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The science behind biodynamic gardening

 
Greta Fields
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For everybody puzzled by using the moon and stars to plant by:
A scientist and agronomist, Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, studied soil all his life and determined that soil pH changes according to the time of day and position of moon and stars.
He attended Steiner's course in the 1920s, then experimented on a farm in America. His farm is still being operated, and they have books and calendars to help people interested in biodynamic gardening. It's easy to find on the Internet.
Pfeiffer eventually published all his own studies three small books. These books are jam-packed with tables -- scientific tables -- based upon a lifetime of research proving there is a scientific basis to planting by moon and stars! he was publsihed by demand. originally, he had 40 essays n journals.
I am still learning about Pfeiffer. He was one of the main agronomists trying to promote no-till agriculture during the Dust Bowl. However, he was drowned out by commercial interests wanting to market fertilizers and machinery. Pfeiffer was already warning about the dangers of using artificial fertilizers back in the first half of this century. He was already warning people not to damage the microbiotic structure of soil. He was already warning about the problems with plowing and use of rototillers. He invented a soils test. It seems to me, he must have been the father of organic farming in America.
He has great essays on compost. After reading these essays, I realized how little I knew. Only an agronomist would appreciate the tables. However, the articles are chock full of intersting subject matter for lay people like me I went out and built a pile of rotting logs in woods, to gather humus, right after I read his book.
I don't have his essays on planting according to constellations and moon etc., but I definitely want to get them. It makes sense that energy affects pH and growth. Even your hands hae a "spiritual" influence on plants. If you rub your hands together, they get hot from all the energy. What if I warmed up my beans in myhands, I wonder?
I only have the third volume of his articles, and here are some of its contents: New Directions in Agriculture, Definition of Standards, The Organic Chemical Controversy in Agriculture, The Decline of American Agriculture, How to Buy a Farm, Shall we Plow? , The BioDynamic Method Can Produce Quantity Too; Organic Matter in Soil; How Moist is Moist?; Mulching -- Right or Wrong?Observations of Biodynamic and Mineral Treatment of Soil; The Treatment of Soils with Regard to Humus and Structure; Soil Profiles -- a Diagnostic Means.;
 
Judith Browning
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Greta, thanks for such an inspiring post...I am interested. I plant by the moon in kind of a shot loose way...I believe it matters...I just don't have an understanding of why...so I am constantly looking up what phase of the moon and sign for planting anything in particular.
 
Greta Fields
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Judith, thanks.
I just heard some intriguing information on this website that is related to "spiritual" gardening. A soil scientist in one of their videos is saying that the clay has a crytalline structure with an electrical charge, and otherparts of the soil are also charged: Humus has a negative charge, whereas many other substances that nurture polants have positive charges. So, you can see where heavenly energy, or spiritual energy, could definitely have an affect on soil. It really just makes sense, to think that the moonlight might have an effect on seeds which need that kind of energy to germinaate, or that some things like being planted in darkness.
I don't feel like I need science to justify thinking that gardening has a spiritual aspect to it. I am part Cherokee, by the way (NC ancestors, maybe some Georgians), and they think that plants respond and emote, that trees can carry messages. This is NOT all hocus pocus. a Message will echo a long distance off trees and carry further, actually, than through a blank, empty field. I have notice4d that where I live. I used to never hear noises up here. When the trees grew up between my house and a road, I began hearing cars.
 
Chris Kott
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I heard that pollen is negatively charged and the part of the flower that accepts the pollen for fertilization (I can't remember whether it's the pistil or stamen, but I think it's the latter) is positively charged. I like seeing things like this, because if we can understand what's going on, we have a chance of optimizing it, or of better designing our systems to work with it.

I obviously need to do some reading. I hadn't realised that the light of the moon was part of the deal. I had thought it was merely the moon's gravitational influence, probably on water and nutrient uptake.

Any links anyone can provide to places where the mechanisms are discussed in detail would be greatly appreciated. Or anyone who cares to speculate from available evidence. Or venture a guess. Shoot the shit.

I'd like to hear any first-hand accounts about the whole deal, but specifically about composts, innoculants, foliar sprays, teas, and that ground-up quartz innoculation.

I was also wondering if anyone into biodynamics had read that thread on innoculating overgrazed pasture with diluted raw milk to effect a rapid regeneration and improvement in standing grazing. I'll see if I can find it to post it.

