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Award of Merit Winner

BIODYNAMICS
by DR. LAKSHMI SRIDHARAN
Member of the American Rose Society Research Committee,
Science Editor for the electronic American Rose Journal, and Horticultural Judge

Part I: Biodynamics: The sun, the moon, and the rose gardening:

The Vedic Culture:

The Vedas, the scriptures of the Hindus, cover a wide variety of subjects--philosophy, astronomy, science, politics, religion, agronomy, horticulture, etc.

The Vedic concept of the ancient Hindus strongly believes that the cosmic energy shapes and sustains life on earth. The positions of the sun, the moon and all the other planets with relation to each other, regulate the physiological activities of all living creatures. The nine planets are represented as gods in all the Hindu temples. (In addition to the seven planets recognized by the astronomers, we have two more planets. The nine planets together constitute the nava grahas.). Whenever, we, the Hindus are in the temple, we circle around the nava grahas nine times to invoke the blessings of the nine planets for a healthy, happy life for all creatures on earth, not just for ourselves. We also invoke the blessings of the natural elements, earth, fire, water, and air for the continuity of life on earth, for fertility and prosperity. In the second week of January, we, the south Indians celebrate harvest festival to offer special prayers and thanks to the sun, the earth, and the animals for a bountiful harvest. In the heat of the summer, on a full moon day, we have a colorful celebration to honor the moon. (Girls and boys in India are often named after the moon god, Chandra and the sun god, Surya. Some of you perhaps have heard of the late Nobel Laureate, the Astrophysicist, Dr. Chandra Sekhar and the Chandra observatory named after him.)

The concept of Biodynamics:

The late anthroposophist, Rudolf Steiner is the guru of biodynamics. Introduced in 1922, the concept of biodynamics reaffirms the Vedic concept of the ancient Hindus by recognizing the role of cosmic energies that create and maintain life. Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge, to guide the Spiritual in the human being to the Spiritual in the universe. The path that leads into Anthroposophy consists firstly, in changing the direction of one's will; secondly, in experiencing super-sensible knowledge; lastly, in participating in the destiny of one's time to a point where it becomes one's personal destiny. Steiner was a philosopher, a theologian, an educator, an authority on Goethe, an agricultural expert, an architect, and what not. Steinerís approach to growing plants is spiritualistic.

The term, biodynamic has it origin in Greek, bios means life and dynamis means energy. Hence, biodynamic gardening refers to working with the energies that create and maintain life. While gardeners are aware of the importance of solar energy, the energy derived from the sun, in sustaining plant life, not many gardeners know that cosmic energy, the energy of all the planets influence the physiological activities of a plant. Because of the differences in these contributing energies, planting during certain days of the moon cycle is important.

The Cosmic Influence on Plant Growth

Understanding the Cosmic Rhythms is crucial to biodynamic gardening. The light of the sun, moon, planets, and stars reaches the plants in regular Rhythms. Each contributes to the life, growth, and form of the plant. By understanding the gesture and effect of each rhythm, you can time your ground preparation, sowing, cultivating, and harvesting to the advantage of the crops you are raising.

Gardening according to Moon phases

The Moon affects plant growth through its pull on water. Plants contain a huge percentage of water in their make up, and they respond to the tidal pulls of the Moon. There are two types of influence that the moon has on planting. The first is the phase the moon is in, increasing or decreasing in light, when the pull of lunar gravity effects root and leaf growth. Just as the moon pulls the ocean tides, it also pulls the smaller bodies of water, causing moisture to rise closer to the surface during the waxing (increasing) moon, or drawing the roots down in the waning (decreasing) moon. Generally, the best time to plant is just before the New Moon and during the waxing phase. The waning Moon through to the balsamic phase is clean-up time -- weed out dying plants or overgrown beds, rake paths, trim, and burn or compost debris. However, some plants do better when started during certain Moon phases. For instance, during the New Moon, plant flowers, shrubs, trees and such garden vegetables as lettuce, chard, spinach and others whose primary value is in their above-ground parts. As the Moon grows full, it draws the plants up, enhancing their growth.

