Wednesday, December 14, 2011

News on Biodynamic farming in India

Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Sunday, Jan 07, 2007
He is an ardent votary of bio-dynamic farming
T. Navaneethakrishnan
His life revolves around the sun, moon and constellations in the sky, as well as seeds, saplings and crop transplantations on the earth.
And between them, farmer T. Navaneethakrishnan of Mettupalayam sees a world of links and opportunities to pursue something called biodynamic agriculture.
On his 5.4-acre farm, he has been practising biodynamic agriculture for about a decade. Coupled with organic farming, he claims biodynamic farming is the best way to pursue agriculture.
He talks to Karthik Madhavan about biodynamic farming on the sidelines of an agriculture exhibition in Komarapalayam.
Mr. Navaneethakrishnan says he practises biodynamic farming, as advocated by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who suggested that agricultural activities be planned according to lunar movements.
For example, the farmer says he will plant when the ascending moon is in the Fire Constellation, and transplant when the descending moon is again in the Fire Constellation.
Likewise, pesticide spraying, seed germination, ploughing, etc. will be carried out according to the moon position, which can be read from a biodynamic calendar, prepared exclusively for the purpose.Such a practice, Mr. Navaneethakrishnan argues, will help the plants make best use of the "elemental energies and cosmic power".
"We humans do not eat at all times of the day. We do certain things only at certain times of the day.
"Plants are no different. They live through a natural cycle, which the biodynamic farming makes best use of by doing appropriate things at the needed hour," he says.
Two New Zealand-returned environmental studies students taught him the techniques.
"It was about 10 years ago that I learnt it from them. While one of them is no longer associated with the practice, the second, Mahesh Melvin, is still into biodynamic farming, and is advocating the same from Udhagamandalam."
Mr. Navaneethakrishnan says the results have been excellent in that the yield is good, and all the 1,200 varieties of plants that he raises on his farm in keeping with the farming technique, produce toxic residue-free leaves, vegetables and fruits.
Mr. Navaneethakrishnan says he is ready to teach the techniques free of cost to farmers.

Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Sunday, Aug 12, 2007
‘Biodynamic farming gaining popularity’
D. Radhakrishnan

Udhagamandalam: Spurred by the growing awareness among various sections of the society here about the benefits of organic farming, the Ketti-based non-governmental organisation, The EARTH Trust organised a one-day training programme on ‘Organic Biodynamic Farming’ for beginners here on Saturday. The focus was on preparing biodynamic compost.
Speaking to ‘The Hindu’, International Consultant, Biodynamic Agriculture, Peter Proctor said that India headed the list of countries where biodynamic farming was rapidly gaining ground. Attributing it to the growing tendency among the agriculturists to revive traditional methods of farming, he pointed out that organic farming was about 6,000 years old in the country. Use of chemical inputs became popular only after the green revolution in the mid-1960s.
Lamenting that two generations of farmers had been enslaved by chemicals, he contended that though it may have made them financially successful they cannot consider themselves to be skillful. Organic methods will tone up the skills of the farmers. Another reason for the perceptible desire to switch to biodynamic farming was the reverential outlook of the farmers towards cows and cowdung.
Biodynamic farming will also help reduce concern on the health front. Initially the cost of production may be higher than conventional farming.
However with time it would become cost-effective. Pointing out that in one year 5,000 biodynamic compost units had been established in Maharashtra, he said that many have come into being in Tamil Nadu also.
The Founder-Director, The EARTH Trust, Vanya Orr, said that considering the growing threats worldwide on the environment front survival would in course of time depend only on organic farming. The soil needs intensive care, she added.
The vice-president, Nilgiri Wildlife and Environment Association (NWLEA), Geetha Srinivasan, said that all must join hands to make the Nilgiris the first organic district in the country. Listing the benefits, she said that it would relieve pressure on the municipal dump yard at Theetukal as biodynamic farming would help convert waste into wealth. A trainee Ashok Mittal said “it is high time we learnt lessons from mistakes committed in the past.” The EARTH Trust coordinator, P. Anbu, said that gardeners, farmers, housewives and students participated in the programme.

Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Thursday, Oct 04, 2007

Growing crops by following the lunar calendar
The lunar cycle plays a key role in this farming practice

— Photo: M.J. Prabu

Eco-friendly: Mr. R. Jeyachandran BD farmer at Ariyanoor village, in Tamil Nadu seen burying the cow horns into the soil.
Biodynamic farming (BD) is also a form of organic farming as it not only avoids the use of pesticides and chemical-based fertilizers but also offers advise on the time of crop sowing according to the lunar crop cycle.
The term biodynamic is derived from the Greek words ‘bio’ (life) and ‘dynamics’ (energy).
Also known as ecological farming, it remains largely unknown to the modern Indian farmer. The basic theory of bio dynamic farming is to conceive the farm as an individual and a complete entity. Importance is given to crop and livestock integration, soil upgradation, plant and animal growth. The farmer too is a part of this whole
Origin of this system
The origin of this system of farming is believed to be from a series of lectures given by an Austrian philosopher, Mr. Rudolf Steiner, sometime during the 1920’s. The harvested produces grown by this method seem to have a good taste and aroma compared with other farming methods.
“Biodynamic farming is quite eco-friendly as there is no great investment involved. There are nearly 100 farmers practicing this system in Tamil Nadu and about 1,000 all over the country,” said Mr. R. Jeyachandran, a BD farmer in Ariyanoor village of Madhurantakkam taluka, Kanchipuram district in Tamil Nadu.
The basic theory in BD farming is that the lunar cycle (waxing and waning of the moon) plays a key role in the timing of biodynamic practices, such as making of biodynamic preparations, timing of planting the seeds and harvest, according to Mr. Jeyachandran.
Lunar cycle
“The lunar cycle casts a tremendous effect on the size and formation of plant roots and their growth, and farmers can get a good yield if they sow their crops in accordance with the lunar phase,” he explained.
“This is an ancient method which was practised by our forefathers and lost along the way. It has now been accepted and scientifically proved ,” he said.
Though there are several books on BD farming, one cannot learn this technique by mere reading alone , according to him. “Practical application can be achieved only through interaction with other practising BD farmers,” he noted. Cow’s horn is the one of the basic requirements in BD farming. Fresh dung from a lactating cow (one which has delivered a calf in a week’s time) is stuffed into the horn and buried into the soil during the descending days of the lunar calendar.

Horn manure
The burying is done usually sometime during September-December and the dung is dug out during May-July. By this time the dung inside the horns would have turned into a paste like substance (similar to melted wax) called horn manure.
This wax-like substance contains several beneficial microorganisms essential to promote good plant growth.
About 25-30 gm of this horn manure diluted in 12-15 litres of water can be used for sprinkling on one acre. “Sprinkling should be done during evening time and while sprinkling farmers should take care to see that the field is wet,” said Mr. Jeyachandran.
Horn silica
Two to three applications of horn manure per year are sufficient to enhance the fertility of the soil, explained Mr. Jeyachandran. Another method called ‘horn silica’ where instead of cow dung, crushed white silica powder (silica powder can be obtained from any horticultural shop) is stuffed into the horns and buried in the soil.
After the same period of time similar to that of stuffed dung, the silica should be dug out. The recommended amount is one gm of horn silica per acre stirred well for about an hour in 13-15 litres of water.
Soil fertility
Application of organic manure and composts produced with the help of earthworms and microbes can also be done alongside to improve soil fertility and ensure sustained soil health, according to him.
In BD farming, nothing is brought from outside. Every thing, from manure to pesticides are available in the field itself. It is a big step towards restoration of health of the earth. An ideal biodynamic farm is where the input cost (excluding labour) is zero. “I have brought down the annual per acre input cost from Rs 7,000 to Rs 500,” he said.
Mr. R. Jeyachandran can be reached at , Ariyanoor village, Madhurantakkam taluka, Kanchipuram district, Tamil Nadu, phone: 044-27539608.

