Biodynamic Farming: Is it a Sustainable Alternative to Food Production?

Biodynamic Farming: Is it a Sustainable Alternative to Food Production?
Contributor
Contributor
External Guest Writer
July 14, 2022

The organic movement has demanded agricultural farms to place importance on sustainability while growing crops and rearing livestock. Biodynamic farming is a step above organic farming, and uses a looping ecosystem to cycle resources throughout various farming processes.

What is Biodynamic Farming?

Biodynamic farming is a type of organic farming that makes use of the concepts of esotericism theorized by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Biodynamic farmers consider soil fertility levels, livestock rearing, and crop growing as all part of the ecosystem in biodynamic agriculture. The farm often loops its resources, creating a sustainable system.

Growers practicing biodynamic methods believe that all biological organisms have a part to play in the food and resource production process. The products that come from these biodynamic methods are not only organic in the natural sense, but are often considered in promoting the health and well-being of animals.

How Does It Work?

Growing Crops

Under biodynamic farming, growers use holistic approaches to grow quality crops with higher nutrient content. Biodynamic agriculture limits the usage of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and instead uses natural solutions to grow crops. These practices employ predatory insects for pest management and disease control, and use organic compost for soil health.

Biodynamic preparations include preparing the soil fertility for growing specific crops. Plants that require varying levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, and other minerals in the soil, so biodynamic growers balance these levels through compost preparations and organic fertilizers.

Biodynamic farming practices also modify crop rotation with soil fertilization in between batches, promoting healthy soil organisms. Cover cropping is another popular practice in biodynamic farming, as is the use of crops and manure to fertilize the soil.

Pesticides

Biodynamic farming practices make use of natural alternatives to commercial pesticides: neem oil, castile soap, and predatory insects are among the favored pest management solutions for farmers who observe biodynamic practices.

Beneficial insects, like ladybugs and spiders, are deployed in biodynamic farms to combat parasites that feed off plant saps like aphids, mealybugs, and scales. These predatory insects keep the pest population low, while keeping plants unharmed.

Farmers deploy different predators for different pests. The Fungus Gnat Killer (Stratiolaelaps scimitus) mites seek out tiny larvae in the soil, preventing them from destroying plant roots. The Mealybug Destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri) are lady beetles that feed off soft-shelled pests like aphids and mealybugs, controlling the entire population.

Animal Health

Animal life is protected in biodynamic farming, particularly for livestock. Biodynamic preparations for animal rearing and husbandry ensure that livestock are provided with environments as close to their natural habitats as possible. Animals are often allowed to roam free-range, and are pasture-fed or provided with feed made in-farm.

Biodynamic principles bar ranchers from using growth hormones or antibiotics on animals, and instead use holistic practices to ensure the health of their livestock. These practices result in stress-free animal life, high-quality animal byproducts, and produce milk, eggs, and wool without chemical contaminants.

In turn, animals provide a valuable resource for the farm: their manure. Animal manure is used as fertilizer to grow crops, allowing these natural resources to replenish the soil with nutrients. Manure is processed along with organic compost for use in the arable land.

Soil Health

Modern organic agriculture focuses on managing healthier soil throughout the growing seasons. Biodynamic practices require farmers to consistently create and apply compost to balance soil nutrient levels, and growers monitor soil health to maintain an optimal balance of nutrients plants need to grow.

Growers create waste-free fertilizer for their soil, using soil organic matter to provide nutrients to their land ready for growing crops. A biodynamic spray would provide the soil with essential and beneficial microbes like bacteria and fungi that help control the levels of nutrients in the soil, encourage crop growth, and keep the soil life healthy for all microbial life.

Through these processes, biodynamic farms become self-sustaining, cruelty-free, and eco-friendly due to their biodynamic principles.

The Pros of Biodynamic Farming

Self-sustainable Agriculture

Compared to traditional farms, biodynamic farming uses organic methods, which creates a loop of sustainability around the ecosystem. Animal manure becomes fertilizer, fertilizers increase crop growth, crops are turned into feed for livestock, and the cycle continues. These methods decrease the amount of greenhouse gasses and waste that come with agricultural processes. 

Because biodynamic methods make use of natural processes to farm, it is often regarded as an organic type of farming that produces crops, meat, and byproducts that are healthier for consumers, without the use of chemical additives to grow large, pigmented crops. 

Biodynamic Certification

Not all farms practice biodynamic farming, despite their claims to do so. Biodynamic certification is what ensures that biodynamic farms stay true to their claims. The Biodynamic Association monitors these farms, ensuring these farms follow proper processing procedures for their products.

Consumers can look into the biodynamic certification of a farm to determine the organic practices a farm promotes. The vast majority of these organic farms proudly display their farming methods, which consumers can read on to better understand the farm system in biodynamic farming.

Organic Agriculture

Consumers can be assured of the quality and organic certification of their produce when it comes from a biodynamic farm. Despite the use of bacteria and fungi in the soil, these are the beneficial types that can also be easily washed off during the food preparation process. Products from biodynamic farms are natural, organic, and cruelty-free.

Is It a Sustainable Alternative to Food Production?

This alternative agriculture may provide a solution that addresses both the ever-growing demand for organic fruit, vegetables, and cage-free meats that traditional farming does not produce, as well as the negative impacts of traditional farming methods to the environment. 

At the same time, biodynamic farming poses an alternative agriculture course that can be mimicked by other biodynamic practitioners in order to grow food and resources without destroying soil quality or planet health. Biodynamic farming is a sustainable alternative to food production in that it provides quality resources with eco-friendly methods. 

Sustainable Farming at its Finest

Agricultural players need to shift to sustainable practices, bringing to consumers products that are not only healthier, but better for the environment as well. As consumers look for health-conscious choices, companies have started to shift to sustainable practices in the last few decades.

Biodynamic farming provides a solution to create a loop ecosystem within farms that will continue agricultural processes at no cost to the environment. At the same time, this method recognizes the role of beneficial organisms in keeping the ecosystem healthy enough to farm organic products.