The effects of the Moon Signs, the twelve Zodiac signs (the twelve constellations, the groups of stars), further complicate this. The moon makes a complete circle of the Zodiac signs once a month, passing through each sign lasting from 1.5 to 3 days. The moon acts like a satellite receiving the forces of constellations, transmitting the forces to the Earth and affecting various parts of plant. Its influence on the four natural elements, earth, air, fire and water is variable when it passes through the zodiac signs. When the moon passes over Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius, the days are warm. The warm days are good for fruit and seed formation. Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn promote root growth, hence good for vegetative propagation of roses. When the moon passes over Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius, it favors development of flowers, substance and color through its influence over the air. When the moon passes through Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces, it promotes vegetative growth because of its influence over water. Sow rose seeds, select air/light or flower days (Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius), and harvest them on warm/seed days for better shelf life and viability.

The Solar Energy

Sunlight supports and sustains all plant life including roses. It is the cheapest source of light energy available for plant growth. Light regulates various developmental and physiological processes: photosynthesis, pigment formation, flower induction, seed germination, etc. The vegetative and reproductive phases of a plant respond differently to the quantity and quality of light that it receives.

Sunlight is a continuous electromagnetic spectrum of radiation. Planet Earth receives only a very small fraction of this vast spectrum. The radiations in this spectrum travel in waves. The distance between the crest of waves is wavelength. The radiation of each wavelength has a characteristic amount of energy associated with it - the shorter the wavelength higher is the energy. The light absorbing pigment, the chlorophyll has maximum absorption at wavelengths, 700 nm and 680 nm., hence the photosynthetic efficiency peaks at these wavelengths. The phytochromes in the leaves are photosensitive. They are responsible for the induction of flowering. The phytochrome, P 660 absorbs light in the red region of the spectrum (660 nm) while the P735 absorbs light in the far-red region of the spectrum (735 nm). The P 660 and P735 are inter-convertible. The inter conversion controls flowering. For further details, refer to my article, "Let there be light".

Biodynamics is a science of life forces, a recognition of the basic principles at work in nature, and an approach to gardening that takes these principles into account to bring about a balance and healing. It is a new approach to science, which integrates precise observation of natural phenomena, clear thinking, and knowledge of the spirit.

Part II: Vitalizing the Soil: The Power of Healing

A biodynamic gardener feels the pulse of Nature. Working with Nature, not against Nature is the very essence of biodynamics. Be perceptive to the changing moods of Nature as dictated by the cosmic energy emanating from the sun, the moon and all the other planets as explained in Part I of this article. Careful observations of nature during sun shine, darkness of the night, storm, snow, drought -- in shade and full sun, in wet and dry areas, on different soils, will yield a more fluid grasp of the elements, earth, water, fire and air. (The ancient Hindus have added one more element, time to the other four elements recognized by the western civilization) By doing so, a gardener eventually learns to "read" the language of Nature. A gardener, then, can be creative, bringing new emphasis and balance through specific actions. In addition, as a biodynamic gardener, you will learn to revere life that comes in different sizes, shapes, and forms. You will recognize the integrated relationship between plant, animal and soil.

The Life of a Soil

Soil to a biodynamic gardener is a living breathing entity, teaming with infinite number of microflora (bacteria, fungi, algae, mycorrhizae, etc.) and fauna (earthworms, and protozoa). The vitality of a living breathing soil supports and affects the quality and health of the plants that grow in it. Therefore, one of the fundamental efforts is to build up stable humus in our soil through composting. Vegetable waste, manure, leaves, food scraps, all contain precious vitality, which can be held and put to use for building up the soil if they are handled wisely.

