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The Science Behind Biodynamic Preparations: A Literature Review

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Abstract

Biodynamics is a form of organic agriculture first described in the 1920s by Rudolph Steiner, and practitioners can become certified biodynamic farmers by following specified practices. What distinguishes biodynamic from organic certification is the required use of nine preparations thought to improve soils and increase crop yields. This literature review focuses on the published, peer-reviewed science behind the use of biodynamic preparations, with the goal of providing objective information to extension educators, including Master Gardeners.
The Science Behind Biodynamic Preparations:
A Literature Review
Linda Chalker-Scott
1
ADDITIONAL INDEX WORDS. alternative agriculture, DOK studies, homeodynamic,
homeopathic, organic, Rudolph Steiner
SUMMARY. Biodynamics is a form of organic agriculture first described in the 1920s
by Rudolph Steiner, and practitioners can become certified biodynamic farmers by
following specified practices. What distinguishes biodynamic from organic certifi-
cation is the required use of nine preparations thought to improve soils and increase
crop yields. This literature review focuses on the published, peer-reviewed science
behind the use of biodynamic preparations, with the goal of providing objective
information to extension educators, including Master Gardeners.
Major news outlets includ-
ing National Public Radio
(Musiker,2008), Time mag-
azine (McLaughlin, 2007), and the
New York Times (Halweil, 2004) have
featured biodynamic agriculture (or
biodynamics) as the newest version of
organic agriculture. With the high
visibility and promotion of biody-
namic products such as wines (Smith
and Barquin, 2007), farmers and
gardeners alike are increasingly inter-
ested in biodynamics as an alternative
agricultural practice. Extension educa-
tors and Master Gardener volunteers
who receive questions from curious
clients on the topic need science-based
answers—the focus of this literature
review.
THE ORIGINS OF BIODYNAMIC
AGRICULTURE.Biodynamics is an ag-
ricultural management system based
on a series of lectures given by Rudolf
Steiner in 1924 (Steiner, 1958). Over
his lifetime, Steiner became con-
cerned with the degradation of food
produced through farming practices
that increasingly relied on additions
of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides.
Biodynamics were thought to be one
of the first alternative approaches to
modern agriculture, and in 1942 it
was listed by Lord Northborne as
one of three alternative or ‘‘organic’
agricultural methodologies (Paull,
2011).
A philosopher by training, Steiner
sought to influence organic life on
earth through cosmic and terrestrial
forces via nine preparations (Table 1)
that would stimulate vitalizing and
harmonizing processes in the soil
(Kirchmann, 1994). For example,
Preparations 500 and 501 are made
by packing cow manure or silica, re-
spectively, into cow horns and burying
them for a number of months before
use. Steiner believed that cow horns,
by virtue of their shape, functioned as
antennae for receiving and focusing
cosmic forces, transferring them to
the materials inside. After exhuma-
tion, the contents are diluted with an
unspecified amount of water to create
a homeopathic solution, which when
applied to soil (Preparation 500) or
crops (Preparation 501), was thought
to influence root or leaf growth. Six
other compounds (Preparations 502–
507) are extracts of various plants
packed into either the skulls or organs
of animals (e.g., deer bladders, cow
peritonea and intestines) or peat or
manure, where they are aged before
being diluted and applied to compost.
Steiner believed that the chemical
elements contained in these prepara-
tions were carriers of terrestrial and
cosmic forces and would impart these
forces to crops and thus to the humans
that consume them.
Steiner did not believe plants
suffered from disease, but merely
appeared diseased when ‘‘moon in-
fluences’’ in the soil become too strong
(Smith and Barquin, 2007); never-
theless, he recommended a weak in-
fusion of dried horsetail (Equisetum
arvense) for treating soil and crop
fungal diseases (Preparation 508).
For other pests, Steiner recommended
‘pest ashing,’’ a practice whereby
the offending insect, weed, or rodent
species was burnt. The ashes were
then scattered over the fields as a way
of preventing future infestation. Per-
haps, Steiner believed these prepara-
tions and practices would make crops
more resistant to pests and diseases,
reducing the need for pesticides. Un-
fortunately, he gave no rationale for
most of these processes.
In his article, Kirchmann (1994)
states that as Steiner developed his
biodynamic philosophy through med-
itation and clairvoyance, he rejected
scientific inquiry because his methods
were ‘‘true and correct unto them-
selves.’’ Nevertheless, both proponents
and critics of Steiner’s teachings have
attempted to demonstrate the effec-
tiveness of biodynamic preparations
through scientific testing. Much of
the published research has focused on
these nine preparations, possibly be-
cause their use is required by any
farmer wishing to become biodynami-
cally certified (Demeter Association,
2013).
The science behind
biodynamic preparations
Over the last century, biody-
namic agriculture has evolved to in-
clude many nonconventional farming
practices, such as crop rotation, poly-
culture, and cover cropping (Table 2),
which have demonstrable benefits
on land use and crop production.
Steiner’s original teachings did not
include these methodologies, which
along with other practices are the
basis of organic farming as proposed
by Lord Northborne in 1942 (Paull,
2011). In fact, the biodynamic certi-
fication standards (Demeter Associa-
tion, 2013) and those for organic
farming (International Federation of
Organic Agriculture Movements,
2011) are nearly identical except
for the required inclusion of Steiner’s
nine preparations in the former.
