Consumption of organic food is preferred to avoid toxic contaminants such as pesticides but even organic food lacks vital nutrients if grown in nutrient devoid soil. Regenerative farming methods are not addressed by organic farming and this is what makes biodynamic farming so indispensable.
There is a yearly refresher workshop conducted in all food producing farms to renew their Demeter Certification and it is issued by the Biodynamic Association of India which is the authority of the certification process carried out by the International certification Office of Demeter International e.V.
The Demeter Certification is based on the principles of Rudolf Steiner, founder of the biodynamic approach to agriculture, an Austrian scientist and respected philosopher in his time, who later came to prominence for his spiritual-scientific approach to knowledge called anthroposophy.
Steiner was one of the first acclaimed figures to warn that the widespread use of chemical fertilizers would lead to the deterioration of soil, plant and animal health and the resulting enfeeblement of food.
He was also the first to introduce the standpoint of the farm as a single, self-sustaining organism that thrives through biodiversity, the integration of crops and livestock and the creation of a closed-circuit system of fruitfulness. Steiner also presented a unique and all-inclusive technique to soil, plant, animal and human health that recognizes the importance of the interrelatedness of cosmic and earthly influences. With this knowledge, he developed a set of homeopathic preparations which were to be used by biodynamic farmers on soil, compost and plants that help build up the farm’s inherent immune system and increase vitality.
The goal of holding these certification marks is to protect the integrity of Biodynamic agriculture in the commercial marketplace. In order to legally use them in reference to a product or farm, the product has to meet the Demeter processing standards, and the farm has to meet the Demeter farm standard. This ensures that the definition of Biodynamic is not utilised for purely marketing reasons or misused through individual explanation but instead is inextricably linked with the farming standard itself as defined by Rudolf Steiner.
The most important principle is that Demeter farmers must see their farms as a living, unique organism. Each part depends on the other and each part serves the whole. Humans, plants, animals and soil all working together in coexistence. Mother earth is a living creature just like us humans with microbes floating in the air and soil and how they are to be utilised for the enhancement of soil fertility and full plant maturity.
The preparation of compost which is the humification of organic matter and essential in biodynamic agriculture. Biodynamic compost needs to be made into a heap into which the six biodynamic compost preparations need to be added. The preparations act on the compost and especially on the soil where it is spread. Biodynamic preparations strengthen the quality of the compost by the stabilisation of nitrogen and other nutrients, multiplying microbial activity, and increasing responsiveness to the composting process.
The compost needs to be made up of fresh cow dung collected from a lactating cow and need to be mixed with 6 Biodynamic compost preparations ranging from 502 to 507: Yarrow preparation (502), Camomile preparation (503), Nettle preparation (504), Oak bark preparation (505), Dandelion preparation (506) and Valerian preparation (507).
The cow dung and the biodynamic preparations need to be thoroughly combined for approximately half an hour till the smell of the cow dung had vanished. The freshly prepared compost needs to be placed in a pit which is dug in the soil measuring approximately 3 ft long, 2.5 feet wide and ½ a foot deep. The compost is then covered with jute.
The harvesting calendar according to biodynamic practices is based on the alignment of the planets, cycles and rhythms of the moon – Full moon to new moon, moon opposite Saturn, ascending and descending moon, moon nodes, apogee perigee and moon in zodiac constellations – as well as how the lunar cycles help increase the yield of crops and how to utilize the two phases of the lunar cycle to influence farming activities: Lunar Gravity and Moonlight.
The next Biodynamic preparations need to be combined before sunrise which are Preparations 500 and 501. The application of preparations Horn Manure 500 and Horn Silica 501 before sunrise energises the soil and bring healing, vitality, and increases productivity of the farm and garden.
These preparations are to be stirred for one hour in clean and pure water, alternately clockwise and anti-clockwise forming a vortex. These energized mixtures are then sprayed and applied on the soil in the late afternoon and evening when the moon was in its descending path. The benefits of following this biodynamic practice results in the reenergizing of the earth, better root activity, increased soil micro-life, well-regulated lime and nitrogen levels and improved release of trace elements.
Together, the biodynamic spray and compost preparations bring plants into a dynamic relationship with soil, water, air, warmth, and cosmos to help them mature in a healthy and balanced way, access the full spectrum of nutrients needed, and become more resilient to pests, diseases, and extreme climate changes.
(The author is chairman of Makaibari Tea and Trading Company Private Limited)