Astral has to do with nitrogen and animal activity

Question from Dan Mangum:

I have been using biodynamic preps (including the 3 Kings) and I am getting an increasing amount of insect/pollinator diversity and quantity. I had problems with yellow jackets eating the cherries but after balancing the soil and trees that has subsided. This year I have a LOT of songbirds and such, including new varieties. But now the birds really took a toll on the cherries. Is this because of unseen insects? Is there some soil imbalance? Is it just the price of having birds? Do you have any ideas?

Answer from Kym Green:

We had huge issues with rainbow lorikeets that arrived on Christmas Day 2013 on our apples. We had all of our 20 kilometre of nets deployed on our cherry trees in harvest. The weather had been exceedingly hot and dry for Spring and Summer— strong astral forces. I decided to make a homeopathic reagent based on biodynamic preparations that work mainly on the soil — etheric forces, to balance the atmosphere. I used my Rogers radionics instrument, and Malcolm Rae bd cards that Hugh made. I made remedies — horn manure, chamomile, yarrow, all at 20c, Also oakbark, stinging nettle at 30c. Combined the 2 and broadcast. The birds moved away from our orchards into 2 days. Our neighbour was inundated!!! I have had birds since but not been as successful in moving them off like I did that year. Hope this helps!

Answer from Hugh Lovel:

I’m glad to hear Kym use the word astral, as this is an important concept. But what does astral mean? What distinguishes it from the etheric?

Astral has to do with nitrogen and animal activity. Birds are astral beings, but so also are bugs and worms in the soil, or even protozoa. It is the astral activity–particularly the manuring–that feeds the trees with the lime minerals and the nitrogen compounds plants need for growth. So there is astrality in the canopy with the birds eating the fruits, and astrality around the roots of the plants chewing away at the soil food web and feeding it to the trees with their gift of fruits to the astrality in the canopy. The intense warmth that was occurring is etheric, as warmth, light, tone and life are etheric and have to do with plant activity. Oxygen carries the etheric activity, and this oxygen, basic to chemistry rather than astrality, paves the way for engaging nitrogen. It frees up or activates the soil’s mineral complex. The yarrow preparation is intensely astral. It is made out of flowers packed into the bladder of a male deer, which is an extremely sensitive animal aware of its surroundings. Yarrow is an herb associated with the nitrogen excretions of the kidney bladder system and it is associated with the planet Venus, which as the planet closest to the earth and is the planet of affinity. It helps the body shed nitrogen that has fallen out of the living process, keeping the chemical equilibrium of the blood shifted toward the living amino phase instead of the uric acid/salt phase. But it is just this uric acid chemistry that frees up potassium in the soil to be taken up at the roots of plants to build–with the help of sulphur, which locks the potassium in place to form the fibrous transport system that carries nutrients up into plant growth and fruiting. The yarrow, using stationary sulphur’s connection to the widest circumference, engages mobile potassium with immobile silica to form plant stalks tough and make the plant strong. The chromatogram of the yarrow preparation shows extremely strong peripheral silica forces. The old wiccans used to use yarrow stalks to make their ‘brooms’ that carried them on their nightly astral flights, and yarrow stalks are used for divination using the I Ching–also an astral activity. The chamomile preparation, working with digestion and absorption of proteins works more with Mercury, carbon and the solid life ether where yarrow works with Venus, silica and the soluble chemical ether. The nettle preparation, which works with the heart and blood, the ego, identity and the sun is involved in the whole works, and is the most intensely astral of them all, the richest in protein (36%) and the most awareness provoking. It supports the other two and really may be the main thing that mirrors the bird’s astrality and scares them away. Then, lastly the oak bark preparation, working with the moon and reflecting the nettle’s intense light ether, keeps oxidation of amino acids in the living realm so the oxygen activity of the chemical ether is not so strong that the astral nitrogen compounds break down to the nitrate form. Between the yarrow and the oak bark astral nitrogen compounds are kept in the living phase or else excreted into the soil to activate potassium to carry amorphous fluid silica into the capillaries of plant’s xylem that hold up the plant. This could all combine to make the astrality within the fruits so intense it repels the astral (bird) activity surrounding the plant and its fruits. This should repel insects too.

I want to ponder how one might tweak this recipe further. Right off, I think I would like to include the horsetail decoction (BD 508) to ensure potassium silicate availability. And you’d want to prepare in advance by keeping/feeding the soil food web to be strong and robust. If you come out of a long, wet period in the preceding spring this might not work so well.

The Discovery of Horn Clay and Biodynamics

By Hugh Lovel

With thousands of lectures and uncounted insights Rudolf Steiner launched anthroposophy as a study of human wisdom. With extraordinary learning in both the classics and modern science, Steiner combined his immense erudition with innate clear seeing gifts to forge a vision of the world that at once was both spiritual and scientific.

This was an awesome, overwhelming act for others to follow. To date it would be hard to find a more thoroughgoing response to the need for a scientific world view with soul, purpose and wisdom. Unfortunately, it is characteristic of such figures and movements that a core of orthodox adherents develops which ossifies into a cult of true believers unable to think for themselves, dependent upon quotation from scriptures. Biodynamic agriculture, which grew out of Rudolf Steiner¹s work, has not escaped some measure of this. For one thing Steiner’s insights, even though more than 75 years old, are still ahead of our universities.

In lecture two of his agriculture course, Steiner touched on the importance of clay as a mediator between the lime and silica poles of nature. He emphasized clay’s primary role in conducting the silica forces, which develop deep within the earth, upward for plant development towards fruit and seed. No matter how else clay is described or what we do to make it fertile–all is of secondary importance. The important thing is clay promotes the upward stream associated with silica.

Needless to say this is revolutionary thinking. Soil testing only measures the extent clay acts as a reservoir of nutrients. After testing the soil, we may apply lime and other nutrients, but the key question really is how to move these nutrients upward to the fruit. What moves the nutrients is the silica stream, with clay as the conductor. Reading Steiner’s agriculture shows he had encyclopaedic knowledge and insight to share–with very limited time to share them. He could only hit the high spots, going on to the next insight and the next.

He said in lecture two that later he would give recommendations for treating clay to better conduct the growth forces welling out of the earth. However, later he failed to do so. We know he meant to give a second agriculture course, but he fell ill and died without doing this. So for 75 years biodynamic agriculture proceeded with horn manure (BD 500) and horn silica (BD 501) but no horn clay. Steiner didn’t give enough indications, so who knew how to pack the horns or use the finished horn clay? Characteristic of the paralysis of true believer cults, little was done by experiment.

With changing a light bulb, it is clear that a minimum of one, though possibly under some conditions more, persons are necessary. And experiments could determine how many are required under what conditions. With making and using horn clay things are similarly clear cut. Experiments could have proceeded at any time. Now after 75 years they have. The results are most interesting.

“Let me remark here that if we are dealing with a soil that does not carry these influences upward during the winter as it should, it is good to furnish that soil with some clay, the dosage of which I will indicate later.” –Rudolf Steiner

My first experience with biodynamic horn clay was at Michael Topolos’ winery in Forestville, California. This merlot vineyard adjoined a busy two lane highway, with pollution near the road. WE applied Horn clay here as part of a back-to-back sequence of all of the BD preps, and a belt of selected plants were established at the boundary by the road.

More than twenty years of biodynamics makes me aware of subtle nuances. What I perceived at the roadside was gas, oil, rubber and asbestos. What I perceived stepping down into the vineyard below the road was soil, foliage and ripe grapes. Just a couple steps made a remarkable difference. Up on the road I could see in my mind’s eye a protective membrane enveloping the vineyard. The difference between being within this membrane and being outside was like the difference between life and death.

The horn clay created a dome, like a plastic greenhouse covering, which enveloped the entire vineyard and protected its biodynamic energies. All of the BD preps held together and worked in concert. Though this vineyard was only a few years biodynamic, this was best interaction of the preps I had ever seen including that on my own farm.

From then on I knew I must investigate horn clay beyond my philosophical discussions with Hugh Courtney and Harvey Lisle. We took the contemplation of horn clay into use. With horn manure and horn silica we only had the up and down forces with no middle, no coordination holding things together. Clay is that glue. With horn clay plants not only work into the atmosphere–they are held there to fruit and ripen. Moreover, with horn clay the soil is stimulated to better receive what works back into it when digestion occurs.

