Biodynamic Agriculture

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Another example of organic-based food production is biodynamic agriculture or farming, which is rooted in the lectures of Dr. Rudolf Steiner in 1924 to a group of farmers concerned with decreasing crop quality, yield, and animal health. Dr. Steiner was a philosopher and editor of Goethe's scientific writings. The lectures described a holistic view of a farm as an organism with the plant and animal community of a natural habitat striving for a certain balance in which the numbers of species and individuals are constant. Farm management including clearing, plowing, cutting, and grazing along with using monoculture crops creates an imbalance in the system, preventing periods of recovery, thus creating an unsustainable agricultural system. In similar fashion the use of pesticides kills both pests and beneficial organisms, creating an imbalanced system, which destroys productivity. The biodynamic approach is based on an understanding of the interrelationships between of living organisms and the processes that make up the ecological system (Koepf et al., 1976).

Biodynamic farming is a system of organic farming that includes crop diversification, use of green manures, and use of compost and manures improved by bio-dynamic preparations. The biodynamic preparations consist of selected plant and animal substances that undergo fermentation for a year and then are used to enhance compost and manure used in the farming operation. These preparations can also be applied directly to soil as a spray to enhance biological activity. The use of biodynamic preparations is the main difference between biodynamic farming and traditional organic agriculture.

Part of the biodynamic philosophy is that a healthy, active soil microbial population will enhance plant-microbe interactions and nutrient cycling and reduce soil pathogens. Studies over the first decade of the 21st century have shown that biodynamically managed fields maintain higher soil C levels, microbial respiration, mineralizable N, earthworm populations, and microbial biomass C and N and greater enzyme activities. The biodynamic farms had better overall soil quality mostly due to enhanced microbial decomposition and stabilization of organic matter. Thus, the manipulation of soil organism populations to a larger, more active, and perhaps more diverse community through particular amendments provides a means to shift from a chemical-based to an organic-based agriculture.

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