-CK
 
Adam Klaus
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Raw milk sprays are a common practice in modern Biodynamics. 'What' is does is improve the health of the vegetation it is sprayed on. 'Why' is a bit more of a mystery, I sure dont know. Milk sprays are good for any degraded pasture, not sure about overgrazed specifically, that would indicate a need for rest. Milk sprays are also used in instances of plant sickness. Interestingly enough, I am familiar with milk sprays and their beneficial effects, but have never used them. For whatever reason, I have never really had plant pest or sickness problems. And my pastures have never been degraded in any way. But dilute raw milk sprays, along with dilute raw honey sprays are well accepted for their health boosing qualities when applied to growing plants and soil.
 
Greta Fields
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I do not know a link to this topic. I got my info from a book by Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, a soil scientist during the Dust Bowl era in America. He had taken Rudolf Steiner's class in Europe. If you search his name on Google, there are a lot of links. His farm is still going, and they have those calendars etc. I don't know enough about it yet ....I am just looking into this myself.
It makes since that milk regenerates pasture, since it would replace whatever the cow removed.
and it wouldn't grow hardly anything. Two days ago I found a giant vegetable growing at the base of a locust tree stump, and I thought, AH-HAH, maybe I just need to put back what I removed!!! Now, little locusts sprout here and there. I think I will mow them, but let the roots stay there....not rake them out with machines.
 
Adam Klaus
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+1 for Ehrenfried Pfeiffer

He brought Biodynamics to America, and taught a much more practical Biodynamics than what one gets from reading Steiner directly.
One of the unsung heros of good farming!
 
Chris Kott
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Good call. If you don't want them there, it's just chop and drop.

As to the raw milk innoculation, the case I read tested several dilutions, from 1:10 to straight undiluted raw milk, and there was no significant difference. To me this suggests that the bacterial cultures in the raw milk at whatever dilution are colonising pasture that is probably degraded due to the sterilisation of bacterial life by whatever means.

Wh8ch makes sense to me. If you sterilise a petri dish, whatever is around will set up shop. If you introduce a new culture to the sterile petri dish, it can grow.

-CK
 
Greta Fields
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I am glad somebody else Knows Pfeiffer. Yes, he is a treasure trove of info for permaculture people.
Christ, I bet you are write about the bacteria. I would be sorta scared to use commerciallly sold milk, however, because I read that all of it is contaminated with perchlorate. They are trying to say perchlorate is "natural", but others say it is from planes dumping fuel all over America. They dump extra fuel to make it easier to land. After half a century of dumping, America is saturated with perchlorate, according to a new book that is out....Poisoned Nation or something like that.
I don't raise cows anyway.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Landon Sunrich
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I take it Steiner wrote in German? German's a complex language even when not used by an eccentric genius (and Steiner if nothing else was certainly intelligent).

I don't think anyone here is taking 1920's discourse as dogma - thoughts can evolve. And sometimes Ideas can be understood abstractly instead of literally. The increase in potato consumption and the increase in materialism certainly coincided with each other. They could be causal. There is an argument to be made that the increase is every stable food has lead to an increase in materialism through the advancement of civilization. Anyway. I try not to immediately write things off as crazy just because they are a little out of my depth. Especially since I am capable of sifting through Ideas and coming to my own conclusions. I know many very successful farmers who swear by some (not all) of his stuff

I speak pretty decent German. I read Antigone in it was I was 17. I made it through the 3rd matrix movie auf Deutsch. Perhaps I'll give Steiner a shot in his native tongue. I'll give this Pfeiffer guy a read too.
 
Adam Klaus
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It is interesting the extent to which non-Biodynamic practicioners feel compelled to invalidate Biodnamic farming. To me, it speaks to something inherently powerful in Biodynamics, and the insecurity of the myth-busters. It's okay folks if there are farming practices used by some, that arent used or understood by others. To me, it is about as tragi-comic as an aethiest insisting to a man of god that there is no divinity. Sometimes one can know something without being able to proove it, and that individual understanding is enough. For everyone here that doesnt believe in Biodynamics, who thinks it is rubbish, that's great. Maybe there is something you arent understanding, maybe you understand it all and are right. Either way, let it go. Biodynamics works for a lot of us. I have traveled around a bit, visited hundreds of farms over the years, and I can say from my personal experience that the most beautiful and prosperous farms I have seen were all managed under some form of Biodynamics. That is as much 'proof' as I need. And guess what, Biodynamics has worked well for me too on my farm.