Horn clay goes to the very basis of how and why biodynamics works. Back when Rudolf Steiner gave his agricultural lectures in 1924 he emphasized the importance of clay as conducting the silica factor welling up from deep within the earth. This silica factor builds up over the winter and causes plants to grow strongly in spring. Unfortunately in his agriculture , despite his promise, Steiner failed to indicate how the soil should be dosed in regard to clay. When talking about making the horn silica he mentioned the horn cavity probably should be capped off with a plug of clay to seal it. Those who worked with him in Switzerland were taught to make both horn manure and horn silica with a clay plug sealing the open end. However, since Steiner was not explicit in his agriculture course that this clay should be incorporated in the finished horn preparations it became common practice to unearth the horns, take out the clay and throw it away and use the horn manure and horn silica without any clay admixture.

The idea of making horn clay was part of biodynamics from the beginning. In this regard Walter Stappung’s booklet Die Dünger-Präparate, published in Switzerland in 2000, cites Voegele (1926), Lippert (1938) Remer (1980) and Willis (1999). We got the idea of making horn clay from a lecture delivered almost a decade earlier by Gunter Hauk. When asking Gunter how to make the horn clay the response was “No one knows. Steiner didn¹t give any indications.” However, in the process of making biodynamics work so that it made farms self-sufficient and addressed all issues of agricultural importance as Steiner clearly intended it to Willis found he had to make horn clay. Horn clay goes to the basis of how and why biodynamics works.



Geologists know that silica cooks up out of the Earth’s mantle. High mountains are thrust up by the rising silica forces within the earth. In fact it is only through the uplifting, vertical forces of silica that such heavy elements as gold, silver, platinum, lead and uranium are brought to the surface. In plants the silica forces work on the vertical axis driving plants toward fruit and seed. It is through the uplifting activity of silica that the lime elements such as calcium are carried up into leaf, fruit and seed. Steiner pointed out that the outer planets, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, work upward toward fruit and ripening through the siliceous substances of the Earth. However, the silica forces do not move upward into plants very well without clay as clay governs the ebb and flow of sap within the plant. This is why tomatoes do best in clay soils while potatoes produce better in sandy soils. With tomatoes the silica forces must rise very high in the plant, while with potatoes it is better if this does not occur. In sandy soils where clay doesn’t convey the silica forces so strongly toward fruit and seed potatoes won¹t waste their energies on flower and fruit. Instead the silica forces stay below the surface where potatoes form.  For some other examples, Georgia peanuts and soybeans do ever so well on heavy red clays near Columbus while onions do much better in lighter soils near Vidalia. There are many corollaries to this.


As the Sun evolved from a new star to its present form it converted hydrogen and helium into denser elements. These denser elements often are ejected from the Sun as ionized plumes called solar prominences or coronal discharges. When these ions strike the Earth’s magnetic field they stream in over the poles causing the northern and southern lights.

Earlier in the Sun’s evolution much carbon was given off. In later ages there have been more heavier elements like magnesium, calcium, iron and copper. This is why so many coal deposits are overlayed with limestone. Our planet has long collected material from the Sun, laying it down horizontally as sediments. Just as silica carries vertical forces, lime carries horizontal forces. Every housewife knows that dust accumulates in her closets, but how much more dust settles in open fields?

The significance of lime working horizontally is that it fills things out. So it is of great importance in leaves which spread out horizontally and catch sunlight. It also is lime that fills out the apple, grape or watermelon and makes them juicy and fat. And it is lime that gives legumes like beans or alfalfa the ability to draw nitrogen from its dead form as an inert gas in the air into the life of the soil.


On the periodic table of the elements berylium, magnesium, calcium and strontium are group II, alkaline substances which grasp and hold other elements. On the other hand carbon, silicon and germanium are group IV substances which are very free in their chemical nature. In between  groups II and IV are the group III elements of boron, aluminum and galium. These are the mediators as they both give and take. Clay basically is aluminum silicates, though, of course, clays can contain a wide variety of other minerals. Clay is plastic, absorbent, holds and releases water extremely well and is easily molded into various forms.

According to ancient wisdom man is made of clay, and clay relates to the heart and circulation, as well as the feelings and emotions which bridge between the brain and the guts, the thinking and willing parts of the human being.


Taken by themselves chemical elements in their pure states are lifeless. This is even true of oxygen, the carrier of life. Diatomic oxygen gas in the atmosphere is lifeless. But when oxygen combines with other elements life comes into the picture. Thus in their pure states calcium and magnesium or carbon and silicon are lifeless. But their oxides, lime, silica or carbon dioxide provide the basis for life as we know it.

This is just as true for aluminum, which mediates between lime and silica. Pure aluminum is lifeless. But its oxide, alumina, forms the basis for clay and in combination with silica is clay. As such alumina directly channels the expansive, cosmic, formative, life giving forces of silica into interaction with lime and all the interplay going on between the lime and silica. Not that there is much aluminum in our bodies or in plants. There’s only a small amount. But it is no accident that the Bible identifies man as “made of clay.” Truly it is clay that holds us together, receiving and retaining the forces of order, form and energy that give us life.

How BD Works

Applying the BD preps establishes patterns that organize the energies and substances in nature. The patterns of light and warmth associated with silica bring about photosynthesis, blossoming, fruiting and ripening in the atmosphere where the elements of air and fire are organized in plants. The patterns of tone and life associated with lime bring about digestion and nourishment in the soil where the elements of water and earth are organized by the soil food web. In between these are the ebb and flow of sap in plants that brings sugars down from above to the roots and brings nutrients back up from the soil.

The biodynamic practice of burying cow horns with quartz powder, cow manure and bentonite in them focuses the cosmic pattern energies on the materials in the horns and the material within the horn cavity resonates (inaudibly) like a bell ringing. Ever hold a conch shell to your ear and hear the roar within? The cow horn does something similar though it resonates to the cosmos rather than just to the sea.

This imparts a tremendous pattern force to the horn preparations. Then when these preparations are stirred and sprayed the droplets act as seeds to establish resonant patterns that, in the case of horn silica enhance photosynthesis and ripening, in the case of horn manure enhance digestion and nourishment, and in the case of horn clay enhance the ebb and flow of sap within the plant.

What Horn Clay Does

It doesn’t do all that much good to enhance photosynthesis, fruiting and ripening in the above ground part of the plant and boost the digestive and nutritive activities in the soil at the plant¹s roots if there is insufficient give and take occurring between these two polarities. By itself horn clay doesn¹t do so much. But used in conjunction with horn quartz and horn manure it works as follows.

As its first activity horn quartz enhances photosynthesis, the manufacture of sugars which powers all the complex chemistry in the leaf. The horn manure yields a rich and active soil food web. Yet it is the horn clay that is so key in boosting the ebb and flow of the plant¹s sap resulting in a lively exchange between roots and tops. When the sap in the plant ebbs into the roots sugars and other compounds are exuded into the soil near the plant¹s feeder roots. This provides energy for the mycorhyzae, azotobacters and other soil food web organisms so that nitrogen is fixed and nutrients are elaborated from the soil. As the sap is sucked back up into the plant and flows back to the growing tips these nutrients are taken up in abundance.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this relates to the most mobile nutrient of all, nitrogen. When nitrogen is supplied from external sources it will be available to plants as salts, whether these are oxidized to the nitrates, reduced to ammonia or in some intermediary state such as urea. Nitrogen salts are very soluble and mobile and they are taken up very readily by plants. If they are abundant they depress nitrogen fixation by microorganisms and are taken up by plants to exclusion of more complex nitrogen compounds such as amino acids. This results in salty, watery protoplasm in the leaves and growing tips and the plant must expend considerable energy in elaborating these nitrogen salts into proteins and into its DNA. This can never produce a plant that fulfills its genetic potential.

However, if the plant is sending sugars to its roots and feeding azotobacters which are fixing atmospheric nitrogen the plant gets its nitrogen requirement in the form of amino acids rather than nitrogen salts. These are assembled without further ado into proteins and the plant can manifest the full complexity of its genetic templates so that its cells are turgid, cell structure is dense, brix is high, protein is high and flavors are out the roof. Then all the toxic rescue chemistry becomes superfluous if not damaging, weeds lose out in the race to keep up with larger seeded robust crops, insects and diseases fall by the wayside and the bottom line is NO FERTILIZER COSTS.

The results obtained with a BD program using horn clay are best when NO salt fertilizers whatsoever are used, and especially no salt nitrogen. Compost applications at modest levels may be advisable, especially on land where silage or hay is cut and the growth is removed.