These post–Steiner additions
have confounded scientific study of
biodynamics, as many researchers com-
pare biodynamic and conventional
methods to one another. Since mod-
ern biodynamic agriculture includes
well-established organic practices that
improve the soil by adding organic
matter or decreasing compaction, the
comparison may not be valid as the
efficacy of biodynamic preparations
themselves can be masked by these
additional practices. Many organic
methods have significant, positive im-
pacts on such qualities as soil porosity
Department of Horticulture, Washington State Uni-
versity Puyallup Research and Extension Center, 2606
West Pioneer Way, Puyallup, WA 98371-4998
1
Corresponding author. E-mail: lindacs@wsu.edu.
814 December 2013 23(6)
and fertility, beneficial insect and mi-
crobe diversity, pest and disease sup-
pression, and crop quality and yield.
The benefits of these methods have
been reviewed in the scientific litera-
ture (e.g., Dima and Odero,1997;
Gasser and Berg, 2011; Kaval, 2004;
Mason and Spaner, 2006; Pandian
et al., 2005; Turner et al., 2007).
Essentially, the only difference be-
tween organic and modern biody-
namic farming lies in the application
of Steiner’s preparations (Carpenter-
Boggs et al., 2000a; Giannattasio
et al., 2013), which must be ‘‘applied
in minute doses, much like homeo-
pathic remedies are for humans’’ (De-
meter Association, 2013). Therefore,
this review is limited to those studies
that compare organic and biodynamic
systems to one another in which the
only variable is the presence or ab-
sence of biodynamic preparations.
A review of the relevant
research
PREVIOUS REVIEWS.Even after
several decades of research, there are
relatively few refereed, easily accessi-
ble articles on biodynamics. The ear-
liest studies were published in Germany
and other European countries and
had limited international distribu-
tion. Reganold (1995) found many
of these to be of questionable scien-
tific quality and called for more peer-
reviewed publications on the efficacy
of biodynamic preparations. Leiber
et al. (2006) provide an overview of
modern biodynamics and a call to
develop ‘‘a complex, holistic, systemic
form of science . . . appropriate to
biodynamic farming’’ as opposed to
the inconclusive assessment of ‘‘the
effect of individual biodynamic prac-
tices in isolation from the overall
method.’’ More recently, Turinek
et al. (2009) published an update on
biodynamic research progress, but
much of the focus was on long-term
trials and case studies. As a result, their
review of scientific literature was in-
complete and neglected a number of
articles by researchers not associated
with these particular field trials (e.g.,
Carpenter-Boggs et al., 2000b; Jayas-
ree and George, 2006; Stepien and
Adamiak, 2007; Tung and Fernandez,
2007a,b; Valdez and Fernandez,
2008). A review of these latter articles
was incorporated into a book chapter
targeted to gardeners and other non-
scientists (Chalker-Scott, 2010).
THE DOK TRIALS.Much of the
published research on biodynamics
has arisen from the DOK trials, a de-
cades-long field experiment in Ther-
wil, Switzerland, whereby biodynamic
(D), organic (O), and conventional (K
from ‘‘konventional’’) agricultural prac-
tices could be continually compared
(Ma
¨der et al., 2002). This study has
provided a rich trove of scientific in-
formation delineating the differences
between conventional and organic
methodologies. Unfortunately, a flawed
experimental design makes compari-
sons between biodynamic and organic
methods in the DOK trials untenable.
Specifically, the biodynamic treatment
receives farm-sourced, aerobically com-
posted manure along with Steiner’s
biodynamic preparations, whereas
the organic treatment receives
slightly rotted manure from a differ-
ent farm source (Heinze et al., 2010)
and additions of rockdust, potas-
sium, and magnesia (Fliessbach
et al., 2007). Even more significantly,
copper sulfate was used as a broad
spectrum fungicide in the organic treat-
ment until 1991, undoubtedly altering
the microbial community compared
with that found in the biodynamic
treatment. This uncontrolled variation
in experimental treatment calls into
question any purported benefit of bio-
dynamic preparations in the DOK tri-
als, as others have also pointed out
(Carpenter-Boggs et al., 2000a; Heinze
et al., 2010).
Nevertheless, several insights may
be gleaned from the DOK system. Al -
though significant differences were
generally found when comparing
conventional treatments to organic and
biodynamic methods, few differences
have been reported between the latter
two treatments. Presence and abundance
Table 1. Components of biodynamic preparations.
Preparation Ingredients
z
500 Cow manure packed into a cow’s horn
501 Silica from finely ground quartz, mixed with rain water, packed into
a cow’s horn
502 Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) flower heads packed into a stag’s
bladder
503 Chamomile (Matricaria sp.) flower heads fermented in soil
504 Stinging nettle (Urtica sp.) tea
505 Oak (Quercus sp.) bark packed into the skull of a domestic animal
506 Dandelion (Taraxacum officianale) flower heads packed into cow
mesentery
507 Extract from valerian (Valeriana officinalis) flowers
508 Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) tea
z
Species of plants used differ with global geography.
Table 2. A comparison of practices and products used in organic and/or
biodynamic agriculture.
