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212 |MARCH 2016 |LMD
iodynamic Agri -
culture (BDA) is
a spiritual-ethical-
ecological approach
to agriculture. It is
an advanced form
of organic agriculture with
an emphasis on food quality
and soil health, which uses
no synthetic fertilisers
or pesticides.
Austrian scientist Rudolf
Steiner is considered the
pioneer of modern BDA, which
has since become one of the
most sustainable and successful
forms of organic agriculture.
Today, it is practised in over
40 countries across the world.
This concept is not new to
Sri Lankan farmers, who have
grown accustomed to the use of
astrology and spiritual concepts
in indigenous farming. Spiritual
considerations are rated much
higher than astrology, and
universal spiritual linkages
among living organisms
are also considered.
A biodynamic farm is charac -
terised by self-sufficiency and
biodynamic diversity: where
crops and livestock are
integrated; nutrients recycled;
and the health of the soil, crops
and animals – and the farmers,
too – are maintained
Indigenous seed varieties and
breeds best suited to natural
conditions (e.g. bedrock, soil,
weather, flora and fauna, insects,
birds and human populations)
are developed for specific
localities, and other areas as
well. Consideration of the farm
as an ecosystem feeds into
holistic management practices
that embrace the environmental,
social and economic aspects
of the farm.
Its objectives differ signifi -
cant ly from those of
conven tional agriculture
– or agribusiness – which
aims to maximise profits with
mechanical and technological
inputs, for unlimited
exploitation of the Earth’s
resources. In contrast, the
biodynamic model feeds
family and farm workers
first, and then trades surpluses
with the local community.
A central belief is that specific
natural substances are carriers
of forces which create life,
and that celestial rhythms –
primarily, the phases of the
moon – directly affect terrestrial
life. A key difference between
organic and biodynamic farms
is that monocrop production
is common in organic farms.
In ancient farming in this
country, the auspicious time
(nekatha) – which is a moment
or time that’s most auspicious
for a particular occasion, or
commencement of an activity
– is calculated on the basis of
many variables. They include
the nature of the activity,
horoscope of the person who
has to perform the activity,
planetary position, lunar day
and nakshatra during the
period it is to be performed.
To ensure that one is not
challenging natural forces,
an auspicious time from a
horoscope is sought, thereby
beginning an auspicious and
important task when all the
cosmic powers are favourable.
Powers of spirits and beliefs
in gods have been extensively
practised in Sri Lanka for over
a thousand years. Farming
rituals such as the pooja
(offering) – which are carried
out during the annual festival
(mangalya), and other practices
such as pirith, yantra, mantra
and gammadu (ceremonies) are
performed to please the gods –
in the hope of protecting crops
and improving yields. The
outcomes from these rituals
cannot be explained in terms of
modern science and technology,
and merit further study.
It is important to study the
undiscovered spiritual influence
of ancient indigenous Sri
Lankan farming practices
on agricultural productivity.
The common practice of kem
karma is widespread in rural
A kem is a practice, technique
or custom that is followed to
garner protection – for example,
relief from plant disease,
control of pests and protection
of the harvest. A requirement
of kem is that the patient should
wash without speaking or
making too much noise. The
smearing of paddy plants with
ash in the morning was a form
of kem practised in ancient
times. Before smearing ash,
water is drained from the field;
and thereafter, the field is kept
dry for four days.
The scientific basis for this
practice is that, due to the effect
of ash, insects on paddy plants
move down and onto the soil.
The eggs of the insects are
wiped out by the farmer, with
a bundle of keppetiya (croton
lacciferus) leaves. At the end of
four days, the field is inundated
again, and the insects that
moved down due to the effects
of the ash die in the water.
Thus, indigenous crop
protection techniques were
environmentally friendly
and harmless, and had a
solid scientific basis, although
peasants could not (and did not)
explain them in scientific terms.
The most important question
to be answered here is this:
How can these techniques be
used in creating a large-scale,
environmentally sustainable
food system which is capable
of feeding everyone on the
Planet Earth?
As such appropriate and
effective techniques can solve
many problems created by
modern chemical agriculture,
it is imperative that we study
and conduct research with a
view to adopting this age-old
technique in today’s commer -
cialised landscape of agriculture.
Indigenous crop protection
techniques were
environmentally friendly
and harmless, and had
a solid scientific basis…
Akila Wijerathna lauds age-old techniques in the field of agriculture
The writer is a graduate in Agricultural Biotechnology, from Wayamba University.
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