Biodynamic farming in Krishna district
G.V.Ramana Rao

NEW TECHNIQUE: Special water energising troughs being used by biodynamic farmers at Vattigudipadu village
VIJAYAWADA: They do not use chemical fertilizers. Pesticides are anathema to them. All the inputs needed for cultivation are available in the farm. They wait for the right planetary positions to spray solutions developed from organic materials for the healthy development of the plants. They irrigate crops with energised water. These are the biodynamic farmers, a new breed in Krishna district, which has a long history of progressive farming. Biodynamic agriculture is based on the teachings of German scientist Rudolf Steiner. He delivered eight lectures in 1924 that made the world sit up and notice him, says biodynamic farmer Chalasani Dutt. How is water energised? Circular compartments.  The water released into the circular compartments circulates in a specific direction and moves into the tank. The water so collected is used for farming as it is considered to have been energised, says Mr. Dutt. Industrialist-turned-horticulturist Mr. Dutt began experimenting with organic farming a few years ago in his garden at Vattigudipadu village in Krishna district. He says he shifted to biodynamic farming as it involves "zero tillage and zero external input" and is eco-friendly, too. What homoeopathy is to medicine is biodynamic farming to agriculture. Steiner had described the way to make eight preparations that were either sprayed on to the plant directly or used in the preparation of compost. "Composting is an art which takes time to learn. It can be mastered only with continuous practice." He says farmers in Krishna could benefit vastly by practising biodynamic farming. He says that he is doing sub-soil water harvesting along with rainwater harvesting.

Bio Dynamic Farming – revival of traditional indian farming
Posted on March 11, 2010  P.Senthil raja
   Last Sunday (7-Mar-2010), on invitation from my agri friend, attended a meeting on Bio-Dynamic Farming in Mettupalayam, Coimbatore.  The meeting was held in one of the bio-dynamic farmer’s house.  His name is Mr.T. Navaneethakrishnan and he has been practicing bio-dynamic farming for the past 10 years.  Around 20 people from varied backgrounds such as teaching field, software field, farmers, professors, Ayurveda , Naturopathy  etc attended the gathering.
The main objective of the gathering was to get to know about the like minded persons, conduct a session on bio-dynamic farming and to visit the fields of navaneethakrishnan sir.  The meeting started with self-introduction of the participants and then proceeded to a lecture on Bio-Dynamic farming.
I will provide an overview of the discussions and also about Bio-Dynamic farming in general.
History of Bio-Dynamic farming:
The concept of Bio-Dynamic farming emerged when Rudolf Steiner gave a series of lecture to a group of farmers in Silesia (formerly in germany now part of poland) in 1924 as a recommendation for recovering from soil degradation due to chemical fertilisers.  Inspired by his lecture, the farmers formed a research group to test the techniques advocated by steiner.  To their surprise, these techniques worked well for them, where the quality of the soil and their farms in general improved a lot, and the plants and produces were healthier than those produced from chemical fertiliser.  This further drove those farmers to standardise these techniques, and they created a demeter certification programthrough their organisation Demeter Internationale.  Interestingly the word Demeter is the name of the goddess of fertility of the earth.