Practice or product Organic Biodynamic
Crop rotation X X
Polyculture/intercropping X X
Cover cropping X X
Low-till or no-till X X
Green manures and compost X X
Biological, cultural, mechanical, and physical
means of pest control
XX
Biodynamic preparations
z
X
Lunar and astrological calendars for
planting, managing, and harvesting crops
X
Menhirs
y
X
Pest ashing
x
X
Sensitive testing
w
X
z
Involves alchemy and homeopathy.
y
Stones used for channeling cosmic energy and radiant fields through geo-acupuncture.
x
Also called ‘‘D8’’ solution.
w
Includes image-forming practices variously called biocrystallization, capillary dynamolysis, morphochromatog-
raphy, sensitive crystallization, and the Steigbild method.
December 2013 23(6) 815
of 11 earthworm species [Lumbricidae
(Pfiffner and Ma
¨der, 1997)] and carabid
beetle (Carabidae) diversity and number
(Pfiffner and Niggli, 1996) were the
same; wheat quality [Triticum aesti-
vum (Langenkamper et al., 2006)]
and disease incidence [Fusarium
head blight (Fusarium poae), micro-
dochium patch (Microdochium nivale);
(Gunst et al., 2006)] were unaffected.
Neither were differences found in
microbial parameters (Heinze et al.,
2010, 2011; Joergensen et al., 2010)
or any soil characteristics (Heinze
et al., 2010), though others research-
ing the DOK plots found increases in
total hydrolysable protein amino
acids (Scheller and Raupp, 2005)
and pH (Birkhofer et al., 2008) in
the biodynamic plots compared with
the organic plots. The practical signif-
icance of these last two findings is not
apparent, nor did the authors specu-
late on possible benefits.
The DOK trials represent a sys-
tems approach to biodynamic re-
search, which has not lent itself well
to traditional scientific experimenta-
tion where variability is controlled. In
the last few decades, other researchers
have studied biodynamic preparations
under more controlled conditions.
SOILS.In the words of one re-
search team (Carpenter-Boggs et al.,
2000a,b), ‘‘no significant differences
were found between soils fertilized
with biodynamic [Preparations 500–
508] vs. nonbiodynamic compost.’’
Other studies confirm a lack of effi-
cacy on soil fertility [Preparations
500–507 (Berner et al., 2008)] and
quality (Reeve et al., 2005), though
the combined application of Prepara-
tions 500–507 and other biodynamic
field sprays were found to be ‘‘mod-
erately effective’’ in increasing soil pH
(Reeve et al., 2011). On the other
hand, organic matter in organically
treated soils (with manure incorpo-
rated as a fertilizer) was higher than
that in unmanured soils treated with
biodynamic Preparations 500–504
(Tung and Fernandez, 2007a), which
may explain why earthworm popula-
tions were also greater than those
under biodynamic treatment (Tung
and Fernandez, 2007a). Similarly,
Foissner (1992) reported enhanced soil
life in organically managed fields com-
pared with those under biodynamic
management, which he attributed to
the quality and quantity of organic
matter in the former plots.
COMPOST.Only a few studies
have looked at the effect of biody-
namic preparations (Preparations
502–507) specifically meant for use
on compost. Carpenter-Boggs et al.
(2000c) reported a consistently higher
pile temperature and more nitrate in
the finished compost using these prep-
arations. However, there were no dif-
ferences in several other variables
measured, including pH, cation ex-
change capacity, moisture content,
and ammonium, potassium, and phos-
phate levels. The significance of these
few differences is unclear. In contrast,
Reeve et al. (2010) found that bio-
dynamic preparations reduced both
compost pile temperature and nitrate
concentration.
MICROBES.Researchers have con-
sistently found no differences in micro-
bial activity (Heinze et al., 2011; Reeve
et al., 2011), biomass (Heinze et al.,
2011), or fungal colonization (Heinze
et al., 2011) in biodynamically treated
soils compared with organically man-
aged soils. Nor have differences been
seen in microbial efficiencies, defined
as dehydrogenase activity per unit
carbon dioxide respiration, dehydro-
genase activity per unit readily miner-
alizable carbon, and respiration per
unit microbial biomass (Reeve et al.,
2005). A single report of greater de-
hydrogenase activity in biodynamically
treated compost linked to greater mi-
crobial activity (Reeve et al., 2010) was
theonlysignicantdifferenceamong
several tested parameters and whose
potential significance was unexplained.
When Preparation 500 was analyzed
for bioactivity in the laboratory, re-
searchers concluded that the product
was unlikely to be either a structural
organic fertilizer or microbial inoculant
at the dosages used in field settings
(Giannattasio et al., 2013).
CROPS.When added to organi-
cally grown crops, biodynamic prepa-
rations have been uniformly ineffective.