Landon, good on your for your curiousity and open-mindedness. I myself am curious to hear of your readings in the native language. It is so true, that translating a single text written a century ago in a foreign tongue, is a highly subjective endeavor. I myself dont get a whole lot out of reading Steiner, and that translation in space, time, and culture may have a lot to do with it. Glad that inquiring minds are seeking understanding, and using their skills to achieve a greater knowledge. There is so much in the universe that I dont understand, and that is a source of great excitement and wonder to me. May it always be so.
 
Chris Kott
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I just find it interesting when people who believe in something are threatened by people who want to quantify and understand the science. I think it speaks to their underlying uncertainty and fear of ridicule. These attitudes impede understanding and development of a thing that should be understood and developed for the good of all.

By trying to "preserve the mystery" or whatever, the door is closed on rational, analytical minds that want to put their efforts towards making sense of a system with some real potential.

I don't see anything wrong with wanting to understand why and how. I, for one, would really appreciate some non-woo-woo, brown permaculture observation and analysis.

-CK
 
Adam Klaus
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great to have you back in the conversation Chris. Learn anything about Biodynamics lately? Did you find any science out there? Last you wrote, you were hugely intersted in finding some science driven proof or disproof of Biodynamics, any luck in that endeavor?

All I can say, as I have said before, is that it works for me. Proof is for those that need it. Get sum.
 
Su Ba
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Adam, et al...... Well, to each their own. While I am not a proponent of the mystical aspects of biodynamics, I don't see that how that classifies me as insecure nor speaks to something inherently powerful in biodynamics. This is the type argument that some of the door-to-door missionaries have tried using on me. So should that imply the biodynamics = religion? No, it's just an example of faulty reasoning.

I farm a small homestead, only 21 1/2 acres. It supports my family. I am always looking for more successful ways to have a robust farm in balence with nature's methods. So I have had biodynamic enthusiasts "show me" how to do things better via biodynamics. I already employ numerous organic and permaculture type practices, so I was open to any additional benefits via biodynamics.

Over the two years the experiment lasted, I saw no advantage to using the mystical aspects of biodynamics. Quartz crystal powder, cow horns, cosmic energy, special mystical additives for compost piles, and astrological planting schedules. Some of the special preparations require bizarre additives such as the bladder from a certain type of deer, and plants that don't exist in my area (such as dandelion, stinging nettle, oak, plus some others I don't recall). So they immediately violate the tenets of biodynamics by not coming from my own area. But that issue aside, their addition to compost piles in a defined way did not make any discernible improvement over standard methods. And as I expected, when the experiments failed to give desired results, the excuse given was that the additives were not local items. Lame excuse, as far as I am concerned.

Now this is just my observation on my farm. Everyone's farm s different. Plus I do not see that I have the right to push my methods onto anyone else, claiming mine are superior for whatever reason. Nor disparaging or ridiculing someone for not believing or using my methods. I shall farm my own successful way. Everyone else can try they own methods.

If one has a farm that is not productive, then it makes sense to try various methods. I do that, but I draw the line on methods based on faith that produce no improvements as demonstrated by my experiments and trials. Maybe that just makes me a science kind of gal.

...Su Ba
www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
 
Dale Hodgins
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edit --- Su Ba, Chris and Adam all posted while I typed . I did take a break.
Adam Klaus wrote:It is interesting the extent to which non-Biodynamic practicioners feel compelled to invalidate Biodnamic farming. To me, it speaks to something inherently powerful in Biodynamics, and the insecurity of the myth-busters. To me, it is about as tragi-comic as an aethiest insisting to a man of god that there is no divinity. For everyone here that doesnt believe in Biodynamics, who thinks it is rubbish, that's great. Either way, let it go.


I'm not sure if it's me or Mr. Gardner who are being called insecure. I first ventured into the biodynamic section last week, when a nonsensical post concerning energized water, showed up in the composting section. It was moved to drivel. I did a Google search and that led to biodynamics. So, I'm certainly not a long term detractor, having only recently learned the word. I don't deal much in belief, preferring to look at evidence. To me evidence has nothing to do with popularity of an idea or the level of passion amongst adherents. Mr. Gardner spent his life, sifting through fantastic claims and publishing his findings. I respect his opinions which were always well researched.

I don't think there is anything inherently powerful about any idea that must be defended based on faith. Whenever dissenting points of view are met with anger or suppression, I become more skeptical than before. The use of the word science in the title brought me into this thread. I had hoped to find something that I recognize as scientific inquiry going on. It's not normally in my nature, but barring some further engagement or attempt to suppress this reply, I am totally prepared to let this go.
 
