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Biodynamic agriculture is a form of alternative agriculture based on pseudo-scientific and esoteric concepts initially developed in 1924 by Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925).It was the first of the organic farming movements. It treats soil fertility, plant growth, and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks, emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives.
Biodynamics has much in common with other organic approaches – it emphasizes the use of manures and composts and excludes the use of synthetic (artificial) fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides on soil and plants. Methods unique to the biodynamic approach include its treatment of animals, crops, and soil as a single system, an emphasis from its beginnings on local production and distribution systems, its use of traditional and development of new local breeds and varieties. Some methods use an astrological sowing and planting calendar.Biodynamic agriculture uses various herbal and mineral additives for compost additives and field sprays; these are prepared using methods that are more akin to sympathetic magic than agronomy, such as burying ground quartz stuffed into the horn of a cow, which are said to harvest "cosmic forces in the soil".
No difference in beneficial outcomes has been scientifically established between certified biodynamic agricultural techniques and similar organic and integrated farming practices. Biodynamic agriculture is a pseudoscience as it lacks scientific evidence for its efficacy because of its reliance upon esoteric knowledge and mystical beliefs.
As of 2020, biodynamic techniques were used on 251,842 hectares in 55 countries, led by Germany, Australia and France.Germany accounts for 41.8% of the global total; the remainder average 1,750 ha per country. Biodynamic methods of cultivating grapevines have been taken up by several notable vineyards. There are certification agencies for biodynamic products, most of which are members of the international biodynamics standards group Demeter International.
Biodynamics was the first modern organic agriculture.Its development began in 1924 with a series of eight lectures on agriculture given by philosopher Rudolf Steiner at Schloss Koberwitz in Silesia, Germany (now Kobierzyce in Poland). These lectures, the first known presentation of organic agriculture, were held in response to a request by farmers who noticed degraded soil conditions and a deterioration in the health and quality of crops and livestock resulting from the use of chemical fertilizers. The 111 attendees, less than half of whom were farmers, came from six countries, primarily Germany and Poland. The lectures were published in November 1924; the first English translation appeared in 1928 as The Agriculture Course.
Steiner emphasized that the methods he proposed should be tested experimentally. For this purpose, Steiner established a research group, the "Agricultural Experimental Circle of Anthroposophical Farmers and Gardeners of the General Anthroposophical Society".Between 1924 and 1939, this research group attracted about 800 members from around the world, including Europe, the Americas and Australasia. Another group, the "Association for Research in Anthroposophical Agriculture" (Versuchsring anthroposophischer Landwirte), directed by the German agronomist Erhard Bartsch, was formed to test the effects of biodynamic methods on the life and health of soil, plants and animals; the group published a monthly journal, Demeter. Bartsch was also instrumental in developing a sales organisation for biodynamic products, Demeter, which still exists today. The Research Association was renamed the Imperial Association for Biodynamic Agriculture (Reichsverband für biologisch-dynamische Wirtschaftsweise) in 1933. It was dissolved by the National Socialist regime in 1941. In 1931 the association had 250 members in Germany, 109 in Switzerland, 104 in other European countries and 24 outside Europe. The oldest biodynamic farms are the Wurzerhof in Austria and Marienhöhe in Germany.
In 1938, Ehrenfried Pfeiffer's text, Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening, was published in five languages – English, Dutch, Italian, French, and German; this became the standard work in the field for several decades. : 5In July 1939, at the invitation of Walter James, 4th Baron Northbourne, Pfeiffer travelled to the UK and presented the Betteshanger Summer School and Conference on Biodynamic Farming at Northbourne's farm in Kent. The conference has been described as the 'missing link' between biodynamic agriculture and organic farming because, in the year after Betteshanger, Northbourne published his manifesto of organic farming, Look to the Land, in which he coined the term 'organic farming' and praised the methods of Rudolf Steiner. In the 1950s, Hans Mueller was encouraged by Steiner's work to create the organic-biological farming method in Switzerland; this later developed to become the largest certifier of organic products in Europe, Bioland.