Compared with organically managed
systems, additions of biodynamic prep-
arations did not affect yields of cover
crops (Berner et al., 2008), forage
grasses (Reeve et al., 2011), lentil [Lens
culinaris (Carpenter-Boggs et al.,
2000b)], rice [Oryza sativa,Prepara-
tions 500–501 (Garcia-Yzaguirre et al.,
2011)], spelt [Triticum spelta (Berner
et al., 2008)], sunflower [Helianthus
annuus (Berner et al., 2008)], or wheat
(Berner et al., 2008; Carpenter-Boggs
et al., 2000b). At the plant level,
a similar lack of efficacy can be found
in wheat seedling root and shoot
growth (Reeve et al., 2010) or in lettuce
(Lactuca sativa, Preparations 500–501)
nitrogen uptake and usage (Bacchus,
2010). Perhaps not surprisingly, organ-
ically grown soybeans (Glycine max)
fertilized with cow manure were supe-
rior in yield and quality than those
treatedonlywithbiodynamicPrepara-
tions 500–504 (Tung and Fernandez,
2007a,b). But both organically grown
rice (Valdez and Fernandez, 2008) and
cabbage [Brassica oleracea var. capitata
(Bavec et al., 2012)] were ranked
higher in cost-effectiveness (Valdez
and Fernandez, 2008) and consumer
preference (Bavec et al., 2012) than
organic treatments with additional bio-
dynamic preparations. Organically
raised mangoes had significantly greater
phenolics, flavonoids, and antioxidant
activity than those from biodynamic
fields (Maciel et al., 2010), which may
be of importance from a nutritional
standpoint.
Wine makers are particularly in-
terested in biodynamic grapes (Vitis
vinifera), and researchers have pro-
vided some insight into the effective-
ness of the preparations. In a thorough
analysis, Reeve et al. (2005) found
no difference in leaf nutrients or clus-
ter numbers, weights, or yield of
California-grown cultivar Merlot.
Though some small differences were
found in grape chemistry, they were
of ‘‘doubtful practical significance’
according to the authors (Reeve et al.,
2005), leading them to conclude that
‘there is little evidence the biody-
namic preparations contribute to grape
quality.’’ In fact, the finished product
may be negatively affected; in one trial
organically grown California merlot
was notably more preferred by tasters
than the biodynamically grown prod-
uct (Ross et al., 2009).
PESTS AND PATHOGENS.No dif-
ferences were found in weed con-
trol using Preparations 500–508
(Carpenter-Boggs et al., 2000b) or
in cover, species richness, diversity,
and evenness of weed species (Sans
et al., 2011). In one long-term study,
biodynamic Preparations 501 and,
especially, 502 increased disease in-
tensity in organically grown wheat
(Stepien and Adamiak, 2007).
ECONOMICS.Addition of biody-
namic preparations did not increase
economic return (Jayasree and George,
2006) or improve yield (Bacchus,
816 December 2013 23(6)
REVIEWS
2010; Stepien and Adamiak, 2007)
over organic methods. In fact, organ-
ically produced soybeans (Tung and
Fernandez, 2007a) and rice (Valdez
and Fernandez, 2008) were more
profitable than those produced using
biodynamic methods, both in terms
of yield and of production costs.
Addition of biodynamic preparations
not only increases labor and materials
costs but also widens the ecological
footprint of the practice because of
higher machinery use for applying the
preparations (Turinek et al., 2010).
In summary, the peer-reviewed
research published thus far provides
little evidence that biodynamic prep-
arations improve soils, enhance mi-
crobes, increase crop quality or yields,
or control pests or pathogens. Given
the homeopathic nature of the ap-
plied preparations (i.e., extremely low
concentrations of nutrients), it is not
surprising to see a general lack of
efficacy over the benefits provided by
organic methods. Finally, the addi-
tional costs associated with formulat-
ing and applying the preparations
represents an economic loss over and
above that found in an organically
maintained farm or garden.
Evaluating the literature
critically
In considering the current body
of literature on biodynamic agricul-
ture, there are some points to keep in
mind. First, when the number of
comparisons made among treatments
increases, the likelihood of finding
a significant difference also increases,
if only by chance. The way to reduce
this sort of systematic error is to use
a statistical correction factor, which
sets a higher bar for what is consid-
ered ‘‘significant.’’ None of the au-
thors who reported some effect of
biodynamic preparations corrected
for multiple comparisons. This does
not necessarily discount their find-
ings: it simply points out a possible
source of statistical error.
Second, it is tempting for re-
searchers to focus on isolated positive
results: in other words, they highlight
the significant results and have little
to say about the rest, especially in the
article’s abstract or conclusion. Reading
the entire article, not just a summary,
will provide a more complete picture.
Finally, more peer-reviewed re-
search is specifically needed on the
effectiveness of biodynamic prepara-
tions, pest ashing, lunar planting, and
other experimentally testable prac-
tices originally recommended by
Steiner. These studies must be con-
ducted and reviewed with appropriate
scientific rigor to avoid the pitfalls of
faulty experimental design and in-
complete statistical analysis. Without
a robust body of knowledge to con-
sider, it is impossible to judge the
effectiveness of biodynamics as an
alternative agricultural practice.
Much of the work on biody-
namics has been published by just
a few research groups. Scientific ad-
vancement in any topic is strongest
when many researchers work collabo-
ratively as well as independently, con-
ducting exploratory studies in other
crops and in different locations around
the world, and publishing the results
(both positive and negative).
