What is Biodynamics Agriculture?
Biodynamic agriculture, or simply ‘biodynamics,’ is a farming system based on deep ecological principles that arose as a reaction to the spread of specialised agriculture and inorganic fertilisers at the turn of the twentieth century. In terms of methodological beliefs, biodynamic farming stands apart from other systems with its use of nine distinct preparations, consisting of extracts from various sources (minerals, plants, and animal manure) which are applied in minute proportions to plants, the soil, or compost.
In many ways, biodynamics is similar to traditional organic farming systems, especially in the biological and cultural principles guiding farming practices. However, it is distinct from other organic farming systems because it incorporates into its farming practices certain spiritual principles that aim to tap into cosmic and non-physical forces believed to exert an enriching influence on the farm and on the living organisms (human and non-human) that inhabit it.
Biodynamics thus combines biological practices, such as established organic farming methods that bolster soil health, and dynamic practices intended to enhance its metaphysical aspects (such as boosting the farm’s life energy) and make the farm’s rhythms coincide with Nature’s (such as scheduling planting in time with the phases of the moon).
In encouraging planting by lunar phases, biodynamics acknowledges that in the same manner that the Earth’s tidal movements and magnetism are influenced by its relative positions to the moon and the sun, so are the phases of plant growth. The idea is that the waxing and waning moon phases exert different influences on plants.
The biodynamics planting calendar recognises that in the days leading to the first quarter, the moon’s gravity is weakening relative to the Earth’s but intensity of moonlight is increasing. It is believed that this lunar phase induces good growth of both the root system and the leaves. Growth is increasing in a balanced manner.
In the second quarter leading to the full moon, lunar gravity grows stronger relative to Earth which leads to slower root growth. But leaf growth continues to spread as moonlight approaches full intensity. If root development has been good in previous stages, the root system will be able to efficiently deliver water and nutrients to the leaves, resulting in good growth.
During the third quarter period, decreasing moonlight and weakening lunar gravitation suggest different activities for the biodynamic farmer. At this stage, leaf growth slows down whilst root growth picks up again as Earth’s gravity tugs at the plant’s roots. The third quarter is a good time to transplant seedlings since the roots are active — minimising shock of transplantation and enhancing development of the root system. Seeds with long germination times (more than two weeks) should be sowed at this time to put them in good position for sprouting in the subsequent new moon to first quarter period.
In the fourth or last quarter, there is no moonlight and relatively stronger lunar gravity. Both root development and leaf growth will slacken. Where there was a balanced surge in growth during the
first quarter, there is now a balanced slowdown in growth during the last quarter. In the biodynamic planting calendar, this is a period of rest for the plant, giving it time to prepare for the next surge with the onset of the next lunar cycle.
Biodynamic practices also recognise other forces beyond chemistry, physics and gravity. Vital life energy and astral forces are integral parts of biodynamic agriculture. For the biodynamic farmer, farming is not just livelihood; it is a way of life.