However, heavy applications of compost are inadvisable because the nitrogen compounds in the compost will oxidize to the nitrates and having nitrogen salts present in the soil dilutes the plant¹s sap and makes its protoplasm salty and watery. The key is to get the exchange going between sugars from the leaves and amino acids from the soil so that the plant maxes out and high yields of the finest quality are obtained.

Doing Horn Clay

Builder¹s supply stores commonly sell sodium bentonite clay, which is cheap and makes a very good horn clay. Other clays will do and some may be particularly superb, but bentonite is one of the classic clays with good water absorption and release and a good cation exchange capacity. Getting cow horns may be more of a problem, but if you know of folks in the slaughter business these too can be obtained. The best horns are from mature cows living on free range that have had several calves. It is important that the horns have heavy weight compared to their volume, because such horns have a stronger resonance or better “ring.”

Ideally horn clay should span the entire year in the horn, both summer and winter. Clay functions differently in summer than in winter and both the ebb and flow functions should be present. This means one can bury horns filled with (moisten first) bentonite at the spring equinox and unearth them after the following spring equinox. Or one can bury them at the fall equinox and go all the way until the following fall equinox passes. But in case one has the basic patterns of full year horn clay and one wants to emphasize either just the summer or just the winter patterns one can bury horns filled with clay from spring equinox to fall equinox (summer horn clay) or bury them from fall equinox to spring equinox (winter horn clay).

Application by stirring and spraying can cover 15 or 16 acres per barrel full. With a stirring rod suspended from a tripod one gets the water in the barrel moving in one direction, builds it up, puts a lot of energy into it, gets the vortex really whirling and draws the stirring rod in to center where it spins up with increased angular momentum as it nears the axis. And then. . . at the center it comes to rest with the whole barrel of solution spinning round it. You can see the etheric vortex lines cut across with the counter vortex lines of laminate water layers. These vortex/counter-vortex lines form a pattern like a great sunflower, such as Van Gogh painted so often. Each cycle grows, matures, senesces and is swept away.

The stirrer takes the pole back out of center, enters in the vortex in the counter fashion, and disrupts the dying cyclone into seething . . .chaos . . .Then winds into a new vortex–stoking it with energy and building to crescendo once again. Generation after generation goes the dance of life. Vortex/counter-vortex, leading, building, evolving inexorably to a universe of higher orderedness.

Then the spray is filtered and applied with a spray rig. Horn quartz is sprayed in the early morning as a mist into the atmosphere. It is supposed to evaporate upwards into the atmosphere. Horn manure is sprayed on the soil in late afternoon in very large droplets. It is supposed to sink in, and if one can disc it in or plow it down it seems to work better. With horn clay one wants a moderately fine spray in the afternoon to cover the surface of the soil or the lower trunks of trees so as to form a skin or diaphragm at the surface to mediate between the dynamic patterns of the atmosphere and the soil.


Biodynamic Banana Culture

By Hugh Lovel

The first biodynamic banana farm I consulted for was in Innisfail, Far Northern Queensland in 2005. It was a bit upland on the coastal side of the Dividing Range with good rainfall and awesome red basalt soils. The grower showed me a picture from his first banana harvest 40 years previously where he and his brother cleared a few hectares of rainforest, burned the timber, spread the ashes and—something new after WW II—they fumigated the soil with methyl bromide and gave it a powerful blend of soluble NPK before planting. His picture showed a world record 314 pound bunch of bananas.  “And,” he said, “It went straight downhill from there. This time I thought I’d do something different.”

My mental image was one of all that biomass—living protoplasm—released all in one flush from a thriving rainforest soil. And then it became an ordinary banana plantation. By themselves, bananas only took up what they needed and the rest went to waste. Every ecosystem collapses when the diversity of organisms sharing essential jobs and processes is broken and lost. The result is a leaky bucket, and the life leaks away.

This grower cleared and planted his field in a legume called pinto peanut (Arachis pintoi) along with mixed grasses and volunteers. This is a perennial forage legume that grows from a central crown with a several meter deep tap root, and when it blooms it sticks its pod in the ground and spreads by planting itself. Grazing rotationally with sheep led to peanut dominance in preparation for planting bananas. For the banana rows, using his Yoemans’ Plough, he ripped two parallel trenches two meters apart and alternated his Cavendish banana sets zig-zag between the two trenches to ensure robust root exudate overlap. Grown biodynamically this commercial variety yields a creamy, aromatic fruit that, when ripe, has a moist, light-yellow colour like clover-fed Jersey butter. And once the young banana ‘trees’ grew tall enough the farmer went back to rotational grazing with sheep.

With rotational grazing, maximizing growth maximizes grazing. Grass dairies adjust their herds and pastures to graze, either by day or night but never both in succession. Long grazing periods allow livestock to eat the best plants down to a nub and leave unpalatable or trashy plants with enough leaf panel to take off again. Grazing only about 40 % and leaving 60 % behind–some gets trampled and feeds the soil food web, but there’s enough leaf panel left for quick re-growth. Commonly it takes three weeks before re-grazing, though

There is a vigorous biodynamic group on the Atherton Tablelands with dedication to making excellent preps and holding workshops. This farmer was producing cheaply and efficiently, and he reckoned these were the best bananas he had grown in forty years—since that first banana crop where he cashed in all the protoplasm of a living rainforest. His chief problem was banana rust thrips causing unmarketable fruit. My take on this was not so much an inner vegetative weakness that invited the animal digestion into the early formation of the fruit. Yes, its physical structure was too weak in its early development of cell walls and connective tissues. But my sense was the animal digestion (astrality) was too weak around the banana roots, and thus the amino acids drawn from the soil to form the new fruit were too mineral (nitrate) This invites the thrips to feast during the earliest development of fingers after petals open, causing a water-soaked appearance to the newborn hand of bananas—a clear case for using the dandelion and horsetail preparations in the canopy, and the chamomile and nettle preparations on the soil to boost the astral complexity the plant draws in at its roots. Potassium silicate and soluble humates fortnightly in the irrigation would help, as silica lies at the basis of physical structure.

I’ve seen and consulted for my share of biodynamic banana farms, but most of my conventional banana farmers used biodynamic preparation patterns imparted to the products they used because they got good results and problems were minimized. Humic and fulvic acid feed the soil biology that cleans up Roundup and other toxic residues, but it also grows better bananas. I have recipes for these inputs in my book, Quantum Agriculture.

Banana farming is a hard business. The biodynamic farmer and his wife in the above example retired as the work became too much. A big biodynamic farm planted in Mareeba, terraced beautifully with the local majestic boulders, connected by wide avenues shaded with mangos and undersown in pinto peanut, dandelions and mixed perennial grasses. These folks lost a tractor-trailer load of fruit shipped 3000 km to Sydney. The shipment was rejected as rotten upon receipt and auctioned off, a windfall for an unscrupulous broker but a total loss for the farmers. My own immigration sponsor was ripped off for shipments of biodynamic potatoes and zucchinis to a wholesaler in Melbourne who sold the produce but never paid for it. The Mareeba banana folks asked themselves why work so hard just to lose a few hundred grand in one rip-off? They sold up and that beautiful farm with its rich soils is now a full-on chemical plantation using Roundup and growing large quantities of tasty-as-chalk bananas.

One of the people I have consulted for is Frank Sciacca, who has popularized the Red Tip Eco Bananas which are easy to see in supermarkets because the banana tips are dipped in red wax. See picture. His commitment to the environment shows in his low nitrogen, herbicide and insecticide free approach that has resulted in some of the best insect collections I’ve seen in Australia.

Managing bananas goes beyond the tree making a bunch of 10 or more hands. You try to have as many functional leaves as there are hands of bananas in the bunch. Alongside this is the decaying trunk of the previous tree with its top cut down so the crown reabsorbs what it can. Close by is the adolescent trunk that will take the place of the present producing tree. And alongside that should be a few suckers, one of which will be chosen to be the next adolescent tree. There’s all kinds of tropical vines, some of which love to climb bananas, so a good, non-climbing ground cover is a big help. I’ve visited and consulted for banana growers all the way south to Coff’s Harbour, where the first commercial bananas were grown in Australia. I’ve been telling Florida citrus growers they should diversify into bananas, as Floridians can grow bananas in their yards.  But if they do they will have to give up their chemicals and rejuvenate their environment with what they grow because Life is the biggest deficiency in agriculture.