What is Bio-Dynamic Farming:
From what i understood, Bio-Dynamic Farming is a wholistic approach to farming which involves every stakeholder in the farming process.  The farmer, the soil eco-system, the animals & birds that participate in the farm, and above all, the influence of cosmic forces upon the living beings in the earth.
Navaneethakrishnan sir cited an example of influence of cosmic forces, by mentioning the case of “Kurinji” plant which flowers every 12 years.  He pointed that the plants 11 years old and the plants just 1 year old both flower at the same time irrespective of the age.  I could not negate this example, as i could not use the genetic theory.  If the flowering is determined by genes, then how could 11 year old plant and 1 year old plant flower at the same time at the 12th year cycle.
Similarly a variety of aloe vera flowers once in 70 years.  Again the 69 old plant and 1 year old plant flower at the same time.
These all indicate that influence of cosmic forces upon living things in earth, including the human being is real.  Bio-Dynamic farming is practiced by being aware of these influences.  There is an astronomical calendar which prescribes the optimal date for planting/sowing seeds depending on planetary positions like moon.
Apart from this, there are many techniques of preparing bio-dynamic compost which is named as CPP 500, CPP 501 etc.  Some examples are Horn Manure, Crushed Quartz etc.
In India, apart from these, the pancha gavya and amritha karaisal which are part of organic farming is also practiced in bio-dynamic farming.  Essentialy all these techniques are aimed at enhancing the micro-organisms that form part of the soil eco system.  When these micro-organisms are thriving in the soil, their activity generates all types of nutrients to the plants.
Another important concept of Bio-Dynamic farming is to avoid or minimise the necessity of external inputs to the farm.  All farm wastes are composted in to rich organic manure which is again applied back to the fields.  So essentially only the food grains for consumption is taken out.
Also cow is a must for doing bio-dynamic farming, because for preparing the humus and manures, cow dung, cows urine and cow milk are used.
Similarity to Traditional Indian Farming:
After i came to know about the bio-dynamic farming concepts, i recalled my grandmother looking at the calendar to find the date for sowing seeds like maize, groundnut etc.  For groundnut , she will look for “Keel Noakku naal” and for maize, millets & rice she would look for “Mael Noakku naal” .  I asked whether this is also part of bio-dynamic farming, and they said yes.
Infact, there is a sanskrit text called “Agni hotra” which lists out techniques & rules for farming based on planetary movements.
On those days, there was a brahmin in every village, who would prepare a panchagam with respect to that particular region.  (as opposed to the current generalised panchagam prepared with reference to chennai lattitude).  He will give the dates of sowing to the farmers based on the panchagam.
Possibility of influence of indian texts on Rudolf Steiner:
There are many reasons to believe that the knowledge of Bio-dynamic farming might have been sourced from indian sanskrit texts.  I am listing out few.
1. When British Dominated india, many european scientist came to india in search of the sanskrit text lying in the houses of  many brahmin scholars.  Many of mathematical concepts are derived from those collected books, and it was said that newton had a library of indian texts in his house .
2. Rudolf Steiner was associated with Theosophical society of Annie Besant.  Annie Besant has collected numerous religious texts in india which rudolf might have access to.  This is only a possibility and i do not have any concrete proof for that.
3. In the preface of the archives of steiner’s lectures, it was stated that steiner did not give any reasoning or explanations to the techniques he taught to the farmers.  They were told to simply follow what he said and apply it.  There may be possibility that steiner might have just sourced the techniques from indian texts and reproduced as it is.
4. Cow was centre point of indian farming.  In Bio-Dynamic farming, the cow horn is used to prepare the compost, by packing it with cow dung and burying for 6 months during summer.  The Europeans do not have cow centric farming, and hence it is more probable that they are NOT aware of cow based farming.
5. Finally, we dont have any details on where Rudolf got to know his bio-dynamic techniques that he advocated.  Whether he developed these techniques on his own or did he got from any other sources is still not known (alteast to me).  This again raises the suspicion that he might have hidden the sources, probably because of the christian fundamentalists of that time as it happened in many other cases of other mathematicians.  Another reason might be the white racism prevailing at that time.  (please remember how J.C. Bose is discriminated and his knowledge stolen by marconi)
Success of bio-dynamic farming in India:
In the meeting, few farmers shared their experience on how they came across bio-dynamic farming and how they are successful.
Navaneethakrishnan sir, who precided over the meeting, shared his experience on how two youngsters named mahesh and john, who studied environmental science in canada, who applied bio-dynamic techniques in his farm, and documented the outcome.  They seem to have learned this as additional course in canada, and back to india, they tried bio-dynamic decomposting for mettupalayam municipality but eventually betrayed by government officials.
Another Farmer from anaimalai shared his experiences.  He told that after he applied bio-dynamic farming techniques, the health of the plants was very good, and that during one of the flood season, the paddy crops in all his neighbours farms was affected whereas the same variety of paddy cultivated in his farm was not affected.  This was taken note by TNAU, and he was invited to give a lecture on his success in bio-dynamic farming to farmers in switzerland.
There was also discussion on relevance of ayurveda and cosmic forces and one of the ayurveda doctor gave a very good explanation on the basic ayurvedic concepts.  There was a brief but heated debate on ayurveda vs naturopathy which was very informative.
Conclusion of the meeting:
The meeting concluded in the evening with field visit to Mr.T.Navaneethakrishnan sir’s farm.  He showed us the horn manure which he has prepared.  The health of the banana plants are very evident on the first appearance.
Overall, it was a very refreshing and useful experience in that meeting, and I returned back with a determination to create more awareness about this natural and ecological way of farming.