Today biodynamics is practiced in more than 50 countries worldwide and in a variety of circumstances, ranging from temperate arable farming, viticulture in France, cotton production in Egypt, to silkworm breeding in China. : 141 Demeter International is the primary certification agency for farms and gardens using the methods. In 2020 Demeter International and the International Biodynamic Association joined to become the Biodynamic Federation - Demeter International.
In common with other forms of organic agriculture, biodynamic agriculture uses management practices that are intended to "restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony".Central features include crop diversification, the avoidance of chemical soil treatments and off-farm inputs generally, decentralized production and distribution, and the consideration of celestial and terrestrial influences on biological organisms. The Demeter Association recommends that "(a) minimum of ten percent of the total farm acreage be set aside as a biodiversity preserve. That may include but is not limited to forests, wetlands, riparian corridors, and intentionally planted insectaries. Diversity in crop rotation and perennial planting is required: no annual crop can be planted in the same field for more than two years in succession. Bare tillage year round is prohibited so land needs to maintain adequate green cover."
The Demeter Association also recommends that the individual design of the land "by the farmer, as determined by site conditions, is one of the basic tenets of biodynamic agriculture. This principle emphasizes that humans have a responsibility for the development of their ecological and social environment which goes beyond economic aims and the principles of descriptive ecology." : 141–142 Crops, livestock, and farmer, and "the entire socioeconomic environment" form a unique interaction, which biodynamic farming tries to "actively shape ...through a variety of management practices. The prime objective is always to encourage healthy conditions for life": soil fertility, plant and animal health, and product quality. : 141–142 "The farmer seeks to enhance and support the forces of nature that lead to healthy crops, and rejects farm management practices that damage the environment, soil, plant, animal or human health....the farm is conceived of as an organism, a self-contained entity with its own individuality," : 148 holistically conceived and self-sustaining. "Disease and insect control are addressed through botanical species diversity, predator habitat, balanced crop nutrition, and attention to light penetration and airflow. Weed control emphasizes prevention, including timing of planting, mulching, and identifying and avoiding the spread of invasive weed species."
Biodynamic agriculture differs from many forms of organic agriculture in its spiritual, mystical, and astrological orientation. It shares a spiritual focus, as well as its view toward improving humanity, with the "nature farming" movement in Japan. : 5 Important features include the use of livestock manures to sustain plant growth (recycling of nutrients), maintenance and improvement of soil quality, and the health and well-being of crops and animals. Cover crops, green manures and crop rotations are used extensively and the farms to foster the diversity of plant and animal life, and to enhance the biological cycles and the biological activity of the soil.
Biodynamic farms often have a cultural component and encourage local community, both through developing local sales and through on-farm community building activities. Some biodynamic farms use the Community Supported Agriculture model, which has connections with social threefolding.
Compared to non-organic agriculture, BD farming practices have been found to be more resilient to environmental challenges, to foster a diverse biosphere, and to be more energy efficient, factors Eric Lichtfouse describes being of increasing importance in the face of climate change, energy scarcity and population growth.
In his "agricultural course" Steiner prescribed nine different preparations to aid fertilization, and described how these were to be prepared. Steiner believed that these preparations mediated terrestrial and cosmic forces into the soil. [ citation needed ] Regarding compost development beyond accelerating the initial phase of composting, some positive effects have been noted:The prepared substances are numbered 500 through 508, where the first two are used for preparing fields, and the other seven are used for making compost. A long term trial (DOK experiment) evaluating the biodynamic farming system in comparison with organic and conventional farming systems, found that both organic farming and biodynamic farming resulted in enhanced soil properties, but had lower yields than conventional farming.
Although the preparations have direct nutrient values, modern biodynamic practitioners believe their benefit is to support the self-regulating capacities of the biota already present in the soil and compost.Critics of the practice have pointed out that no evidence or logic underlies the practices themselves, which instead are dependent on magical thinking and debunked theories of Steiner himself. There is no evidence that biodynamic practices have any benefit beyond the direct nutrients they add as fertilizer, which may itself be of smaller benefit than other traditionally organic or commercial fertilizers.