Education without alienation
Extension educators have a fine
line to walk. They need to provide
current, science-based information to
their clients, but they must also be
sensitive to those in their audience
who have opted for value-based belief
systems. Beyfuss and Pritts (1994)
summarized it well: the popularity of
nonscience-based practices has cre-
ated hostility between the scientific
community and many proponents of
biodynamic gardening. Alda (2007)
agrees, stating we’re in a culture that
increasingly holds science as just an-
other belief. Although part of the
tension between science and society
is a cultural shift, the other part is
a failure of agricultural researchers
and educators to draw clear lines
between methods that have been rig-
orously tested and supported, and
those that have not. For example,
a survey administered to agricultural
faculty and practitioners measured
attitudes regarding attributes associ-
ated with conventional and alterna-
tive agricultural practices (Beus and
Dunlap, 1990, 1991). Unfortunately,
‘alternative agriculture’’ in this sur-
vey combined science-based practices
(e.g., organic, sustainable, and low-
input agriculture) with those more
spiritually or philosophically based
(e.g., biodynamics and permaculture).
Thus, the comparisons of attitudes
(and the survey conclusions drawn
from the study) were flawed. If the
comparisons of attitudes had been
made among three categories (con-
ventional, science-based alternative,
and other alternative systems), the
study results would have enabled an
accurate comparison of ‘‘apples to
apples’’ rather than ‘‘apples to or-
anges.’’ The point of this rather lengthy
example is that if academic researchers
do not fully understand the differ-
ences between management systems
that are science based and those that
are not, we can hardly be surprised
when the general public is confused
as well.
To date, there are no clear, con-
sistent, or conclusive effects of bio-
dynamic preparations on organically
managed systems. Other alternative
practices not discussed in this review
have become part of the biodynamic
movement, including use of cosmic
rhythms to schedule various farm
activities and image formation to vi-
sualize nutritional quality of plants.
These practices do not lend them-
selves to rigorous experimental test-
ing, nor do they provide practical
scientific information for improving
crop production. Given the thinness
of the scientific literature and the lack
of clear data supporting the efficacy of
biodynamic preparations, biodynamic
agriculture is not measurably distinct
from organic agriculture and should
not be recommended as a science-based
practice at this time.
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... Both consumers and producers of biodynamic produce are protected by the trademark. Demeter Worldwide is a non-profit organization made up of member countries; each country has its own Demeter organization that must adhere to international production standards (but can also exceed them) [24,25,61,62]. ...
... Biodynamics (BD), as well as related organic and sustainable farming approaches, are gaining popularity. However, there are other areas of BD that are little understood as a science and are shrouded in legend [25]. Although some practitioners claim that biodynamics is a cure-all, it obviously has the potential to improve agricultural and horticultural production while also teaching us about helpful microbes (The Science Behind Biodynamics | EOrganic, n.d.). ...
... They are used to stimulate budding, roots, and other physiologic changes in plants. Several investigations have found plant hormones in BD preparations, such as auxins and cytokinins, or confirmed hormone-like effects on plant growth [5, Fig. 1 Plant immunity stimulation after treatment with silica spray [25] 37]. A study provided a strong indication of a stimulation of natural defense compounds in grapes grown under biodynamic cultivation [20]. ...
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... The number of scientific publications about biodynamic farming in peer-reviewed journals has remained limited, although it has been increasing substantially in the two last decades (Brock, Geier, Greiner, Olbrich-Majer, and Fritz, 2019). Evidence of specific effects are mixed in these studies (Turinek, Grobelnik-Mlakar, Bavec, and Bavec, 2009;Chalker-Scott, 2013), and far from convincing part of the scientific community which remains strongly opposed to biodynamic farming, considering it as a pseudoscience (Parisi et al., 2021). In Italy, a recent bill proposal for acknowledging biodynamic farming as a suitable form of agriculture has generated a strong opposition and a petition by academic scientists (Parisi et al., 2021;Ciliberto, Lo Schiavo, and Vitale, 2022). ...
... Today, biodynamic and other forms of organic farming share many common agricultural practices and principles, such as crop rotation, polyculture and intercropping, cover cropping, low-till or no-till, use of green manures and compost, pest control by biological, cultural, mechanical, and physical means, rather than chemical means (Chalker-Scott, 2013). However, biodynamic farming practices differ by some key characteristics, which can be grouped into three key specific interrelated principles: ...
... Particularly, some academic criticisms have insisted on the failure to find any sound understanding of mechanisms underlying biodynamic preparations (Kirchmann, 1994). Moreover, a strong focus has been put on the mixed results of controlled experiments and comparative trials (Chalker-Scott, 2013). However, the principle of holism and seeing the farm as an individual organism implies that such controlled experiments are limited, as the specific context of each farm is of prime importance (Brock, Geier, Greiner, Olbrich-Majer, and Fritz, 2019). ...
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... They would prefer information on origin at country level compared to the EU/non-EU level. They appear to be more interested in the place of production compared to the place of cultivation of the food [13]. There is a statistically significant difference (p-value 0.01) in the distribution of data between the two groups; those who do not read the declarations on the packaging are generally less concerned about the food quality they consume (Fig. 7). ...
... Food products produced according to biodynamic principles are above the ecological production standard, having their own standards in production and processing [37]. Although there are scientists who are asking for further research to confirm such claims [13]. In Croatia, there is a growing interest of agricultural producers who produce in compliance with the given biodynamic production guidelines, but still do not have a recognizable label on their product, on the packaging. ...