My preferred clients are  new growers, who know they don’t know much about growing bananas, so they follow instructions carefully. It’s  the conventional growers looking to convert that have trouble. They are used to the WOW effect when they apply chemical nitrogen, and they don’t get that with biodynamics, which builds nitrogen fixation into the soil biology. The biodynamic approach is so gradual that four out of five think they will assist the BD program with some urea and other fertiliser salts. This damages the soil food web and sets progress back to the start.




Let’s talk about carbon

If we’re going to attract the life forces that agriculture feeds to human society as a whole to keep it alive, then we have to collect carbon.

Let’s talk about carbon. Carbon is associated with the earth element, and of course we’ve got water, air and fire as well. Sometimes carbon is called the Philosopher’s Stone. The hardest substance on earth is diamond, made from carbon. It’s also the framework for all living organisms, and it’s the magnet for hydrogen. So anytime we’re talking about conserving water then we need to talk about carbon because water will evaporate into the atmosphere – it will drain away and leave the landscape – unless there’s carbon there. Carbon attracts rainfall out of the sky. Carbon holds onto the water in the land, and carbon is what the chemistry of water works upon. So when we’re looking at what accumulates life-energy, it’s carbon.

When Wilhelm Reich did his work with orgone accumulators, he found carbon was the basis of orgone accumulation. Metal was the way of conducting it, but to attract it you had to have carbon. Carbon is the earth element, it’s the anchor for whatever we’re going to do in terms of building life into the landscape. And of course agriculture is what we’re doing to give life to our society. As far as the sociologists are concerned they know very well that we live in an agrarian society today, the days of the hunter-gatherers and whatnot are just not what’s mainstream anymore. Agriculture has given us the division of labor and the abundance, the savings of being able to specialize. So with the advent of agriculture, we had the rise of civilizations. Now here we are.

If we’re going to attract the life forces that agriculture feeds to human society as a whole to keep it alive, then we have to collect carbon. If we’re not collecting carbon with our agriculture, if we’re somehow or another dispersing the carbon, burning it up, exhausting it, robbing our soils of it or whatever then our agriculture is going to crash. Now carbon is the gold of our environment. What about the idea of the Philosopher’s Stone turning something to gold, turning base metal into gold? Carbon is what does that in terms of what’s the most valuable to us in our society – and that’s life. Carbon is what conserves life, draws in life, it accumulates life. When we’re talking about making agriculture free, we’re talking about building up carbon in our soils, accumulating carbon and being able to have a surplus of carbon so that we can harvest it from our farms and give it to people in our markets, in our restaurants and our dinner tables so that everyone has sufficient life in order to be healthy and happy. So it’s carbon that’s the wealth of our society.

The question is how do we accumulate carbon? Photosynthesis accumulates carbon from the carbon dioxide which is the free carbon in the atmosphere. It draws in carbon dioxide and turns that into sugar which is the basis, the framework of all of our carbohydrates. It of course also combines with nitrogen to make proteins. Oxygen organizes carbon in carbon dioxide and puts it out there everywhere for free. Photosynthesis unites water and carbon dioxide to make sugar, and it releases oxygen then to go off and organize other things.

Anytime we want to accumulate carbon what we have to do is to encourage photosynthesis. Whether it’s algae on the surface in the desert or algae on the surface of the ocean or it might be plankton in the ocean, they’re big carbon accumulators. But whatever it is, we accumulate carbon through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis – the capture of fire, you might say – and the building of a carbon framework, allows us to accumulate carbon in the landscape. Right now today on the planet earth we’ve got more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than in any other time that we know of. We’re in a period of great wealth if we want to accumulate carbon because it’s everywhere, it’s free.

Hugh answers Ibo Zimmermann, Deputy Director Agriculture and Natural Resources Sciences Namibia University of Science and Technology

Dear Ibo,

How biodynamic does a farm have to be to be biodynamic? Here is what Rudolf Steiner had to say about farms:

A farm is true to its essential nature, in the best sense of the word, if it is conceived as a kind of individual entity in itself — a self-contained individuality. Every farm should approximate to this condition. This ideal cannot be absolutely attained, but it should be observed as far as possible. Whatever you need for agricultural production, you should try to posses it within the farm itself (including in the “farm,” needless to say, the due amount of cattle). Properly speaking, any manures or the like which you bring into the farm from outside should be regarded rather as a remedy for a sick farm. That is the ideal. A thoroughly healthy farm should be able to produce within itself all that it needs. (Agriculture, Lecture II)


What I’ve found is the most important part of a farm is its boundaries. That’s like our skin is our most important organ, without which our inner organization would neither arise nor maintain itself. You could plant casuarina trees along the boundaries and horsetail like hair in the ditches and dykes, and that would really help the farm to be self-sufficient, but how are you going to delineate the boundaries of experiment plots so they are comparable to rice paddies on biodynamic farms? My smallest rice terrace was somewhere around 7 to 8 square metres and my largest would have been more like 50 square metres. The dykes were in grass, clover, dandelions, plantain, and other ‘weeds’ that got mowed occasionally (maybe once a month) with a lawnmower. You could have used a whipper snipper. All my local frogs, from the huge bull frogs to tiny tree frogs reproduced in the rice terraces, which were teeming with life. My old farm cat developed a taste for the young bull frogs and couldn’t wait to catch them at the boundaries. She stalked them through the rice. She would emerge slathered down in mud and algae with a frog in her jaws. Her tongue bath and toilet afterward must have been a lot of work, but somehow she reckoned it was worth it–there was a really strong life going on in those terraces and the frogs must have tasted really delicious. Being from South Louisiana I never ate frogs legs raw. I always dipped my frog legs in an egg batter and dredged them in corn flour and seasoning to fry them. I never tried the frog legs from my rice terraces because I didn’t have enough rice swamp to have a night-time frog gigging party with headlamps and tridents like we had in Louisiana. But with a few acres of rice instead of a mere 120 square metres we could have had parties–a great place to grow frogs and crayfish.


I paint this picture above to illustrate how difficult it might be to plant one or two experiment blocks of biodynamic rice in a larger context of test plots including control plots where nothing is added or taken away. If you stir up a complex made from all the biodynamic preparations and apply this to the biodynamic plot or plots how can you keep the effect from this tone-like resonance from affecting nearby plots? And where will you get your biodynamic ecology of algae, azola, tadpoles, birds and all sorts of other aquatic and flying species and still keep them away from the other plots including the controls? I’m not saying give up and forget it. And I’m not saying you can just ignore the spill-over effects from one block to the next. You’re going to have some spill over and you’re going to have some challenges in establishing a biodynamic ecology from the soil food web up. You’re going to have to consider that biodynamic farms generally show almost triple the conventional concentrations of fungi, bacteria and protozoa, to say nothing of ants, earthworms and other higher animals–and the same with ‘weeds’ or companion plants like legumes in the rice. No. You’re going to have to do the experiments and see how much of an ecology can be imparted to the biodynamic plots and how much this can be kept separate form the other experiment plots. And the final conclusions of the experiment will need to acknowledge the limitations and challenges of the experimental methods and show how these were dealt with. Go for it, but don’t expect it to be easy.


To help get a fuller picture of what biodynamic farming is about I’ve attached a copy of Steiner’s agriculture lectures, Georg Adams translation. It is the earlier translation (1938) and in some respects is more poetic than the Creeger/Gardener translation which dates to the 1990s. You can also go to Rudolf Steiner audio and download an audio version of the Agriculture Course that you can listen to while driving or whatever.

The researcher doing the rice might delve into these resources as well. Biodynamics may have resisted conventional research by virtue of its complexity. It is a comprehensive system of agriculture and it works best as a comprehensive system. Anything less will fail to show biodynamics in the light it deserves. A lot of biodynamic concepts, such as the importance of silica, can be very useful in conventional agriculture as well. For example, the USDA did research that compared the use of potassium silicate (an industrial product) with various fungicides. Even though potassium silicate is not a fungicide (it doesn’t kill fungi on contact) it prevented fungal diseases in wheat, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes better than any of the fungicides tested. Somehow the USDA refrained from blanket publicity of this fact, I suppose out of consideration for the welfare of makers of commercial fungicides.