Field preparations, for stimulating humus formation:
The compost preparations Steiner recommended employ herbs which are frequently used in alternative medical remedies. Many of the same herbs Steiner referenced are used in organic practices to make foliar fertilizers, green manure, or in composting. The preparations Steiner discussed were:
The approach considers that there are lunar and astrological influences on soil and plant development—for example, choosing to plant, cultivate or harvest various crops based on both the phase of the moon and the zodiacal constellation the moon is passing through, and also depending on whether the crop is the root, leaf, flower, or fruit of the plant.This aspect of biodynamics has been termed "astrological" and "pseudoscientific" in nature.
Biodynamic agriculture has focused on the open pollination of seeds (with farmers thereby generally growing their own seed) and the development of locally adapted varieties.
The Demeter biodynamic certification system established in 1924 was the first certification and labelling system for organic production. : 5 As of 2018, to receive certification as biodynamic, the farm must meet the following standards: agronomic guidelines, greenhouse management, structural components, livestock guidelines, and post-harvest handling and processing procedures.
The term Biodynamic is a trademark held by the Demeter association of biodynamic farmers for the purpose of maintaining production standards used both in farming and processing foodstuffs. The trademark is intended to protect both the consumer and the producers of biodynamic produce. Demeter International an organization of member countries; each country has its own Demeter organization which is required to meet international production standards (but can also exceed them). The original Demeter organization was founded in 1928; the U.S. Demeter Association was formed in the 1980s and certified its first farm in 1982. In France, Biodyvin certifies biodynamic wine.In Egypt, SEKEM has created the Egyptian Biodynamic Association (EBDA), an association that provides training for farmers to become certified. As of 2006, more than 200 wineries worldwide were certified as biodynamic; numerous other wineries employ biodynamic methods to a greater or lesser extent.
Research into biodynamic farming has been complicated by the difficulty of isolating the distinctively biodynamic aspects when conducting comparative trials.Consequently, there is no strong body of material that provides evidence of any specific effect.
Since biodynamic farming is a form of organic farming, it can be generally assumed to share its characteristics, including "less stressed soils and thus diverse and highly interrelated soil communities".
A 2009/2011 review found that biodynamically cultivated fields:
Both factors were similar to the result in organically cultivated fields.
In a 2002 newspaper editorial, Peter Treue, agricultural researcher at the University of Kiel, characterized biodynamics as pseudoscience and argued that similar or equal results can be obtained using standard organic farming principles. He wrote that some biodynamic preparations more resemble alchemy or magic akin to geomancy.
In a 1994 analysis, Holger Kirchmann, a soil researcher with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, concluded that Steiner's instructions were occult and dogmatic, and cannot contribute to the development of alternative or sustainable agriculture. According to Kirchmann, many of Steiner's statements are not provable because scientifically clear hypotheses cannot be made from his descriptions. Kirchmann asserted that when methods of biodynamic agriculture were tested scientifically, the results were unconvincing.Further, in a 2004 overview of biodynamic agriculture, Linda Chalker-Scott, a researcher at Washington State University, characterized biodynamics as pseudoscience, writing that Steiner did not use scientific methods to formulate his theory of biodynamics, and that the later addition of valid organic farming techniques has "muddled the discussion" of Steiner's original idea. Based on the scant scientific testing of biodynamics, Chalker-Scott concluded "no evidence exists" that homeopathic preparations improve the soil.
In Michael Shermer's The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience , Dan Dugan says that the way biodynamic preparations are supposed to be implemented are formulated solely on the basis of Steiner's "own insight".Skeptic Brian Dunning writes "the best way to think of 'biodynamic agriculture' would be as a magic spell cast over an entire farm. Biodynamics sees an entire farm as a single organism, with something that they call a life force."
Florian Leiber, Nikolai Fuchs and Hartmut Spieß, researchers at the Goetheanum, have defended the principles of biodynamics and suggested that critiques of biodynamic agriculture which deny it scientific credibility are "not in keeping with the facts...as they take no notice of large areas of biodynamic management and research". Biodynamic farmers are "charged with developing a continuous dialogue between biodynamic science and the natural sciences sensu stricto", despite important differences in paradigms, world views, and value systems. : 147
Philosopher of science Michael Ruse has written that followers of biodynamic agriculture rather enjoy the scientific marginalisation that comes from its pseudoscientific basis, revelling both in its esoteric aspects and the impression that they were in the vanguard of the wider anti-science sentiment that has grown in opposition to modern methods such as genetic modification.