Adam Klaus
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Su-
I think you point out a really good point, which is that many people take Steiner's instructions as some sort of universal prescription. It is obvious to me, that Biodynamics in Hawaii would utilize totally different plants (and processes), than Biodynamics in the northern latitudes, which was the only thing Steiner knew. Personally, I think that the adherance to Steiner's very breif and cryptic instructions to a group of students in Germany, is the biggest flaw in modern Biodynamics.

To me, there is nothing 'superior' about Biodynamics. To me, it is difficult to even clearly deliniate what constitutes Biodynamics. Every practicioner I have know has incorporated Biodynamics differently into their farm. That is probably part of what makes scientific evaluation so ellusive. Nobody is playing the same game, by the same rules. Hence no real possibility of scientific evaluation. Personal experience is what interests me, and the fact that you tried things that didnt work, and discarded them, seems perfectly sound to me. That doesnt invalidate anybody else's farming, as I think you agree.

I dont know why things work the way they do, but I do know what works for me. That's all I know.
 
Chris Kott
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The delineation of prove/disprove illustrates to me clearly where some have missed the whole point.

Let it heretofore be acknowledged that I am asking for science and detailed technical information not to prove there is none, but to actually figure out why and how it works.

I'm not going to get much out of this discussion if anyone that might know anything clams up because they think they're being laughed at, and neither is anyone else.

-CK

Edit: incidentally, Adam, I did get second-hand reports that people that work with herbal medicine, and some water-based processes, specifically certain types of hash making, get better results during specific phases of the moon. I think what might be happening is that the moon's varying gravitational effect makes water "thinner," though that's imprecise, we're talking about the moon's proximity affecting water's viscosity. For this to relate to plants, all that would be needed is for the affected water to, say, take less of a plant's energy for water and nutrient uptake, so more efficient work making for, at very least, healthy plants with larger energy reserves.
 
Su Ba
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Adam said , "I dont know why things work the way they do, but I do know what works for me. That's all I know."

I totally agree 100% ! I can't explain why certain methods work for me either. But if something results repeatedly in an improvement, I'll use it. As I keep reading various sources on the Internet, I often come upon discussions and insights into some of those methods. For example, soil micro organisms; foliar applications; biochar, etc. A number of forum discussions involve researchers from all over the world I find it interesting to follow their discussions of theories, field trials, and lab tests as ideas come and go, and theories get taken to different directions. Sometimes I get insight into why a certain methods might be working for me.

My take on biodynamics, though I might be wrong, is that it is "local organic" farming with some mystical methods thrown in. It is the mystical stuff that I don't incorporate. Perhaps that is the stuff that other growers leave out too , since you note that people following biodynamics don't play by all the same rules.

There are pretty wild, wacky, and neat ideas out there in the world of growing and farming. Some pan out to be real keepers. Others may be just wishful thinking. But I'm willing to give anything that works a chance.

..Su Ba
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Chris Kott
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I just think that the way to get more food produced biodynamically is to figure out what the common elements are across as many biodynamic conditions as possible. That way, we can choose local analogues if necessary, for instance. Or, if we can understand why and under what circumstances the "mystical" stuff works, it can become just another tool that everyone can use where applicable in their own locales.

-CK
 
Greta Fields
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Hi....
I am actually reading Steiner. I also actually read Aristotle. If I have learned anything in my life as a journalist, it is, never believe anything people say about an author until you have read that author yourself.
I ordered a stack of Steiner books after hearing some of his lectures read out loud on YouTube. you can hear the lectures in German or English on YouTube. I don't read German well enough to listen in German, however.
I just gave an example elsewhere about misjudging Steiner. People think the business about burying cow horns is crazy. However, the idea there was to implant microbes from cowhorns, which multiply in the manure and go out into the dirt and speed up the process of humus formation.
That is not much different than Cherokee burying dead fish around corn plants, or Chinese burying their ancestors right in the garden, in mounds.
I read about actual scientific studies which were done to measure the difference in soil treated with microbes implanted by cowhorns and other soil, and there was a big difference in measurable nutrients in the soil.
Pfeiffer was a scientist with a laboratory. There is nothing "mystical" about his methods. I don't know enough about Steiner's mysticism yet, but I am reading about this. I think he was one of those people who could see energy auras around plants. It just means some people can see wave lengths of light that others can't, I think. Ingo Swann was another one. He is a clairvoyant who started studying plant sensibilities in the 1970s. He was later subjected to numerous experiments at Duke University.
Keep an open mind.
 
