What does biodynamics mean? ‘Bio’ comes from the Greek word which means life, and ‘dynamic’ means a moving force. Hence biodynamics is life as a moving force.
Biodynamic farming principles and methods are based on the teachings of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner who in 1924 outlined a method of agriculture that seeks to actively work with the health-giving forces of nature. He developed the technique in response to the degradation and nutrient depletion of European soils.
Biodynamics is the oldest non-chemical agricultural movement in the West, predating, by 20 years, the organic farming movement.
Biodynamics is about gardening using a set of eight homeopathic-like animal, mineral and plant based preparations. These preparations are used at certain times to align with the rhythms of the Earth, Sun, Moon, planets and constellations. Followers of this method of farming believe that energy and life comes from the astronomic features in a rhythm, and activities such as planting and adding preparations are keyed to the astronomical events.
Biodynamic farmers attempt to understand and work with life processes and they try to build their understanding of the mineral processes used in conventional agriculture. Biodynamics is a holistic system that considers the farm an organic system. As such, it must include livestock.
Organic and biodynamics both consider a healthy soil is the foundation of healthy plants, animals and people. In fact, a healthy, well-structured soil, rich in humus and high in biological activity is a prerequisite for any sustainable agricultural system.
Decades of use of biodynamic methods on Australian farms has shown that rich, healthy soil qualities can be effectively promoted using biodynamic techniques. These techniques also reverse soil degradation.
Biodynamic farming incorporates some controversial practices eg the use of eight soil and plant amendments called preparations numbered 500 to 507. The first (500) is based on cow manure packed into female cow horns and buried on the autumnal solstice for six months, and dug up at the spring solstice. The contents of the horn are then mixed with a large amount of water, then sprinkled over the soil. This preparation is used to enliven the soil, increasing the microflora and the availability of nutrients and trace elements.
Preparation 501 is a ground horn silica that is scattered on the crop and is said to enhance the light and warmth assimilation of the plant, leading to better fruit and seed development with improved flavour, aroma, colour and nutritional quality. The other preparations are various plant substances which are added to compost.
Pest and disease control on a biodynamic farm is usually managed by developing the farm as a total organism/system. When specific pest and weed control is required products are made from the weeds and pests themselves.
People wanting to learn more about biodynamic have the opportunity of working on biodynamic farms as part of the WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) scheme.