Best wishes,

Hugh Lovel

Youtube of Hugh teaching Biodynamic Association of Namibia

Hugh Lovel New Book  

Quantum Agriculture:   Biodynamics and Beyond


Weather Moderation: Drawing Rain Using Biodynamic Preparations

Biodynamic Preparations and Drought

Hugh Lovel

How certain notions arise and become entrenched is a bit of a mystery, especially when they are wrong. Yet they do get started and entrenched. One of these is the belief that when things dry up and little moisture is available we cannot put out biodynamic preparations—as if these were delicate microbial cultures that must have moist conditions to establish and thrive. This is so far from true it seems impossible that it ever got started. Yet it did.

Essential Oils in Plants using Biodynamic Preparations

Dear Hugh and Shabari,

Trust you enjoyed your trip to SA and will return with more of your wisdom. I heard talk that we could receive the recording but this did not happen??

Please could you help me understand the biology or process of oil production in plants. Rosemary or Rose petals for instance…. I am interested in Essential oil production and need to understand the inner processes so as to know which one and when to apply our field sprays to maximise this production ; I would guess 501 one or two days before and harvesting… I assume that oil is highest before flowering, the flower sign before full moon or just after… and time of the day according to the ‘rulership’ planet of the plant taken from Culpepper. Would a single spray of one of the compost preparations be of benefit and if so ‘when’ and why?.

In truth, I do not actually know how to work out this influence of the ruling planet. Does it mean when the planet is in opposition to the Moon? or a trine involving that planet… ? Which is more powerful?

I understand that Nettle as a companion plant increases the oil content. Why? what is it about Nettle that does this? I have also been told that Yarrow does the same. ?

Any information on this subject would be greatly appreciated, or a reference/book etc.

Kind regards,

Avice Hindmarch.

Dear Avice,

Thanks for asking the right questions. Though I don’t know what your levels of essential oil production already are, I feel sure you can raise them if you put a little more effort and a lot more use of biodynamic preparations into it. Let’s look at correspondences between the various preparations and the processes involved.

500 — lime, digestive (transformative), earthly, gravitational processes
501 — silica, formative, cosmic, levitational processes
Horn Clay — intensifies both cosmic and earthly processes by working with that truly cosmic element, boron, to improve sap uptake and root exudation (Sap must go up in order to sink back down, and root exudation is what feeds nitrogen fixation)

502 — yarrow flowers in stag bladder, strongly intensifies boundaries (organization arises at boundaries), sulphate of potash, Venus, concentration and excretion of spent nitrogen as uric acid.
503 — chamomile flowers in cow intestine, intensifies protozoal digestion around plant roots that supplies amino acids and mineral complexes to plants, lime complex and amino acids, Mercury, provides the nutrient stream for cell division.
504 — Stinging nettle leaf and stem, charges or intensifies plant sap with organization (nettles are 36% protein and rich in every mineral, especially magnesium and iron) Sun, intensifies circulation and enriches the blood process. Jack of all trades, helps everything, central to organization.
505 — Oak bark in cow skull, densifies structural processes and reduces the tendency of amino acids to lose their organization and nitrify or become dead nitrogen. Works with both silica and calcium as bone cells are silica framework filled by calcium. Moon, works on both the skin and bones and provides dense, structural strength. Use in conjunction with horsetail for wet conditions where moon forces are strong but disorganized.
506 — Dandelioin flowers in cow mesentery, enhances fruit development working with the embrionic fruit’s potassium gateways in its silica cell walls to facilitate the uptake of amino acids and minerals responsible for cell division in early fruit development. Jupiter. Responsible for size and fullness of fruit.
507 — Valerian flower juice, works with phosphorous metabolism and oxidative processes occurring in flowering, as with lungs and haemoglobin in blood oxidizing carbon in muscles. Mars. Enhances flowering process in plants.
508 — Horsetail decoction, works to strengthen silica forces in cell walls, surfaces and transport vessels. Saturn. Enhances photosynthesis, integrity and immunity.

Perhaps this will help guide you in the use of preparations in various weather and soil conditions and at various stages in plant development. For example, stinging nettle can more than double essential oil production by its Sun-like rich, jack of all trades, capacity to organize things. But if you are having a wet, overcast spell of weather you will also need oak bark (Moon) and horsetail (Saturn). Since essential oils are like an excretion from plant cells, yarrow (Venus) will specifically target this process at the cell walls (boundaries) where it occurs.

Best wishes,
Hugh Lovel

Ending Global Warming

“You can’t be free when you depend on someone else for your food.” –Wendell Berry

News Flash: Man-made warming may have begun earlier than we thought
Gayathri Vaidyanathan, E&E reporter
ClimateWire: Thursday, August 25, 2016

Before gasoline-powered cars crowded roads, before even the first coal-fired power plant was built in the United States, humans had begun warming Earth’s climate.
By 1831, the signals of man-made global warming could be seen in the Arctic and the tropical oceans. By 1850, all of the Northern Hemisphere was warming. The Southern Hemisphere followed a half-century later. On the continents, people were clearing land, building railroads and mining coal at the start of the Industrial Revolution. That is when global warming began, scientists announced in Nature yesterday.

Part I: Agriculture and Global Warming

Potentially agriculture could repair global warming by catching and sequestering warmth, light and carbon dioxide. It would do this without subsidies because working in co-operation with nature is cheaper and easier if farmers only learned how. Vegetation is the answer. However, the common cultural belief is we must bare more and more soil, plough, erode, and wage war on nature with chemicals to feed the world’s increasing billions.

The story we are told by those at the top of agricultural industries and commodity traders is the world will run out of food if we don’t ratchet up the war on nature—even though the farmers doing this are drowning in debt, crippled by world surpluses and forced to take prices below their production costs. Meanwhile, first world populations mow their lawns every week, pull weeds and herbicide traffic ways. Bare soil is perfectly acceptable. The warmth and light this contributes to global warming goes unnoticed even though anyone in summer with bare feet walking on bare sand, soil or pavement should recognize bare surfaces are a leading cause of warming. Bare soil keeps increasing and agriculture is chief among its causes. Any alien visitor from outer space would look on this with disbelief. In some places herbiciding roadsides is mandated by law, as though making war on nature is politically correct, desirable, justifiable and somehow beautiful.

Just about everywhere environments are spiralling towards chaos. Weather is driven by warmth. Free warmth and light—given off from bare surfaces—slowly drives our weather systems to greater and greater extremes. If there is any reason for shame, it is turning the soil over and leaving it exposed to die. But shame and justification fall short of remedy.

It’s more empowering to ask how farmers can make a difference. Many examples show things could be other than the present. Agriculture is a two-edged blade. One might even say agriculture is central to global warming—both the unwitting cause and the potential solution. We need clarity about how nature works, how to feed nature’s armies of plants and animals, and the benefits that result. We can improve how we handle atmospheric cycles, and the nitrogen, oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and sulphur the atmosphere contains. Though this may sound complicated, it is really quite simple. An historical look at how this occurred may help.

Part II: An Historical Overview

“Maybe some readers find that I have expressed my convictions with too great of a frankness, that I have not always been polite enough. But the times are so serious in which we are living, that if we want to make any impression at all, we must speak in strong terms.” –Lilly Kolisko, Agriculture of Tomorrow

With farming came tillage, erosion and a host of problems as soil life was lost and restoration of soils failed. Re-vegetation is essential to store up warmth, light, water, CO2 and proteins as soil life, resulting in balance, vitality, health and, hopefully, self-realization. The alternative may be extinction if all we do is accept environmental degradation.

Middle Ages to 18th Century Europe

Back in the old days ploughs were made of wood, usually shod at their tips with metal. These ploughs wore out rather swiftly, and the modest damage they wreaked on the soil food web up through the 18th century was fairly sustainable.
Shallow ploughing and harrowing produced a good seedbed for hand sown crops, which benefitted from the nutrient release that followed. As long as the soil food web’s microbial life restored itself tillage was little more than a scratch on the arm. There wasn’t much concern about fertility or weeds. When weeds occurred, folks took an interest in using them. This retained diversity, keeping soils healthy and vital. For the most part farmers built fertility by grazing, storing up warmth, light and carbon as humus. Bare soil was occasional and brief.

As industry awakened, steel ploughs started coming into use all over Europe and its colonies. By the end of the 18th century folks had learned to turn over the soil with their new, sharp mouldboards that left entire fields of bare earth in their wake. Farmers ploughed more and deeper. Teams of animals pulled these steel ploughs and harrows, and at first this seemed far better as long as the soil food web was ignored. Yet this began to liquidate the better part of soil life, draining momentum from the soil’s humus flywheel. The increased release of nutrients led to higher production in the short term, but in the long term this exploited the soil’s fertility—selling off key capital and treating it as income. These were the seeds of soil bankruptcy.

