“A farm is a living organism with a closed cycle, which is a part of the great
living organism of the cosmos, and is therefore subject to its influences”
This is the principle underlying biodynamic agriculture.
Biodynamic farmers are aware of these influences and adopt a practical method that favors them, with the aim and result of obtaining fertile and vital land.
Biodynamic agriculture is a way of working, of observing, of studying the interactions between living organisms, of experiencing the land, the changing of the seasons and the passage of time.
It is not only a way of living, of observing and farming the land, but also a way of thinking and acting that allows man to be at one with the world in order to keep the soil fertile and make sure plants are healthy so that they can fight off diseases and defend themselves against pests, thus obtaining products of the highest quality that are rich in nutrients.
It increases and maintains soil fertility by ensuring that its key factor is taken care of: humus.
The origins of biodynamic agriculture date back to 1924. In fact, at the time, several farmers were already concerned about the deteriorating quality of the elements. Specifically, they noticed that the soil was becoming less fertile, that the germination period of the seeds was decreasing, and that the animals were breeding less and less. Rather surprisingly, they also observed that potatoes no longer tasted as good as they used to… and it was only 1924!
Given this situation, the farmers asked a scientist, Dr. Rudolf Steiner, for practical advice on what to do about this. During a course held in Koberwitz, Poland, the scientist gave general instructions on how to tackle and solve these problems. Some of his teachings include: “ …Soil is a living organism, not an inert substrate to which you just add minerals and that’s it…” or: “…a plant is a living being connecting the earth and the cosmos…”, as well as: “human psychological health is supported by the intrinsic nutritional value of food”. All these quotes are from the book: “Impulsi scientifico spirituali per il progresso dell’agricoltura” (Scientific and spiritual impulses for the progress of agriculture).
The farmers who attended the course at the time immediately put the advice received into practice, and the discipline known as “biodynamic agriculture” was named after them. In fact, it involves farming the land by setting life (bio) in motion (dynamics) so that nothing backfires on man and the environment, either in the short or long term. “To be good farmers,” says Rudolf Steiner, “we must be in harmony with the laws of Nature and acknowledge the fact that spiritual and material forces come into play, manifesting themselves in nature.” “Without such recognition,” Steiner continues, “the soil will increasingly degrade to the point of desertification and food deterioration.”
This agricultural method developed so rapidly that, by the end of the 1930s, there were already more than 50 biodynamic farms in Germany and several others were scattered across Europe. However, World War II halted their development, but the biodynamic movement nevertheless remained active and regained strength after the war. It arrived in Italy in the 1950s and became particularly popular in the early 1980s. Today, there are about 1,000 biodynamic farms in Italy and their number is increasing every year.
Biodynamics is based on general knowledge of the planet and its relationship with the cosmos, and such knowledge can only be acquired by observing nature and its laws. It is based on specific principles:
The principles of biodynamics
Rotation is essential to maintain and improve soil fertility and is therefore a resource for increasing its yield.
Crop rotation involves growing different types of crops in a specific order on the same plot of land, and the same crop is sown in regular cycles over time.
The key to successful crop rotation is having a meadow with lots of clover or other legumes, which enrich and fertilize the soil.
Different crops are sequentially grown on plots of land depending on the structure of the soil, the climate and the number of people and animals to be fed: a closed circle farm is the ultimate goal of biodynamics.
In order to achieve maximum biological harmony, it is advisable to grow vegetables with tubers or roots and to sow vegetables that can bear fruits in various forms (seeds, leaves and roots).
Composting and heaps
Chemically and physically speaking, compost is a mixture of manure and straw, which – after achieving good composting by creating heaps – provides the soil with a wealth of energizing and vital nutrients.
Compost can be used as a fertilizer on meadows or before ploughing. By adding organic matter, its use improves soil structure and the bioavailability of nutrients such as nitrogen.
As a biological activator, it also increases the biodiversity of the microflora in the soil.
So what does composting, by creating heaps, actually involve?
Biodynamic preparations fall within the “dynamic” area of biodynamics and can be regarded as catalysts for stimulating vital and natural phenomena.
