Compost Is Enlivened with Biodynamic Preparations
Biodynamic compost is enhanced and enlivened through the use of six preparations made from yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion, and valerian. Each of these medicinal herbs is transformed through a unique process that brings it into relationship with the animal kingdom, the earth, and the cycle of the year. This magnifies the healing properties of the herbs, fosters the growth of beneficial bacteria and fungi, and creates powerfully concentrated substances to inoculate and guide the development of the compost. A small quantity of each preparation is added to the compost pile just after it is built, and again after it is turned. Biodynamic preparations strengthen the quality of the compost by stabilizing nitrogen and other nutrients,1 multiplying microbial diversity,2 and bringing more sensitivity to the composting process. Biodynamic compost helps attune the soil to the whole farm organism while increasing soil life and stable organic matter.2,3 Biodynamic compost also brings more carbon into the living realm, helping to restore balance to the climate.
Biodynamics Supports Seed Integrity and Diversity
Whenever possible, biodynamic farmers and gardeners plant seeds that have been grown in biodynamic or organic systems, and favor open-pollinated and heirloom varieties that have been developed and saved by generations of farmers. GMO seeds are never used. Biodynamic farms strive to supply as much of their own seed as possible, incorporating the selection and saving of seeds into farm activities in order to develop locally-adapted crop varieties with favorable yields, delicious flavors, and resistance to pests and diseases. Sourcing seed from within each farm leads to unique seeds that have co-evolved with the farm individuality.
Biodynamic Certification Upholds Agricultural Integrity
The Demeter Biodynamic® Standard for certification was established in 1928 and is managed worldwide by Demeter International. Over 5,000 farms encompassing more than 400,000 acres are certified in 60 countries around the globe. Biodynamic certification in the United States is managed by Demeter USA (www.demeter-usa.org) and uses the USDA organic standard as a foundation with additional requirements. Beyond organic certification, the Demeter Biodynamic Farm Standard requires that the whole farm, and not just a specific crop, is certified; crops and livestock are integrated and animals are treated humanely; imported fertility is kept to a minimum; the biodynamic preparations are regularly applied; at least 50% of livestock feed is grown on farm; at least 10% of the total farm acreage is set aside for biodiversity; and the farm upholds standards of social responsibility.
Biodynamics Cultivates Biodiversity
Biodynamic farms and gardens mimic the biodiversity of natural ecosystems, amplifying the health and resilience of the farm organism. Annual and perennial vegetables, herbs, flowers, berries, fruits, nuts, grains, pasture, forage, native plants, and pollinator hedgerows can all contribute to plant diversity. Diversity in livestock is also beneficial, as each animal species brings a different relationship to the land and unique quality of manure. The diversity of plant and animal life can be developed over time, starting with a few primary crops and one or two species of livestock (even as small as earthworms or honeybees), and adding more species as the farm organism matures.
Biodynamic Sprays Enhance Soil and Plant Health
In addition to the compost preparations, several biodynamic preparations are applied as potentized liquid sprays to nurture the health of the farm and garden. Horn manure (also known as 500) enhances the life of the soil and the relationship between soil and plants,4 and is made from cow manure buried inside a cow horn during the winter months. Horn silica (or 501) increases plant immunity,5 strengthens photosynthesis and enhances ripening, and is prepared from ground quartz crystals buried in a cow horn over the summer months. Horsetail tea (or 508) helps prevent fungal diseases. Together, the biodynamic spray and compost preparations help plants develop in a healthy and balanced way,access the full spectrum of nutrients they need, and become more resilient to pests, diseases, and extreme climate conditions.6
Biodynamics Approaches Pests and Diseases Holistically
Biodynamics focuses on creating the conditions for optimal soil, plant, and animal health, providing balanced nutrition and supporting healthy immunity. When farms and gardens incorporate a robust diversity of plants and animals and create habitat for natural predators, pests and diseases have few places to thrive. When a disease or pest presents itself, it is often pointing to an imbalance in the farm organism, and can be seen as nature’s way of trying to correct the imbalance. In the case of an outbreak, biological controls can be used, but a biodynamic farmer also tries to discern the underlying imbalance and find ways to adjust management practices to bring the farm organism to greater health.