Adam Klaus
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Greta Fields wrote:Hi....
I am actually reading Steiner. I also actually read Aristotle.
Keep an open mind.


Thumbs up Greta, quote of the day.
 
Chris Kott
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Greta, I definitely agree with you. I have yet to read up on Pfeiffer, but it sounds promising.

Just to be clear, when I used the word "mystical," I don't seek to offend or ridicule. I am just referring to those aspects of biodynamics that people have chosen to shroud in, well, mysticism and spiritualism bordering on religion. This doesn't seem to me to foster a dialogue on the technical aspects of biodynamics.

I was wondering if light refractometry has been used to detect the varying levels of plant aura energy. Innoculation of overgrazed and otherwise depleted pasture with raw milk dilutions been documented and posted in the cattle forums to increase the sugar levels in the pasture, measured precisely with such a device.

-CK
 
Adam Klaus
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Chris Kott wrote:I have yet to read up on Pfeiffer, but it sounds promising.
-CK


You really should read his book, Soil Fertility. Pfeifer was a scientist, not a mystic, and used laboratory technique and scientific method to demonstrate the veracity of Biodynamic prep use on the soil fertility levels and on the nutrient content of foods grown on those soils. The info is out there, go read it. I recommended his work in this very thread back in May, get on it.

Raw milk sprays have a utility that extends beyond rejuvinating degraded pasture. I use raw milk sprays in the same way that many people use compost tea. It is an excellent foliar feed, like a regular tonic to maintain the health of your plants. It gives a boost of calcium and nitrogen for fertilization, and also a reintroduction of healthy microbes. I consider its microbial benefit to be analagous to people consuming yogurt regularly. Yes, yogurt would be good for someone with a devestated gut biome. But it is also a wonderful tonic that serves to reinforce an already healthy gut ecology. Beyond the specific benefits of foliar nitrogen and calcium, biologically available trace minerals, and healthy microbial reinoculation, I also suspect there are other benefits to the raw milk that we do not scientifically understand. Call it mystic if you must, but I simply acknowledge that there are many more things out there in the universe that are not known.

Could science potentially understand the function and benefit of every single compound that is present in something as complex as milk? Maybe someday, but not likely in our lifetimes. There is nothing mystical about that.
 
John Polk
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I have never seen 'science' proving that biodynamics work.
I have never seen 'science' proving that biodynamics doesn't work.
What I have seen is that biodynamic farms appear healthier and more in tune with nature than any 'organic' farm I have ever seen.

I worked with science and academia for 7 years. There is much in nature and the universe that is beyond the scope of science. Things that they may never look at carefully. If it is beyond their knowledge base, they are reluctant to even suggest looking at it.

Science is driven by money. Somebody needs to finance it. Today, in the U.S., most of this funding comes from private corporations (who want the 'results' to prove the effective use of their products) and government agencies, who are also influenced by those corporations.

Scientists are reluctant to propose projects out of the mainstream, particularly if their findings will 'upset the apple cart'. The chance to find funding for such projects is very thin.

Universities rely on these corporations and government agencies to keep their programs operational. Unless we can devise an independent system for funding, we cannot expect 'science' to look at our projects with an open mind.

BayerAg has its U.S. headquarters in the same town as Penn State, and has contributed millions to the school. Can we expect the school to conduct scientific projects that point to harm caused by the corporation's products? "Don't bite the hand that feeds you."

 
Chris Kott
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I disagree with equating academia with science. You can discuss one without the other.

When I use the word "science," I don't mean the institution that has been corrupted by the never-ending search for funding. I mean the approach to rational thought that involves observing, hypothesizing, performing actual experiments with many test groups and control groups, observing the data, reaching conclusions based on that data, and either solidifying the theoretical claims made by the tentatively proven hypothesis in print, or going back to the drawing board for new hypotheses where necessary.

So having conceptually divorced science from the cashflow mechanisms that keep scientists funded, what is the problem, exactly, with the scientific method?

Or put more bluntly, who has a problem with observation and critical thought and analysis?