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... Besides the compost, in BIODYN smaller amounts of so-called Cow Pit Pat (CPP) and biodynamic preparations were applied. A dose of 5 kg ha À1 of CPP was applied at sowing, which contained FYM mixed with 0.3% egg shells, 0.5% basalt powder, and 0.01%, respectively of the biodynamic preparations 502-507 (Chalker-Scott, 2013;Yadav, 2010), which was incubated for 45 days. In BIODYN, additionally the biodynamic preparations 500 (cow horn filled with cow dung, 71 g ha À1 ) and 501 (cow horn filled with ground quartz crystals, 2.5 g ha À1 ) (Chalker-Scott, 2013) were applied 5 times to the soil during each crop. ...
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Organic matter management can improve soil structural properties. This is crucial for agricultural soils in tropical regions threatened by high rainfall intensities. Compared to conventional farming, organic farming is usually deemed to increase organic carbon and improve soil structural properties such as stability and permeability. However, how much, if any, buildup of organic carbon is possible or indeed occurring, also depends on soil type and environmental factors. We compared the impact of seven years of organic farming (annually 13.6 t ha−1 of composted manure) with that of conventional practices (2 t ha−1 of farmyard manure with 150–170 kg N ha−1 of mineral fertilizers) on soil structural properties. The study was conducted on a Vertisol in India with a two‐year crop rotation of cotton‐soybean‐wheat. Despite large differences in organic amendment application, organic carbon was not significantly different at 9.6 mg C g−1 on average in the topsoil. However, the size distribution of water‐stable aggregates shifted towards more aggregates <137 μm in the organic systems. Cumulative water intake was lower compared to the conventional systems, leading to higher runoff and erosion. These changes might be related to the lower pH and higher exchangeable sodium in the organic systems. Our results indicate that higher application of organic amendments did not lead to higher soil organic carbon and associated improvement in soil structures properties compared to integrated fertilization in this study. Chemical properties may dominate soil aggregation retarding the uptake and integration of organic amendments for sustainable agricultural intensification in tropical, semi‐arid climates. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... The biodynamic agriculture has higher requirements compared to the EU or the NOP standard (i.e. composting, circular economy, set-aside land), but also features measures as the biodynamic preparations, which are not scientifically proven (Chalker-Scott, 2013;Carpenter-Boggs, Reganold and Kennedy, 2000). ...
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Description, carbon and other benefits, drawbacks and barriers of grassland-related practices. Chapters: 30. Conservation of permanent grassland 31. Grassland diversification 32. Restoration of degraded grassland 33. Conversion of cropland to grassland 34. Improved pasture management 35. Grazing exclusion and rotational grazing 36. Pastoralism Book DOI: 10.4060/cb6595en
... The biodynamic agriculture has higher requirements compared to the EU or the NOP standard (i.e. composting, circular economy, set-aside land), but also features measures as the biodynamic preparations, which are not scientifically proven (Chalker-Scott, 2013;Carpenter-Boggs, Reganold and Kennedy, 2000). ...
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During the last decades, soil organic carbon (SOC) attracted the attention of a much wider array of specialists beyond agriculture and soil science, as it was proven to be one of the most crucial components of the earth’s climate system, which has a great potential to be managed by humans. Soils as a carbon pool are one of the key factors in several Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 15, “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss” with the SOC stock being explicitly cited in Indicator 15.3.1. This technical manual is the first attempt to gather, in a standardized format, the existing data on the impacts of the main soil management practices on SOC content in a wide array of environments, including the advantages, drawbacks and constraints. This manual presents different sustainable soil management (SSM) practices at different scales and in different contexts, supported by case studies that have been shown with quantitative data to have a positive effect on SOC stocks and successful experiences of SOC sequestration in practical field applications. Volume 3 includes a total of 49 practices that have a direct impact on SOC sequestration and maintenance in cropland, grassland, integrated systems and farming approaches.
... The biodynamic agriculture has higher requirements compared to the EU or the NOP standard (i.e. composting, circular economy, set-aside land), but also features measures as the biodynamic preparations, which are not scientifically proven (Chalker-Scott, 2013;Carpenter-Boggs, Reganold and Kennedy, 2000). ...
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Increasing awareness of sustainability in the agri-food sector is leading to a gradual transition toward lower-impact farming systems, such as organic and biodynamic farming. The environmental performance of organic wines has largely been compared to that of conventional wines, and few researchers have investigated the differences between organic and biodynamic wine production from an environmental point of view. Therefore, in this study, the environmental profiles of two organic and two biodynamic wines produced in two areas in Northeast Italy were assessed by performing a “cradle-to-gate” analysis according to the life-cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. Results were used both to compare organic and biodynamic vitiviniculture and to draw overall conclusions on the environmental performance of each of the analyzed wines in order to identify environmental hotspots and provide recommendations to stakeholders. Production of the glass bottles was identified as the main source of environmental burden in all four systems, followed either by the production and use of fertilizers and pesticides, or the use of agricultural machinery. Results also showed that biodynamic wines seem to be responsible for lesser environmental impacts than organic ones.