A compost pile, to a biodynamic gardener is a pile of black gold, the humus. The soil microorganisms release the nutrients (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, etc. from the green waste, from dead and decaying fauna) to enrich the soil, convert the nutrients to a soluble form for a root absorption, also kill invasive pathogenic fungi in the root zone. An indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers is not acceptable to a biodynamic gardener. Contrary to the opinion held by gardeners with absolutely no background in biology, the rose, the soil, and the soil microorganisms know the difference between chemical fertilizers and rich humus. A Biodynamic gardener applies the principles of biology in gardening. Chemical fertilizers impoverish the soil by killing the beneficial microflora and fauna; the initial rise in the yield declines eventually in course of time. The Nature, the master architect has designed the roots to seek the nutrients in a soil. When you apply chemical fertilizers, you do not challenge the roots to seek the nutrients. Repeated uses of chemical fertilizers inhibit root proliferation. You may have heard of the principle of use and disuse formulated by the famous evolutionary biologist, Lamarck. (I can even explain it in terms of operon mode of gene regulation proposed by the famous geneticists, Jacob and Monod, if you is interested!) The liquid manure (tea) is a dynamic preparation for vitalizing the soil as well as the plant life. The following flowers serve as a source of nutrients, vitality, and even as bactericide, fungicide or a pesticide:

Yarrow blossoms (Achillea millefolium)
Chamomile blossoms (Chamomilla officinalis)
Stinging nettle (whole plant in full bloom) (Urtica dioca)
Oak bark (Quercus robur)
Dandelion flowers (Taraxacum officinale)
Valerian flowers (Valeriana officinalis)

Biodynamic preparations are intended to moderate and regulate biological processes as well as enhance and strengthen the life (etheric) forces on the garden. The preparations are used in homeopathic quantities, meaning they produce an effect in extremely diluted amounts. As an example, just 1/16th ounce (level teaspoon) of each compost preparation is added to seven- to ten-ton piles of compost.

The liquid tea prepared from the silica-rich horsetail plant (Equisetum arvense) is used as a foliar spray to suppress fungal diseases in plants. Apply the liquid tea prepared from alfalfa pellets which is rich in nitrogen, unspecified growth hormones, vitamin, etc. to the soil when the roses are growing vigorously. Two of the preparations are used directly in the field, one on the earth before planting, to stimulate soil life, and one on the leaves of growing plants to enhance their capacity to receive the light. Instead of indiscriminate distribution of vast quantities of compost and organic materials over the soil, the correct disposition of specific quantities and qualities of organics maximizes plantsí potential more effectively.

Crop rotation and proper inter cropping also contribute to a healthier biodynamic yield. A crop rotation is not possible in rose beds. However inter cropping and companion planting will certainly revitalize the soil as roses deplete the soil by robbing away the essential nutrients. Choose small aromatic herbs (family: Labiatae) and legumes (family: Papilionaceae) that will not compete aggressively with roses for nutrition, space or light. For further details on inter-cropping and companion planting refer to my articles.

The keynote to success in vitalizing the soil is reverence for Mother Earth --use her resources intelligently without abusing her. Biodynamic gardening is good for the Earth, the roses and the gardeners.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Reference:
Singania, P. K. 1999, Biodynamic, Cosmic Energy, Radionic in Biological Agriculture (Roses),

Rose Annual published by the Rose federation of India
Sridharan, L. M., 1995, Microorganisms, Roses, and Rosarians, Rose Annual, p68
Sridharan, L. M., 1996, Indigofera Leaf Extract to Control Insect Pests, The Rose Leaf, August
Sridharan, L. 1996, Companion Plants in the Rose Garden, The Criterion, Summer Edition
Sridharan, L. M., 1995, Let There Be Light (photosynthesis, photorespiration and photoperiodism),
The Rose Leaf, September

Biodynamic Farming & Compost Preparation
Alternative Farming Systems Guide

Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)
P.O. Box 3657
Fayetteville, AR 72702
Phone: 1-800-346-9140 --- FAX: (501) 442-9842

http://www.attra.org/attra-pub/biodynamic.html

Wildfeuer, S, What is Biodynamics, http://www.angelic-organics.com/intern/biodynamics.html

You may also contact:
Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association
P.O. Box 550, Kimberton, PA 19442
voice: (610) 935-7797
Fax: (610) 983-3196
http://www.biodynamics.com/



Last updated: 3/7/09
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