-CK
 
Greta Fields
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John,
I think that Pfeiffer used scientific methods all his life, and he was a pupil of Steiner. His books are full of scientific charts based upon years of research.
These people provide very practical advice for permaculturists. Take the list of contents from Pfeiffer's book on weeds, for ex:
Weeds and that they tell us. The Battle Against Weeds: Mechanical Warfare. The Battle Against Weeds: Biological Warfare. Weedy Weeds. Morning Glory & Co. -- The Convolvulus Family. The Goosefoot Family. The Parsleys: AS Manifold Family. etc. etc. etc.
Very practical info!
Thanks Adam!
 
Stewart Lundy
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Adam Klaus wrote:Raw milk sprays are a common practice in modern Biodynamics. 'What' is does is improve the health of the vegetation it is sprayed on. 'Why' is a bit more of a mystery, I sure dont know. Milk sprays are good for any degraded pasture, not sure about overgrazed specifically, that would indicate a need for rest. Milk sprays are also used in instances of plant sickness. Interestingly enough, I am familiar with milk sprays and their beneficial effects, but have never used them. For whatever reason, I have never really had plant pest or sickness problems. And my pastures have never been degraded in any way. But dilute raw milk sprays, along with dilute raw honey sprays are well accepted for their health boosing qualities when applied to growing plants and soil.


I do not think there is any mystery whatsoever in spraying raw milk. The "Why" is painfully clear: it is full of beneficial microbes, which expand and rapidly colonize your entire field. It is a probiotic for the soil.

Greta Fields wrote:I am glad somebody else Knows Pfeiffer.


Absolutely true. I cannot recommend Pfeiffer enough. He eschews the esoteric gibberish of many biodynamicists and tries to give actual evidence for using the BD preps. You don't need to be biodynamic to find his attempts at increasing organic matter compelling.
 
fiona smith
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i will give pfeiffer a read too, it sounds interesting.perhaps biodynamics can work well with permaculture,
 
Stewart Lundy
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Location: Eastern Shore of Virginia, USA, Zone 7b, KeB Bojac Sandy Loam
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fiona smith wrote:perhaps biodynamics can work well with permaculture,


There is no reason biodynamic principles cannot be integrated with permaculture. The biggest hurdle for permaculturists will be the specific timing of sprays and the special and particular nature of composts ("preps"). There is no reason that effective microorganisms ("preps") are in anyway inconsistent with permaculture. In fact, I consider the recycling of the "extra" parts of animals in the making of preps to be 100% in line with permaculture thinking. It is not necessary to rely on annual crops to practice biodynamics.

It is important to remember that the BD "preps" are special forms of compost. And all of these are cold fermented. Pfeiffer says that compost piles should remain below 115F. He does not reference this, though I'm sure he had it in mind, but enzymes start to break down around 118-120F where thermophilic bacteria start to take over the compost, result in a lot of nitrogen loss and the destruction of digestive enzymes. What a cold compost does is maintain ALL of the digestive enzymes from generations of aerobic bacteria -- plus the bacteria themselves. Even in dilute amounts, these are effective at stimulating plants and speeding the [cold fermentation] digestion of leaves, manure, etc. The point of such compost -- which cannot be legally sold as "compost" because it has not been pasteurized at 131 for several weeks -- is NOT to kill everything, but instead to create a beneficial culture to spread on your soil.

We could rely on wild yeasts to make our breads, but they would be pretty unpalatable. We could rely on chance to make our wines taste good, but we know better than that. The same should apply to compost, above all of these things. And the heart of biodynamics is compost. What is lacking most in how people do compost is a lack of soil. The Pfeiffer Method of compost layers thin (<1") layers of carbon and nitrogen, and then another layer of topsoil. The pile is always contained by soil. The soil allows bacteria like Azotobacter to capture any escaping ammonia. In fact, the use of soil can increase the amount of nitrogen available in the compost. It also helps keep it ventilated and aerobic. The reason injecting ammonia directly into the soil works so well for conventional farmers is because nitrogen-fixing bacteria immediately capture the free nitrogen. The same thing happens if you cover each C:N layer with topsoil. There is some good research in biodynamics.

Most compost never forms humus. According to Steve Solomon of the Soil and Health Library, humus requires clay. Few people add clay to their compost. Your compost is most likely unstable, but useful, microbe food -- not something that adds to the organic content of your soil... though it would add to the health of the soil.

If you do nothing but integrate topsoil into your compost, you are far more likely to be forming real humus.

But really you should be using soil AND the BD Compost Starter crafted by Ehrenfried Pfeiffer. There are surely others that work well, but why risk letting unpleasant bacteria "win" your compost pile and then spread those across your property?
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