19th Century

As the 19th century proceeded, fertility declined, even where livestock residues were returned to fields. Better equipped estates with more horses ploughed deeper, and tended to have faster fertility losses, particularly on light soils. Even so, with deep, rich, black soils this seemed sustainable. With mechanical sowing and reaping the nineteenth century saw improvements in crop yields while more and more territory was laid bare. Agriculture subscribed to a treadmill of borrowing from its future.

Obviously, at least to some, when you found an old, well-managed pasture, you could expect good yields the first year you ploughed it and released that sweet, clean Actinomycete smell while wrecking the soil food web. It smelled and felt great, but the penny didn’t drop about the damage and loss. Instead standard practice was to grow a cover crop and plough it down prior to planting a following crop for harvest. Ploughing vegetation under was problematic, as burying cover crops caused purification that encouraged weeds, insects and diseases. Nevertheless this also produced a temporary lush effect that seemed restorative. Cover cropping made up for some of the losses while slowing the apparent decline, but not much changed. Ripping up the soil food web and leaving the soil bare ran the soil down.

In those days most ploughing involved ploughs that turned the soil over. There were debates about the relative worth of ploughing shallow or deep. Deep ploughing buried plant residues where there was little oxygen. In response some folks stood their sods up rather than ploughing them over. This was messier and didn’t produce as smooth a seedbed, but some felt it was healthier and better for soil life. In some places farmers formed the soil up in ridges and planted in the ridges. The extra oxygen boosted crops, but ploughing still impaired nitrogen fixing capacity and wrecked the soil food web.

20th Century

Chemical war on nature got in full swing with the birth of the ammonia industry in 1907, while mechanical tractor power enabled chisel ploughs to rip through the soil food web without turning. This left much of the vegetation and trash on the surface, limiting wind and water erosion while allowing the soil food web some chance for recovery—unless soil sterilants like anhydrous ammonia or potassium muriate were applied. But there also were rototillers which completely churned through the soil, destroying whatever structure there was—even where anhydrous and muriate were not used.

The last half of the 20th century really shut down the soil biology with bigger and bigger machinery and round after round of toxic chemistry. Soluble soil testing, which ignored soil reserves, became the fertiliser industry’s tool of choice to sell NPK salts. Yet, the more these salts were used the less fertile the soil became. Organic growers followed this model. They substituted organic inputs for chemical ones, but they too bared the soil and lost fertility.

Throughout this de-evolution, farmers were fascinated with cutting into the soil food web and smelling the rich, fertile smell of Actinomycetes while preparing their seedbeds. Chemical-free succession planting with minimal tillage and humified compost crossed almost no one’s mind. Everyone wanted to prepare a smooth seedbed. Almost no one sowed a mixture of seeds onto the soil and grazed, mowed or rolled down existing vegetation—even throwing down a bit of mulch in bare spots—knowing that something would grow as long as the soil was covered. Lost in the mists of antiquity, the idea of maintaining soil cover was so new it was ignored.

Now comes the question, can 21st century agriculture address the roots of the problem?

Part III: Meeting the Challenge

Change in agriculture is up against the likes of D.C. Edmeades, Hamilton, New Zealand, author of a lengthy paper entitled Pseudo-science: a threat to agriculture? (

Edmeades brandishes the buzzword “pseudo-science” 37 times in a ten page paper intended to slander Dr. Christine Jones’s admirable work on soil microbiology, cultivation, artificial nitrogen fertilization and carbon sequestration—topics much in need of investigation if we are to arrest the alarming weather trends threatening our economy, safety and well-being. He trots out the fallacious assumption that we must put more land under cultivation to feed world population. And his arguments for continuing the NPK/toxic approach show his 19th century understanding of chemistry hasn’t caught up with cutting edge soil biology, biochemistry and biophysics. He makes no mention of quantum mechanics and chaos theory. He would replace what he calls “pseudo-science” with something illogical and unsustainable that has long been refuted, outdated and surpassed. His paper is replete with references, graphs, sophistries and scientific double-talk designed to confuse the unwary and uninformed.

Inertia to Change

Top agricultural authorities whose livelihoods depend on current agricultural practices tell us the world will run out of food if we don’t keep intensifying the war on nature, disregarding how this devastates soils, pollutes ecosystems and fuels global warming. Yet, the further we go along this path the closer we come to tipping points where the earth’s self-correcting life support systems spiral out of control.
Evil exists to awaken our appreciation of good. The pity is we often wake up when what is good is gone. What is obvious is we need to reverse the degradation of the land already under cultivation and improve its productivity. To do that we need to reduce mechanical cultivation, nitrogen fertilisation, contamination, erosion, overgrazing, monocropping, deforestation and desertification while we improve ground cover, build soil biology, restore nitrogen fixation and practice controlled rotational grazing, biological no-till and diverse intercropping—all proven alternatives. If, along the way, permaculture and biodynamics give us tools with which to achieve these ends with ease and grace, what could be better?

What Nature Does

What nearly everyone missed, as agriculture borrowed from its future, was looking at how nature works. Nature builds fertile soils without ploughing as farmers do. Nature’s army of soil workers come up to feed and breathe, and then tunnel down again, aerating the soil in the finest ways wherever they go. In the daytime, most of these animals hang out in the near vicinity of plant roots where the soil biology is rich. When pooping and peeing they give the soil food web freshly digested remnants of what they consumed at the verges of their sub-surface habitat. This feeds new growth at the finest level while recycling surface litter in a steady way. Left to itself, nature’s intelligence cultivates the soil in ways we can’t duplicate. What we can do is support nature’s work.

Look at earthworms munching on decaying roots, leaves, microbes and other tasty morsels. They require oxygen to metabolize what they eat, so when need arises they eat out air passages and cast off the soil they excavate at the surface. Although soil animals give off carbon dioxide from the foods they consume, they oxygenate the soil as they travel. Many earthworms prefer a bacterial diet, though some of the larger types prefer fungi. Yet ants are the best fungal farmers, complementing earthworms while building and regulating the soil food web’s activities.


When the Masanobu Fukuoka* and Alan Savory† visions of building a living blanket to regenerate the earth came along with diversified no-till summer/winter cropping or grazing, most mainstream farmers dismissed this as nonsense and impractical. The gulf between their cultural beliefs and how nature actually works was too great. Yet, a few serious, large-scale farmers and stockers used these ideas to regenerate their farm and livestock operations, thus building a partnership with nature that improved yields and lowered costs.

There it was—plant with as little disturbance as possible while feeding, balancing and enriching the ecology. Harvest warmth, light, water, carbon dioxide and nitrogen out of the atmosphere for free. While academics ignored such stuff, these early pioneers proved storing warmth and light in the soil’s humus flywheel worked. Foreseeably this would continue to build life into the environment into the future.

Although often ignored, humus acts as a magnet for hydrogen, especially when this prince of protons is in the form of water. Carbon attracts hydrogen. That’s basic chemistry. When plants cover the earth’s surface, they soak up warmth, light, CO2 and H2O, fixing nitrogen and improving rainfall.

Obviously if planting trees restored forests this would help arrest global warming. It may seem a no-brainer to oppose coal mining and plant trees. The worry is forests build their carbon onto the soil, which makes them subject to harvest and fire. Holistic pasture management builds carbon into the soil as humus. Environmentalists on the one hand, and conventional farmers on the other, need to shed their misconceptions and join forces. Prejudice is our enemy. Grazing livestock is only a moral problem if we don’t do it constructively.

Part IV, There Can Be an Answer, Let It Be

“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” –Rosalynn Carter

What built the world’s most fertile prairies, steppes, savannahs and plains were herds of animals and their predators. Unassisted, nature isn’t going to re-forest the Sahara without first growing pastures, because forests only occur where rainfall is abundant. Observation, the basis of intelligence, shows periodic intensive grazing is the opposite of confinement animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The true costs of CAFOs and their stream of environmental pollution, waste and suffering are not all paid at the supermarket, but rather in physical and social dysfunction.

Though the Sahara was forested 15,000 years ago, today can we re-plant such forests without first improving rainfall and water retention? We will have to re-vegetate step-wise, as forests require lots of rain. We need grazers and chicken herders to store carbon in pastures with well-run pastoral operations. We can grow grass quicker with less water in less time than we can grow forests, and grass stores carbon in the soil. Pastoral animals maximize biomass gains when they eat old growth and recycle it as fertilizer while making way for new growth.