Steiner’s theory was similar to those of the agricultural scientist Richard Krzymowski, who was teaching in Breslau since 1922.The environmental scientist Frank M. Rauch mentioned in 1995, concerning the reprint of a book from Raoul Heinrich Francé, another source probably used by Steiner.
According to a scientific paper of Holger Kirchmann in 2021, the auras and forces mentioned by Steiner are not known to science. His statement (hypothesis) of “living forces” affecting crops cannot be tested, and is thus not falsifiable. However, when a hypothesis is not falsifiable, this is a sign of pseudoscience.
A research team from the Botanical Garden and Department of Experimental and Social Sciences Education of the Faculty of Teacher Training of the University of Valencia warned in 2021 about the risk of pseudoscience in relation with myths or beliefs about the influence of the moon on agriculture. The findings of this scientific review of over 100 papers (including scientific articles, papers and higher education textbooks) have been published in the journal Agronomy.They found that there is no reliable, science-based evidence for any relationship between lunar phases and plant physiology in any plant–science related textbooks or peer-reviewed journal articles justifying agricultural practices conditioned by the Moon. Nor does evidence from the field of physics support a causal relationship between lunar forces and plant responses. Therefore, popular agricultural practices that are tied to lunar phases have no scientific backing.
Compost is a mixture of ingredients used to fertilize and improve the soil. It is commonly prepared by decomposing plant and food waste and recycling organic materials. The resulting mixture is rich in plant nutrients and beneficial organisms, such as worms and fungal mycelium. Compost improves soil fertility in gardens, landscaping, horticulture, urban agriculture, and organic farming, reducing dependency on commercial chemical fertilizers. The benefits of compost include providing nutrients to crops as fertilizer, acting as a soil conditioner, increasing the humus or humic acid contents of the soil, and introducing beneficial colonies of microbes that help to suppress pathogens in the soil.
Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner was an Austrian occultist, social reformer, architect, esotericist, and claimed clairvoyant. Steiner gained initial recognition at the end of the nineteenth century as a literary critic and published works including The Philosophy of Freedom. At the beginning of the twentieth century he founded an esoteric spiritual movement, anthroposophy, with roots in German idealist philosophy and theosophy. Many of his ideas are pseudoscientific. He was also prone to pseudohistory.
Organic farming also known as ecological farming or biological farming, is an agricultural system that uses fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. It originated early in the 20th century in reaction to rapidly changing farming practices. Certified organic agriculture accounts for 70 million hectares globally, with over half of that total in Australia. Organic farming continues to be developed by various organizations today. Biological pest control, mixed cropping and the fostering of insect predators are encouraged. Organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally-occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances. For instance, naturally-occurring pesticides such as pyrethrin are permitted, while synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are generally prohibited. Synthetic substances that are allowed include, for example, copper sulfate, elemental sulfur and Ivermectin. Genetically modified organisms, nanomaterials, human sewage sludge, plant growth regulators, hormones, and antibiotic use in livestock husbandry are prohibited. Organic farming advocates claim advantages in sustainability, openness, self-sufficiency, autonomy and independence, health, food security, and food safety.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to organic gardening and farming:
The organic movement broadly refers to the organizations and individuals involved worldwide in the promotion of organic food and other organic products. It started during the first half of the 20th century, when modern large-scale agricultural practices began to appear.
Sir Albert Howard was an English botanist. His academic background might have been botany. While working in India he was generally considered a Pathologist; this more than likely being the reason for his consistent observations of the value of compost applications being an increase in health. Howard was the first Westerner to document and publish the Indian techniques of sustainable agriculture. After spending considerable time learning from Indian peasants and the pests present in their soil, he called these two his professors. He was a principal figure in the early organic movement. He is considered by many in the English-speaking world to have been, along with Rudolf Steiner and Eve Balfour, one of the key advocates of ancient Indian techniques of organic agriculture.