There are eight biodynamic preparations: two of them are sprayed directly on the fields, while six of them are placed in the heap to promote and improve humus formation.
The first two must be reactivated by mixing small amounts in large volumes of water and then stirring them in an alternating circular motion, in both directions, through a “dynamization” process that transmits the energy of the preparation to the water.
During the course for farmers held in 1924, Rudolf Steiner explained that the processes of living nature are the result of the joint action of the forces investigated by physical and chemical science and the forces that shaped the cosmos. He advised his research partners to experiment with these cosmic relationships by studying the influences of the moon and the planets.
The innovation consisted in verifying influences not as a cause-effect relationship, as official science had done until then, but by observing the relationships of the various forms of life according to the scientific approach suggested by Goethe. Research into the influence of cosmic forces on plants began in the 1920s. Lily Kolisko was quick to point out that the full moon has a positive influence on the new moon. It was later demonstrated that this was influenced by other situations.
When the Moon reaches perigee, that is when the Moon is closest to the Earth, it has a hardening and negative effect, while when the Moon is in apogee, that is when the two bodies are furthest apart, it has the opposite effect. Lunar nodes are critical positions. Further experiments were conducted to investigate the influences of the ascending and descending moon. Other experimenters, including Franz Rulni, Schmidt, Max-Karl Schwarte and Ernst Stegemann, studied the rhythms of other planets. Until 1950, biodynamic agriculture was based on the phases of the moon (full moon and waning moon), even in the absence of statistical data confirming its veracity. Although some university centers ridiculed this method, other universities continued to study it.
In 1973, the University of Kazan (USSR) established a chair on the influences of the moon. However, in the 1950s, new studies showed conclusive evidence. Maria Thun, who had previously studied the influence of the phases of the moon, noticed that there was a correlation between lunar influences and the position of the moon in relation to the zodiac. Moreover, depending on the sign of the zodiac, these influences were also exerted on the four constituent parts of the plant (root, leaf, flower and fruit). She was able to confirm this by observing crops sown every day of the year, and not just 12 times (each time the moon passed in front of the constellations). When behind the moon, each zodiac constellation endows the plant with a specific feature.
Influences are also greater in trigon situations, during oppositions, during Solar or Lunar eclipses, and when planets go behind the Sun or Moon. These observations were confirmed by the Biological-Dynamic Research Institute (Switzerland), the Institute of Herbaceous Crops of the University of Giessen (Germany), directed by Professor E. v. Boguslawski, and the Hiscia Institute (cancer research institute) in Arlesheim, Switzerland.
L’autosufficienza, l’ideale di un’azienda
Ogni azienda agricola è un’impresa biologica.
Nessun organismo vivente sopravvive se non in simbiosi con altri esseri viventi: l’uomo e gli animali espirano l’anidride carbonica necessaria alla vita vegetativa, mentre le piante producono l’ossigeno necessario all’uomo e all’animale. Le piante assorbono sostanze inorganiche e le trasformano in sostanza organica; l’uomo e l’animale assorbono le sostanze organiche, le distruggono e le mineralizzano.
L’azienda biodinamica mira a diventare un’unità biologica autosufficiente, dove si trovano in equilibrio terra, vegetazione, animali, uomini.
Bisognerebbe cercare di produrre tutto quello che serve per l’azienda all’interno dell’azienda stessa.
Per farlo, un numero proporzionato di animali, una buona quantità di sostanze vegetali e minerali, sono di grande aiuto. E come in un organismo vivente, i processi che si svolgono dovrebbero avere una certa forza per mantenere la salute e la produttività.
È necessario, quindi, lavorare attivamente per stimolare questi processi e in primo luogo l’attività biologica nella terra e quindi la fertilità.
Le leguminose, il sovescio verde, il compost che agirà come un fermento nella terra, il drenaggio e l’aratura per ottenere il giusto equilibrio fra aria e umidità nella terra, l’uso dei preparati biodinamici, sono tutte parti di questo lavoro cosciente.