The Path

The regenerative practices of farmers who pay attention and cooperate with nature are cheap and productive. Though it takes intelligence and hard work, the quality of what these farmers send to markets is superior. At the same time they cure rather than contribute to global warming. As farmers and environmentalists learn to read from the book of nature they will discover the best practices of restorative farming, grow quality products and prosper from their partnership with nature. Meanwhile regenerative farmers can take advantage of collapsed ventures that extracted value and left an empty husk behind for somebody who knows how to use it. Look ahead to the glass half full and see revegetating as an opportunity we need to embrace.

Our job is to open public eyes and show that the true cost of the war on nature is hidden in plain sight, and it will dawn on everyone in time. The simple efficiency of working with nature to build a thriving, long-term, regenerative agricultural base will change agriculture. It is expensive to wage war with nature, and the will to continue along these lines is dying. Already first world agricultural universities are running out of new blood for this agenda. Why? Current practices lock participants into spiralling debt, toxic technology and soil degradation—more subtle but comparable to living in a battle zone. Fresh out of high schools, today’s students don’t want careers in a hazardous, toxic, depressing, morass of debt.

More and more examples show how vegetation on the earth’s surface soaks up warmth, light and CO2—which otherwise fuel global warming. New farmers need only realize their opportunities to educate themselves. The information age ensures the necessary information is accessible as long as farmers are discerning of truth. The farmers of today and tomorrow have an opportunity to take up nature’s bounty of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur and turn these gifts of the heavens into the means for social health, wealth and happiness.

In A Nutshell

It’s urgent we understand how nature works. Nature is a system. Everything is interwoven and interactive at the finest levels everywhere. Farming starts with the soil food web and interacts with everything all the way to the farthest stars. Life processes start with hydrogen, which is everywhere and in all things. Hydrogen joins with carbon, cinder of the first stars, and its siblings, nitrogen and oxygen. With a little help from a few soil minerals, sulphur, the catalyst, along with hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen—free from the atmosphere—incorporate warmth and light as living protoplasm.
Nitrogen is an amazing player. As the basis of awareness, memory, sensation and desire, it forms the genetic blueprints for life and its reproduction. Carbon provides the framework, as we are all carbon based life forms. Like money in the market, oxygen is life’s medium of exchange, the basis for activity. Since organization arises at boundaries and organization is the basis of life, hydrogen with its infinitesimal content and infinite context is the universal source of organization, the basis of life. Plants take in CO2 and give off O2. Animals take in O2 and give off CO2. With sulphur for ignition, we have nature’s chemistry in a nutshell.

We can also talk about the five percent of biomass that comes from the soil—the cations, sand, clay and humus that interact with the atmosphere’s free gifts which make up the other ninety-five per cent of our biomass. There’s never been greater opportunity to cover the earth’s surface with living organisms, soak up warmth, light and CO2, maximizing vegetative growth and digestive activity. This will end global warming.
When market forces drive change, the rest will follow. Re-vegetate the earth at every opportunity. Seize the initiative. Build life back into the land. Pioneer a new agriculture in partnership with nature. Invent a new way of farming that knits together well-meaning but misguided sectors of society. There’s a long road ahead with health, wealth and satisfaction along the way. My book Quantum Agriculture, Biodynamics and Beyond is an early step in this direction.

Humus Flywheel Effect

There is a common belief that humus is the result of the breakdown of organic materials in the soil. While this is true it is less than true because the organic materials do need to break down into simple organic compounds—and from there they need to be built back up again into large, complex carbon molecules by soil organisms whose role is to store nutrients for rainy days. These organisms, primarily actinomycetes and mycorrhizae, work in tandem with plants, storing humic acids in an easy to access form. Humic acids are too large for most organisms, such as bacteria, to absorb. Yet they are accessible to the actinomycetes and mycorrhizae and thus are insoluble but available nutrients. And that’s how we want nutrients in the soil—insoluble so they are not easily lost when it rains, but available.

The NPK theory that all soil nutrients must be soluble all at once is rather like feeding a pig six months’ worth of slop in one meal—initially it is too much. Try though the pig will, he can’t handle it all. As time goes on the banquet sours and the pig is left lacking a balanced diet while flies, yeasts, moulds and various pests move in. This is modern agriculture, and it’s not a pretty picture—you wouldn’t feed your kids that way. Surely, plants are more resilient than pigs, but as living organisms they aren’t that different.

Basically we do not want most of our nutrients to be soluble. Rather, we want them to be insoluble but available. A plant can only consume a small amount of its needs every day. Having more soluble than the daily optimum in the near vicinity of uptake roots invites unwonted guests to the table, and this creates unnecessary problems for crops. Nature, left to her own devices, provides insoluble but microbially available nutrients in the humus flywheel. Crop-symbiotic micro-organisms mop up loose nutrients and store them in the humus reserve in large, carbon complexes. Acting like bees storing honey, they maintain this nutrient reserve. Photosynthesis and root exudation feed the microbes that stock this storehouse when conditions are good, and when conditions are poor these microbial plant partners—along with protozoa—draw energy and nourishment from the humus reserves to feed the crop.

The Humus Flywheel

This reveals humus as the soil’s flywheel to keep plant growth going by feeding the digestive activity around plant roots. Humus sustains this microbial activity by providing uptake of a steady stream of quality amino acids and mineral complexes—like mother’s milk—that makes it easy for crops to assemble their proteins and grow, photosynthesize, and make nectars that are shared with the soil as root exudates—like honey. These root exudates provide energy for soil microbes that unlock minerals, fix nitrogen and feed the soil’s digestive activity—which in turn provides a milky, mineral amino acid rich feed for growth. Observation of this millennia old interplay in nature is honoured in Mosaic Scripture and elsewhere as a land flowing in milk and honey. Humus is the flywheel whose momentum fosters and sustains the milk and honey flow through thick and thin—the better the storage of insoluble but available nutrients, then the more momentum the system has.

Soluble Problems

Soluble nutrients, such as the salts of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, must be extremely dilute or they interfere with the sensitive micro-life of the humus flywheel. Like urine, these salts are the wastes of microbes that fix nitrogen, solubilize phosphorous and release potassium. In the soil these salts shut down the microbes that otherwise might make them available when they are awash in their own waste. If these salts are applied at rates sufficient for a couple months’ supply, they kill off soil microbes and release nutrients—which results in a flush of crop growth; but it also leads to leaching of key minerals such as sulphur, boron, silicon, calcium, copper, zinc and manganese. Chlorides tend to sterilize the soil, while phosphates and sulphates, though useful to soil microbes, can still cause harm in excess. Nitrates are especially notable for causing a flush of available nutrients and a lush response that looks good, but it’s like the long haul trucker using ‘speed’, keeping double log books and driving 5 day runs in 48 hours. The result is problematic, and there is a price.

Humic vs Fulvic

Both humic and fulvic acids are so complex and varied they are only distinguished by the size of their molecules. Fulvic acids are of low enough molecular weight they can pass through bacterial cell walls as bacterial food. Humic acid molecules are larger and can only be consumed by microbes that can ingest them, like protozoa, or by silica oriented microbes like fungi and actinomycetes (aka actinobacteria) that can take the carbon skeleton apart. Since fungi and actinomycetes often live in close partnership with plant roots, especially our food crop roots, they provide access to the humic complexes in the soil, stripping out the silicon and carbon frameworks of the clay/humus colloids, thereby releasing all the other nutrients held on these structures. However, like bees drinking nectar and concentrating it into honey, these microbes also can mop up root exudates and loose nutrients in the soil solution and combine them for storage in clay/humus complexes so bacteria and leaching do not let them go to waste.

Many bacteria and protozoa are consumers that thrive in a nutrient rich broth and break things down. When soluble nutrient levels are high in the soil, the bacteria that fix nitrogen, solubilize phosphorous and release potassium can’t function because they are awash in their own waste. This is why tilling in a green manure crop requires a waiting period of 3 or 4 weeks, over which rampant bacterial breakdown subsides, before humus formation resumes and the excesses are stored in insoluble but available complexes. Only then can crops be planted and a stable plant/microbe partnership established.

Justus von Liebig, the great 19th century chemist who introduced chemical agriculture, acknowledged toward the end of his life his mistake in assuming productive soils required the nutrients to be soluble. By then, however, the chemical industries had seen great prospects for sales. Liebig, in his retirement, was ignored, and today the error of thinking solubility is good still continues.

