What is Biodynamic Farming?
Aug 29 2015 Read 3415 Times
We’ve all heard of organic farming, which is becoming more popular as the backlash against harmful pesticides and the moral quandaries surrounding GMO crops grow. But what about biodynamic farming?
Biodynamic farming embodies all of the same principles as organic farming – use of natural fertilisers, humane treatment of animals, emphasis of soil health and food quality – but takes things one step further. It does this by incorporating the idea that a farm, in and of itself, is a life form and should work in harmony with other powers and forces on Earth.
Whilst biodynamic farming might sound a little wishy-washy to some, there are 123 biodynamic farmers tilling more than 10,000 acres of land in the USA alone. Though it entails a high workload, both in terms of time labouring and expense, many farmers swear by the tastiness of the crops they produce and the beneficial and harmonious relationship they share with nature.
The Six Tenets of Biodynamic Farming
There are six main principles upon which the ideals of biodynamic farming rest. These are as follows:
- Plant diversity. This idea mixes different crops together to ensure a diverse array of nutrients in the soil; if one plant is particularly needy of a certain substance, one which grows alongside it may well release it into the ground.
- Crop rotation. Working on a similar principle to the tenet above, crop rotation ensures diversity of the soil which is essential for maintaining healthy crops. Mono-cropping, a fairly widespread practice, completely misses out on this advantage.
- Animal life. Having an assortment of animals working in harmony with agriculture can keep pests down to a minimum, increase fertility of the soil and reduce parasites.
- Composting. By recycling organic waste, such as manure, food scraps and other materials, farmers are able to create humus. When spread on the field, the humus works as a counterbalance to the nitrogen in the soil, achieving its peak condition.
- Homeopathic solutions. Extracting minerals and nutrients from manure to spray on crops can be effectively used to battle against fungal infections of the produce, stimulate humus and increase composting efficiency. The use of digestate as an organic fertiliser is one modern technique which is an interesting alternative to homeopathic solutions.
- Life force. This last principle is what most sets biodynamic farming apart from organic methods. It is the acknowledgement that the stars, moon and seasonal patterns have as much of an effect on crop yield and agricultural success as do the more accepted disciplines of physics, chemistry and biology.
Clearly, biodynamic is a very alternative way of approaching farming. But in a world where we’re becoming increasingly aware of our fractious relationship with the Earth and how many of our practices have been steadily killing it for the last century in particular, biodynamic farming could just hold the key to a more sustainable way to grow our crops.
Image Source: Biodynamic Farm in Tuscany, Italy
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