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The popularity of organic food and the farming area managed according to organic agriculture practices have been increasing during the last years. It is not clear, whether foods from organic and conventional agriculture are equal with respect to nutritional quality. We chose wheat (Triticum aestivum L., cv. Titlis) as one of the most important crop plants to determine a range of substances relevant for human nutrition in crops from organic and conventional agriculture systems. Wheat grains of 2003 originating from a long term field experiment, the Swiss DOK trial, consisting of bio-dynamic, bio-organic and conventional farming systems were used. Thousand seed weight, protein content, phosphate levels, antioxidative capacity, levels of phenols, fibre, fructan, oxalate and phytic acid were determined in whole wheat meal from the various organic and conventional growing systems of the DOK trial. Levels of these substances fell into a range that is known to occur in other wheat crops, indicating that wheat from the DOK trial was not special. Clear-cut differences were observed for none-fertilised wheat, which was significantly lowest in thousand seed weight, protein and significantly highest in total oxalate. For the majority of the nutritionally important substances analysed, there were no significant differences between bio-dynamic, bio-organic, and conventional growing systems. Only protein content and levels of fibres were statistically different. Taken together, the magnitude of observed variations was very small. The results of our investigations do not provide evidence that wheat of one or the other agriculture system would be better or worse.
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In a long-term comparison of agricultural systems, bio-dynamic, organic and conventional farming have been compared since 1978. The treatments differ mainly in plant protection management and fertilization (organic vs. mineral, and intensity). The experimental field is situated on a Luvisol from loess in Therwil (Switzerland). Here, the fauna of beneficial epigaeic arthropods (carabids, staphylinids and spiders) in differently cultivated winter wheat plots was investigated with pitfall traps (live catches) in 1988, 1990 and 1991. Compared with the conventional plots (= 100%), the bio-dynamic plots contained 193% of epigaeic arthropods, the organic plots 188%. The activity- density of carabids, staphylinids and spiders was higher in the bio-dynamic and the organic than in the conventional plots in all three years. In two out of three years, the difference between the conventional and the biodynamic, organic plots was significant. For carabids, the differences between treatments were most pronounced in spring. In the biological plots, the species number of carabids was higher in each year than in the conventional ones: On average bio-dynamic plots contained 18–24 species, organic plots 19–22 species and the conventional ones 13–16 species. The frequency distribution of the carabid species was also more even in the bio-dynamic and the organic plots. The influences of plant protection and fertilization on epigaeic arthropod populations are discussed.
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In a long-term trial, the earthworm populations of two biological farming systems, two conventional systems and one control treatment were compared in a seven year crop rotation on a Luvisol from loess. The earthworms were investigated by handsorting at four dates during 1990–92. Nicodrilus longus (Ude), N. nocturnus (Evans), N. caliginosus (Savigny) and Allolobophora rosea (Savigny) were the dominant earthworm species in all treatments. The earthworm biomass and density, the presence of anecic species, and the number of juveniles were significantly higher in the biological than in the conventional or unfertilized plots. In addition, more earthworm species were found in the biological plots. In this trial, plant protection management seems to be the main factor responsible for the differences in earthworm populations.
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Soybean seed production is a challenge especially during the wet season in Vietnam. Organic production can add value to the enterprise but has not been verified as a viable option. The study was conducted in the 2005 wet season in the Mekong Delta to compare soybean productivity, seed quality and economics of 'OMDN111,' a recently introduced and formally bred variety, and 'Namvang,' a traditional variety, under four production practices: 'organic' (cow manure at 40-105-10 NPK and selected botanicals); 'biodynamic' (biodynamic preparations); 'chemical' (synthetic fertilizers at 40-60-30 NPK and insecticides); and control (no inputs). Treatments were arranged in a 4 x 2 factorial (with production practice as main plot and variety as subplot) in randomized complete block design with three replications. The results indicated that 'organic' is more effective than the 'chemical' practice in soybean seed production. Based on the circular paper chromatographic pattern of the seed extract, which indicates formative or life force, biological complexity and enzyme activity, differences between varieties and among production practices were apparent. With 'organic' and 'biodynamic' practices, the seed of 'Namvang' appeared to have stronger and more complex chromatographic patterns than 'OMDN111.' 'Namvang' had smaller seeds, higher seed yield, higher seed quality (germination and vigor at harvest and after 6 weeks storage), and higher protein content than 'OMDN111.' This was most pronounced under 'organic' practice. In general, 'organic' practice gave the greatest increase in soil organic matter, earthworm population, seed yield and quality, and net returns. 'Biodynamic' practice was a close second or third but generally not significantly different from 'organic' and 'chemical' (control was generally lowest) in terms of number of filled pods, seed yield, leaf area index and root nodule fresh weight. Earthworm population and organic matter was lowest under 'chemical' practice. Pest incidence-related parameters did not affect yield differences.
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Biodynamic agriculture is a type of organic agriculture which has been applied successfully to different crops, including rice. Due to the lack of published studies comparing biodynamic and organic rice, the objective of the present study was to compare the performance of rice (Oryza sativa L.) under these two agronomical methods. Two varieties were transplanted mechanically in Pego-Oliva Natural Park (Alicante, Spain) under continuous flooding, without fertilization or rotation. Grain yield was not significantly different between methods of culture (4,188 vs 4,237 kg ha-1 under organic and biodynamic agriculture, respectively). In our study, grain yield was not significantly different between varieties either (4,228 vs 4,199 kg ha-1 for 'Bomba' and 'Albufera', respectively), but whole grain milling yield was higher in 'Albufera' than in 'Bomba' (66% vs 55.4%). It is concluded that in these conditions and with these varieties, both methods yield equally.