Consider that most crop seeds contain a food supply so they can give off nourishment for beneficial microbes—thereby attracting and multiplying their microbial partners as their roots emerge. On the other hand, most weeds have tiny seeds which rely on soluble nutrients rather than microbial partnerships. They soak up loose nutrients by design, sprouting and growing vigorously when cover crops or raw manures are tilled in. They do not rely on the humus flywheel or feed its microbes. If crops are planted immediately after mixing in fresh vegetation or manures they do not grow well. It doesn’t take much experience to see the difference between application of raw manures and the application of humified compost—the former feeds weeds and the latter feeds crops.

Likewise if we apply large doses of highly soluble fertilisers—anhydrous ammonia, superphosphate and muriate of potash—our crops then have to compete with weeds that love soluble salts like potassium nitrates. It is only when we apply humified compost that we feed the crop/microbe interactions that feed our crops with a mix of amino acids and minerals akin to milk.

Soil Testing

Most soil tests use mild acids that do not reveal what is stored in the humus flywheel. The concept behind these tests is that several months’ worth of nutrients, especially the nitrogen, must be present in soluble form. But in reality, feeding a plant is more like feeding your kids. Plants only need a little bit of soluble food on a steady basis, rather than having it all on the table at once. To reveal what could be available from the humus reserve on a daily basis requires a testing method more like what is used for tissue analysis—a total acid digest.

Many organic growers take it on faith that if they build organic matter they will have good crops and their problems will go away. However, this is rarely the case. The clay/humus complexes in the soil are like a storehouse, and unless this storehouse has everything it needs, growth is limited to whatever is in short supply.

Since sulphur is the bio-catalyst that acts as the key in the ignition, when it is deficient both soil and plant life suffer. When boron—which leaches unless held in clay/humus complexes—is deficient, nutrient uptake lags because boron’s interaction with silicon is what draws fluids through the plant’s capillary system. And silicon, which lines the capillaries themselves, must also be sufficient, along with boron, to transport calcium and other nutrients. And, if calcium—which is essential for nitrogen chemistry and cell division—is deficient, then growth suffers. Moreover, if too much soluble potassium gets in the way of calcium and magnesium uptake, photosynthesis suffers. And even if everything else is working, without sufficient phosphorous and its trace element co-factors, chlorophyll burns up because its energy can’t be transferred into making sugar. So all these things need to be stored in the right proportions, which means we need to get the mix of major and minor nutrients right in the humus flywheel.

Understanding the Mix

In some of the world’s premier soils, such as the Ukraine, Western Missouri or Australia’s Liverpool Plains, nature’s virgin conditions provided black, crumbly clays with cation exchange capacities of nearly 80, and the first couple plantings of wheat and other cereals produced crops beyond anyone’s previous experience without any fertilisers. However, with insufficient understanding and poor management these soils went straight downhill and their enormous momentum was lost. Nevertheless, measurements of the carbon to nitrogen ratios in unexploited remnants still in their virgin state are between 9 and 10 to 1, carbon to nitrogen. Interestingly, it takes roughly 10 units of sugary carbon to fix one unit of amino acid nitrogen, so this does not seem mere coincidence. Even making industrial ammonia takes ten units of methane to make one unit of ammonia.

Comparing hundreds of total acid digest tests to field responses also revealed that a six-to-one nitrogen to sulphur ratio is desirable. When these two ratios are achieved and major and minor nutrient targets are approached so that microbial partnerships interact efficiently with the humus flywheel, then the only limit to nitrogen fixation is the energy provided by root exudation.

Since grasses make more sugars and can get them to their roots a lot faster than legumes, they can feed several times more nitrogen fixation than legumes. However, because legumes unlock minerals better with their acidic root exudates, they can feed nitrogen fixation in nodules on their roots and kick off nitrogen fixation in an otherwise mineral deficient soil. Because legumes unlock far more minerals than they use in nitrogen fixation, and because they leave these minerals behind for plants that follow, they have a reputation for getting nitrogen fixation going under tough conditions. Besides, it is easy to measure their nodules and estimate how much nitrogen was fixed, though it may be a mistake to credit their follow-on effects solely to the nitrogen fixed in their nodules. After legumes have made sufficient minerals available, grasses can easily supply the energy needed for further fixation.

Soil test information is useful in blending the right amounts of major and minor nutrients into composts or fossil humate fertilisers to ensure that both grasses and legumes have what they need. Composts and raw humates can be combined in humus based fertiliser programs, and as such they are food for life and are appropriate for growing quality crops.

Manure composts are richer in minerals and nitrogen than fossil humates, but either or both are an excellent way to add deficient nutrients in a humate complexed form. Even at only a quarter ton per acre composts and mined humates fortified with deficient nutrients can deliver significant adjustments, although imbalances and deficiencies usually require many small corrections. Fossil humates, which are more notable for nitrogen and sulphur deficiencies, generally need ammonium sulphate added along with whatever else is needed as rock phosphate, gypsum, borax, copper, zinc, manganese and sea minerals.

The total test ratios of carbon to nitrogen and sulphur can be used for nitrogen and sulphur targets while calcium, magnesium and potassium targets are derived from their percentage of base saturation. Other targets vary depending on the test used, and achieving these targets is likely to require many partial adjustments. Exact formulas for restoring optimum balance in soils is the job of a professional consultant, but in general never add more than 10 kg/ha borax, 15 kg/ha copper sulphate, 25 kg/ha zinc or manganese sulphate or 1 kg/ha sodium molybdate, cobalt sulphate of sodium selenate.[1] In sum, blending these mineral supplements in with humified compost and/or raw humates before spreading turns an expense into a capital investment.

Some References:


Biodynamic Preps for Drought

BD Preparations and Drought

By Hugh Lovel

How certain notions arise and become entrenched is a bit of a mystery, especially when they are wrong. Yet they do get started and entrenched. One of these is the belief that when things dry up and little moisture is available we cannot put out biodynamic preparations—as if these were delicate microbial cultures that must have moist conditions to establish and thrive. This is so far from true it seems impossible it ever got started. Yet it did.

When things dry up with rain months away is when we most need to apply our field sprays. When the organization of moisture in the atmosphere is at its lowest is when we need to enliven both atmosphere and soil to get them working together. In a drought nothing else does so much good for so little effort.

During summer, evaporation is high. Moisture rises up into the troposphere and as it cools it glides downward toward the polar vortex, flowing like a river in the sky to the pole. Variations in the jet stream determine where and when this river feeds moisture into storm fronts that drop—or fail to drop—summer rainfall. And yet, what organizes things in general, but particularly moisture, is life—and life activities is what biodynamics is about.

Organization is the basis of life, and life defies the rules for inanimate objects. Life draws organization out of chaos into more life. Biodynamic preparations are so rich in life they draw organization into wherever they are applied. The very reason we can impart life by stirring up tiny doses of preparations in water and sprinkling them over large areas is because life energy flows from lower to higher concentration. When we spray an area and enrich its vitality, more life energy, i.e. organization, flows to the area sprayed.  The more we spray an area, the more strongly that area draws in organization from the surrounding universe.

Back in 1988 a small group of biodynamic farmers held the first Southeast US Biodynamic Conference at my farm in Blairsville, Georgia. Hugh Courtney, who founded the Josephine Porter Institute of Applied Biodynamics (JPI), came from Virginia to lead workshops on making and applying biodynamic preparations. The attendees all stirred and applied every preparation to my farm despite the whole southeast being in summer drought. Out of the blue a summer thunderstorm drenched us thoroughly. Courtney went back home and did the same thing at JPI and the summer drought was history. The next summer the same thing happened at our second conference, also breaking a summer drought. By then Hugh Courtney had given preparation workshops at various widespread locations. In every case, rain—or at least technical precipitation—occurred when all the preparations were applied in a back-to-back sequence. Courtney explained to me, Harvey Lisle and others that he believed the preparations could draw to themselves whatever was needed to make life thrive, including moisture.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload::]]This was the beginning of what Courtney later called Sequential Spraying. At first we didn’t know that preparations could break droughts, but experience demonstrated applying all the preparations in sequence gave us the most gratifying results.

I have applied this technique with favorable outcomes on many occasions since. It seems to work best if launched when the moon is in a water or earth constellation at the approach to full moon, so use the Astro calendar and plan ahead to get the right amount of rain (rather than a flood).