Business Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, Nov 21, 2006

Farming based on zodiac principles of crop calendar
M.J. Prabu
Finding popularity among growers in southern States

Innovative farming
Crops also have an almanac which farmers refer for carrying out operations.
The basic theory is that the 12 zodiac signs connected to the movement of the moon are divisible into four groups.

Chennai , Nov. 20
Biodynamic farming is fast finding popularity among several farmers in the southern States, especially Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
This farming is done by performing different operations based on zodiac principles of the crop calendar.
Similar to the almanac for humans, crops also have an almanac which biodynamic farmers refer for carrying out their farm operations.
The origin of this farming is traced to a series of lectures given by an Austrian philosopher, Mr Rudolf Steiner, in 1924.
The harvested produces grown by this method of farming have a superior taste and aroma compared to other farming methods.
The encouraging results proved by biodynamic farming have led to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Delhi and the National Horticulture Board (NHB) Bangalore, popularising this technique among organic farmers.
"Biodynamic farming is quite eco-friendly as there is no great investment involved. There are nearly 100 such farmers in Tamil Nadu and about 1,000 all over India," says Mr Jeyachandran, a farmer in Ariyanoor village of Madhurantakkam taluk, Kanchipuram district in Tamil Nadu The term biodynamic is derived from the Greek word `bios' (life) and `dynamics' (energy). The basic theory is that the 12 zodiac signs connected to the movement of the moon are divisible into four groups.

Influence on operations
"Each group has a certain influence on the farm operations and plant life. The entire wheel is in turn connected to the four basic elements such as earth, water, fire and air," says Mr Jeyachandran.
Accordingly, the signs Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn are connected to the soil and help in the development of the root systems.
Gemini, Libra and Aquarius signs are connected to the air and sunlight and help in flowering. Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces are said to be related to water and influence leaf development, while Aries, Leo and Sagittarius are concerned with fire and help in the development of fruit and seed.
Seed sowing, spraying of foliar applications, plant propagation, grafting and harvest should be done during the waning phase of the moon (that is 15 days from the new moon). On the other hand, during the waxing phase of the moon (that is 15 days from the full moon period) field ploughing, manure application, transplanting of seedlings can be done, according to Mr Jeyachandran.
Basic requirement
"Cow's horn is the one of the basic requirement in such farming. Fresh dung from a lactating cow (one which has delivered a calf in a week's time) should be stuffed into the horn and buried in the soil," he said.
This burying should be done usually during September-December.
The horns should be dug out during May-July. The dung inside would have turned into soft powder-like substance. About 25-30 gm of horn manure diluted in 5-15 litres of water can be used for sprinkling on one acre.
"While sprinkling farmers should take care to see that the field is wet, said Mr Jeyachandran.
Two to three applications of horn manure per year are sufficient to enhance the fertility of the soil, he explained.
`Horn silica'
Another method called "horn silica" where instead of cow dung, crushed white silica powder is stuffed into the horns and buried in the soil.
After the same amount of time similar to that of stuffed dung the silica should be dug out. The recommended amount is one gm of horn silica diluted in 13-15 litres of water per acre.
Application of organic manure and composts produced with the help of earthworms and microbes can also be done alongside to improve soil fertility and ensure sustained soil health, according to him.
Mr Jeyachandran has also replaced chemical insecticides and has been using insect repellents prepared from the leaves of nochi, neem, castor and pongamia.

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