Central to bio-agricultural farming systems is good environmental management, both above and below the soil. Weeds are useful indicators of imbalances in soil. Farmers learn to understand their purpose and can obtain relief from weeds and pest disease through developing active, healthy soil and maintaining natural biological processes.Management strategies based on an understanding of these biological cycles and other interactions are the main tools for replacing reliance on synthetic inputs such as artificial herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, drenches, super phosphate and urea.
Biodynamic agriculture originated in 1924 based on Rudolf Steiner’s indications and has been further developed by thousands of farmers all over the world.
A distinguishing feature of biodynamic farming is: The use of nine special preparations made from mineral, plant or animal extracts. These are usually fermented and applied in highly diluted proportions to compost, to the soil or directly onto the plants after dilution and specialised stirring procedures. The preparations are intended to help moderate and regulate biological processes, soil fertility and photosynthesis among others.
Biodynamic farmers aim to develop soil rich in humus and other essential nutrients. The humus content of soil - greatly increased by bio-agriculture - is principally made up of water and micro organisms., These help to bind soil particles and retain soil nutrients.
Among the humus-building techniques in biodynamic farming are the following: Use of special preparations to stimulate biological activity. Application of composts containing biodynamic preparations.Use of cover crops and green manuring. Crop rotation and companion planting. Appropriate tillage, at the correct soil moisture level, using suitable equipment. Addition of rock dusts as necessary, to adjust acidity and supplement availability of key nutrients.
Biodynamic preparations and soil activators are cost effective. Input costs are approximately $15.00(AU) per hectare per year. Biodynamic preparations applied over large areas by air, are extremely cost effective, with costs as low as $5 per hectare, producing excellent commercial results.
Graziers using biodynamics, find animals have improved fertility, cud earlier each feed cycle, indicating the higher nutritional value of biodynamic feed. They also provide about 10% extra carcass weight to the butcher.
Biodynamic grain cropping increases soil quality, compared to chemical cropping, which leaves soil degraded. Biodynamic grain cropping produces higher protein levels across most seasons. It produces higher yields in poor seasons, with normal to slightly lower yields in good seasons, compared to chemical cropping regimes. These higher protein levels balance any reduction in grain yield during good seasons. Yields improve as soil humus levels build over time, allowing farmers to pull the same plough with lower horse-power tractors as the soil improves.