Biodynamic wines are wines made employing the biodynamic methods both to grow the fruit and during the post-harvest processing. Biodynamic wine production uses organic farming methods while also employing soil supplements prepared according to Rudolf Steiner's formulas, following a planting calendar that depends upon astrological configurations, and treating the earth as "a living and receptive organism."
Biointensive agriculture is an organic agricultural system that focuses on achieving maximum yields from a minimum area of land, while simultaneously increasing biodiversity and sustaining the fertility of the soil. The goal of the method is long term sustainability on a closed system basis. It is particularly effective for backyard gardeners and smallholder farmers in developing countries, and also has been used successfully on small-scale commercial farms.
Organic horticulture is the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants by following the essential principles of organic agriculture in soil building and conservation, pest management, and heirloom variety preservation.
The Biodynamic Federation Demeter International is the largest certification organization for biodynamic agriculture, and is one of three predominant organic certifiers. Its name is a reference to Demeter, the Greek goddess of grain and fertility. It is a non-profit umbrella organisation with 46 members organisations in 36 countries around the world, representing both the global biodynamic movement and the Demeter certified biodynamic farms. The organization incorporates 19 certifying Demeter organizations, and the rest of the certification is done by the international certification committee. The Demeter Biodynamic Certification is used in over 65 countries to verify that biodynamic products meet international standards in production and processing. The Demeter symbol was introduced and registered as a trademark in 1928, and as such was the first ecological label for organically produced foods.
Traditional farming was the original type of agriculture, and has been practiced for thousands of years. All traditional farming is now considered to be "organic farming" although at the time there were no known inorganic methods. For example, forest gardening, a fully organic food production system which dates from prehistoric times, is thought to be the world's oldest and most resilient agroecosystem. The industrial revolution introduced inorganic methods, most of which were not well developed and had serious side effects. An organic movement began in the 1940s as a reaction to agriculture's growing reliance on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The history of this modern revival of organic farming dates back to the first half of the 20th century at a time when there was a growing reliance on these new synthetic, non-organic methods.
Ehrenfried Pfeiffer was a German scientist, soil scientist, leading advocate of biodynamic agriculture, anthroposophist and student of Rudolf Steiner.
The organization SEKEM was founded in 1977 by the Egyptian pharmacologist and social entrepreneur Dr. Ibrahim Abouleish in order to bring about cultural renewal in Egypt on a sustainable basis. Located northeast of Cairo, the organization now includes:
The Biodynamic Association is a United States-based company that promotes Biodynamic agriculture system through educational and research programs and has headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Marjorie Spock was an environmentalist, writer and poet, best known for her influence on Rachel Carson when the latter was writing Silent Spring. Spock was also a noted Waldorf teacher, eurythmist, biodynamic gardener and anthroposophist.
Animal-free agriculture, also known as veganic agriculture, stockfree farming or veganic farming, consists of farming methods that do not use animals or animal products.
Weleda is a multinational company that produces both beauty products and naturopathic medicines. Both branches design their products based on anthroposophic principles, an alternative medicine.
Organic farming practices in New Zealand date from 1930 but began on a commercial scale in the 1980s and is now an increasing segment of the market with some of the larger companies such as Wattie's becoming involved.
Natural farming, also referred to as "the Fukuoka Method", "the natural way of farming" or "do-nothing farming", is an ecological farming approach established by Masanobu Fukuoka (1913–2008). Fukuoka, a Japanese farmer and philosopher, introduced the term in his 1975 book The One-Straw Revolution. The title refers not to lack of effort, but to the avoidance of manufactured inputs and equipment. Natural farming is related to fertility farming, organic farming, sustainable agriculture, agroecology, agroforestry, ecoagriculture and permaculture, but should be distinguished from biodynamic agriculture.
Margaret Cross was a British educator and school principal, a pioneer of Co-education and of Steiner Waldorf education in Britain as well as of Biodynamic agriculture. Together with Hannah Clark she founded the Kings Langley Priory School, later the Rudolf Steiner School Kings Langley, which was closed in March 2019.