Biodynamic agriculture, or biodynamics comprises an ecological and sustainable farming system, that includes many of the ideas of organic farming (but predates the term). It is based on the anthroposophical teachings of Rudolf Steiner, particularly on the eight lectures given by him in 1924 at Schloss Koberwitz in what was then Silesia, Germany nowadays Poland (close to Wroc_aw). At the time Steiner believed that the introduction of chemical farming was a major problem. Steiner was convinced that the quality of food in his time was degraded, and he believed the source of the problem were artificial fertilizers and pesticides, however he did not believe this was only because of the chemical or biological properties relating to the substances involved, but also due to spiritual shortcomings in the whole chemical approach to farming. Steiner considered the world and everything in it as simultaneously spiritual and material in nature, an approach termed monism. He also believed that living matter was different from dead matter, a viewpoint commonly referred to as vitalism.

The term biodynamic was coined by Steiner's adherents. A central aspect of biodynamics is that the farm as a whole is seen as an organism, and therefore should be a closed self-nourishing system, which the preparations nourish. Disease of organisms is not to be tackled in isolation but is a symptom of problems in the whole organism.
Today biodynamics is practiced in more than 50 countries worldwide.
Steiner prescribed eight different preparations for fertilizers which were allowed for use in biodynamic agriculture, and gave great details of how these were to be prepared. Inorganic or mineral fertilizers are not allowed, with the exception of quartz in substance 501. The substances are numbered 500 through 507, whereof the first two are used for preparing fields whereas the latter six are used for making compost:

Field preparations, for stimulating humus formation:

    * 500: (horn-manure) a humus mixture prepared by filling the horn of a cow with cow manure and burying it in the ground (40-60 cm below the surface) in the autumn. It is left to decompose during the winter and recovered for use the following autumn.
    * 501: Crushed powdered quartz prepared by stuffing it into a horn of a cow and buried into the ground in spring and taken out in autumn. It can be mixed with 500 but usually prepared on its own (mixture of 1 tablespoon of quartz powder to 250 litres of water) The mixture is sprayed under very low pressure over the crop during the wet season to prevent fungal diseases. It should be sprayed on an overcast day or early in the morning to prevent burning of the leaves.

Both 500 and 501 are used on fields by stirring the contents of a horn in 40-60 litres of water for an hour and whirling it in different directions every second minute. About 4 horns are used for each hectare of soil.

[edit] Compost preparations

Compost preparations, used for preparing compost, employ herbs which are frequently used in medicinal remedies:

    * 502: Yarrow blossoms (Achillea millefolium) are stuffed into urinary bladders from Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), placed in the sun during summer, buried in earth during winter and retrieved in the spring.
    * 503: Chamomile blossoms (Matricaria recutita) are stuffed into small intestines from cattle buried in humus-rich earth in the autumn and retrieved in the spring.
    * 504: Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) plants in full bloom are stuffed together underground surrounded on all sides by peat for a year.
    * 505: Oak bark (Quercus robur) is chopped in small pieces, placed inside the skull of a domesticated animal, surrounded by peat and buried in earth in a place where lots of rain water runs by.
    * 506: Dandelion flowers (Taraxacum officinale) is stuffed into the peritoneum of cattle and buried in earth during winter and retrieved in the spring.
    * 507: Valerian flowers (Valeriana officinalis) is extracted into water.
    * 508: Horsetail (Equisetum)

One to three grams (a teaspoon) of each preparation is added to a dung heap by digging 50 cm deep holes with a distance of 2 meters from each other, except for the 507 preparation, which is stirred into 5 litres of water and sprayed over the entire compost surface. All preparations are thus used in homeopathic quantities, and the only intent is to strengthen the life forces of the farm.

Biodynamic agriculture sees the basis of pest and disease control arising from a strong healthy balanced farm organism. Where this is not yet achieved it uses techniques reminiscent of fertilization for pest control and weed control. Most of these techniques include using the ashes of a pest or weed that has been trapped or picked from the fields and ceremonially burnt. Steiner sees pests and weeds as a result of imbalance between life forces emanated from the earth.

Since Steiner viewed the full moon, Venus and Mercury as cosmic powers influencing the fertility of plants, the biodynamic techniques for pest control involves blocking the fertility influence from said planets on different pests. Steiner dictates that this is achieved in different ways for pests and weeds:

    * Pests such as insects or field mice (Apodemus) have more complex processes associated with them, depending on what pest is to be targeted. For example field mice are to be countered by deploying ashes prepared from field mice skin when Venus is in the Scorpius constellation.

    * Weeds are combated (besides the usual mechanical methods) by collecting seeds from the weeds and burning them above a wooden flame. The ashes from the seeds are then spread on the fields, which will according to biodynamic philosophy block the influence from the full moon on the particular weed and make it infertile.

In France Biodivin certifies Biodynamic wine.

Demeter International is the largest certification organisation for Biodynamic agriculture. Demeter Biodynamic Certification is used in over 50 countries to verify that biodynamic products meet international standards in production and processing.

The certification is the oldest traditional organic certification in Europe and regarded as the highest grade of organic farming in the world. Certification is difficult to come by and must be renewed annually.