into the roots of plants rather than the leaves.
A waning moon, while the light is decreasing, is also considered an excellent time to sow plants that depend on solid root systems, such as root crops or perennials. In addition, they believe this to be an ideal time to add solid soil amendments like worm castings and prune trees during the dormant periods of the year when sap flow is decreasing, as well as to harvest crops.
Moon phase gardening is a widespread biodynamic agriculture practice that is uncommon in other farming methods. According to Steiner, the full moon and the waxing moon (when moonlight is increasing) are when a plant's energies are drawn upward toward the sky. Conversely, the new moon and the waning moon (when moonlight is decreasing) is a time when a plant's energies are drawn downward into the earth. Practitioners of biodynamic agriculture aim to farm and garden in harmony with these principles.
Biodynamic agriculture also views manure and compost as the most valuable fertilizers and aims to utilize these resources fully. Several biodynamic farming methods involve creating specific preparations of manure or compost that are then added to the soil or inserted into heaps to encourage fermentation. This process is seen to preserve and activate the nutrients in the manure and increase organic matter vital to soil life and soil health. In addition, biodynamic compost preparations are typically composed of certain medicinal herbs fermented to enhance their growth-stimulating properties.
The use of music in biodynamic agriculture is also standard practice. Music is seen as a rhythmic vibration of sound or energy and directly influences the health and growth of plants. There have been several experiments that suggest music influences plants. For example, one experiment demonstrated that aggressive and chaotic music like heavy metal stunted plant growth while peaceful and harmonious music like classical orchestra music enhanced plant growth. Still, there is limited research in this field, and much more research is needed to prove whether music influences plant growth.
Regenerative Agriculture vs. Biodynamic Agriculture
Many people wonder what the difference is between regenerative agriculture and biodynamic agriculture. Regenerative agriculture is a form of agriculture that seeks to regenerate or improve soil health rather than degrade soil health, as many forms of modern agriculture do. Biodynamic agriculture is a restorative agriculture system that has the same aim. In this respect, biodynamic agriculture is a form of regenerative agriculture. However, biodynamic agriculture follows the philosophy taught by Rudolf Steiner, whereas other forms of regenerative agriculture do not.
Is Biodynamic Agriculture Science?
Biodynamic agriculture has many principles and practices, some of which can be supported by science, while others do not have current scientific research. For example, adding compost and manure to the soil to enhance soil health can certainly be supported by scientific research that shows these preparations add:
- important minerals
- soil organisms
- various other beneficial compounds
These compounds being present in the soil and do enhance soil health.
However, planting and harvesting, along with the moon's cycles, have no scientific evidence to support it currently. Still, it is undoubtedly not something out of the realm of possibility, as the moon likely does influence plant growth just as the sun influences plant growth. Therefore, many biodynamic farmers also swear by moon phase gardening as a beneficial practice for enhancing plant growth and yields.
Additionally, one can view the idea that the farm is one living ecosystem purely as a philosophical concept or a scientific fact as species coexist in interrelated ways that make up unique ecosystems. Striving to work in harmony with the laws of nature is the ultimate goal of biodynamic farming.
Biodynamic Hydrosols and Essential Oils
At Zuma Nutrition, we use many ingredients in our products grown using biodynamic farming methods. In particular, all of the hydrosols and essential oils that we use are produced on a biodynamic farm in Northern California. These biodynamic hydrosols form the base for our Biodynamic Face Mist, Liposomal Curcumin Tonic, Liposomal Guava Leaf Zinc Tonic, and our Zeolite Liquid Detox Tonic.
Biodynamic agriculture is a unique system of farming that utilizes principles taught by Dr. Rudolf Steiner. Steiner promoted the idea that the farm is a living, interconnected ecosystem. To ensure a healthy farm, one must focus on creating closed-loop systems that do not produce any waste but rather recycle every single material in the system.
Essentially, biodynamic agriculture is a system that sees the farm as a living entity and regards the maintenance and improvement of soil life as a basic necessity for agricultural practice if soil health is to be preserved for generations. Biodynamic agriculture is also unique in its approach to agriculture in that it relates the ecology of the earth to the ecology of the entire cosmos.
While some may argue that the philosophies of biodynamic farming are pseudoscientific, they nevertheless have been shown to enhance soil health and overall crop production. They also take the necessary stance of preserving and improving soil health for future generations.
Our lives depend on a very thin layer of topsoil that allows crops to grow and produce food for us. Without this layer of topsoil, we could not survive. Unfortunately, modern agriculture practices degrade the health of the soil. They are threatening the health of the soil and the very survival of our species that depends on soil health and fertility.
If we wish to survive and thrive as a species, we must focus on preserving and enhancing soil health and agricultural practices that respect soil life. Biodynamic agriculture is one such method of farming that not only focuses on soil health and fertility but aims to intentionally integrate humanity within the greater cosmos that we are an intricate part of.