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Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) is the world's most widely grown crop, cultivated in over 115 nations. Organic agriculture, a production system based on reducing external inputs in order to promote ecosystem health, can be defined as a system that prohibits the use of synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides and genetically modified organisms. Organic agriculture is increasing in popularity, with a 60% increase in the global acreage of organically managed land from the year 2000 to 2004. Constraints that may be associated with organic grain production include reduced yields due to soil nutrient deficiencies and competition from weeds. Global wheat breeding efforts over the past 50 yr have concentrated on improving yield and quality parameters; in Canada, disease resistance and grain quality have been major foci. Wheat varieties selected before the advent of chemical fertilizers and pesticides may perform differently in organic, low-input management systems than in conventional, high-input systems. Height, early-season growth, tillering capacity, and leaf area are plant traits that may confer competitive ability in wheat grown in organic systems. Wheat root characteristics may also affect competitive ability, especially in low-input systems, and more research in this area is needed. The identification of a competitive crop ideotype may assist wheat breeders in the development of competitive wheat varieties. Wheat varieties with superior performance in low-input systems, and/or increased competitive ability against weeds, could assist organic producers in overcoming some of the constraints associated with organic wheat production.
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This book documents current practices in organic agriculture and evaluates their strengths and weaknesses. All major aspects of organic agriculture are explored including historical background and underlying principles, soil fertility management, crop and animal production, breeding strategies, crop protection, animal health and nutrition, animal welfare and ethics, economics and marketing, standards and certification, environmental impacts and social responsibility, food quality, research, education and extension. The book has 18 chapters and a subject index. A special feature of this book is a series of 5 'Special Topics', smaller sections that address key questions or challenges facing organic agriculture. These sections are intended to provide a more detailed analysis of specific issues that cannot be covered as sufficiently in the larger general chapters.
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Effects of adopting a biodynamic calendar for timing the cultural operations and a manurial schedule involving two biodynamic preparations (separately or together) and panchagavyam (a mixture of 5:1 cow dung and ghee in a 5:3:3:5 cow's urine, curd, milk, and water formulation) in conjunction with organic manures as well as 'organic manures alone', and the recommended practices of nutrient management (RP) on yield, quality, and economics of chilli cultivation were evaluated in a field experiment. Results show that RP (i.e., application of 20 Mg ha -1 farmyard manure+75:40:25 N:P 2 O 5 :K 2 O kg ha -1) significantly improved fruit yield, net returns, and B: C ratio. Although biodynamic calendar and biodynamic preparations had no spectacular effects on the characters studied, application of organic manures generally promoted fruit quality in chilli. Indeed, panchagavyam + organic manure demonstrated the maximum shelf life and the 'organic manures alone' (on nutrient equivalent basis) showed the highest ascorbic acid content of chilli fruits.
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Evidence for the role of silica in plants is reviewed with respect to the application of silicate based sprays in biodynamic agriculture. There is research indicating improved resistance to pests, disease, drought and other stresses on plants from application of silica fertilisers and sprays. There is also evidence of improved nutrient uptake. Experiments with field grown lettuce were undertaken to evaluate the effects of the biodynamic field-spray preparations and organic composts on lettuce yield, nutrient uptake, nitrogen metabolism, antioxidant activity and soil organism activity. Higher fresh yields of field lettuce were observed with organic composts than with a mixture of diammonium phosphate and calcium ammonium nitrate applied at similar N and P application rates. Although lettuce yields were higher when the compost and plants were treated with biodynamically prepared silica sprays, the variation in lettuce fresh yield in the field was high (c.v. 28%) and the effects of the sprays were not statistically significant (p 0.05). Irrespective of fertiliser source, composts or soluble fertiliser, silica sprays produced lettuce at harvest (47 DAT) with higher dry matter content and crude protein in fresh leaves. However, application of silica spray had no statistically significant effect on lettuce fresh head yield, N uptake, plant sap nitrate concentrations, NO 3 to TKN ratio, and amino acid content. Further investigation of management practises, such as the use of biodynamic field sprays, which may contribute to nutrient uptake and assimilation and improved product quality within an organic system, is recommended.
Article
Commencing in 1980, a long-term experiment was carried out to compare mineral fertilizers (MIN), composted manure (CM) and composted manure with application of biodynamic preparations (CMBD) at three different fertilizer application rates. With mineral fertilizer, the lowest contents of 0.80% C and 0.069% N, with manure 0.90% C and 0.080% N, and with manure and biodynamic preparations 1.08% C and 0.094%? were achieved in the topsoil. The differences between these treatments were statistically significant. 42.9 to 53.7% of Nt was bound in 18 total hydrolyzable protein amino acids (THAA) including asparagine and glutamine. Amino acid contents in the hydrolyzates of the topsoil were significantly different according to fertilizer type: MIN < CM < CMBD. The higher contents in manure fertilized plots were observed even at the lowest rate of fertilizer application. This indicates that differences between the treatments do not depend only on the amino acid supply from manure, but are also influenced by an altered amino acid metabolism in the soil.