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Biodynamic Farming At a time when the world is looking for sustainable, green and environmentally sound production, farming is at the very core of this movement. In fact, as we have featured before, Bord Bia is promoting sustainable attractiveness worldwide through their Origin Green programme. We have seen several distilleries who have received the certification for their sustainable practices. Tillage farmers, specifically grain growers, play a key role in the Irish whiskey sector. Barley, the king of grains as far as producing alcohol is concerned, is increasingly in demand as the brewing and distilling sectors go through unprecedented growth. Climatic and soil conditions, along with the ingenuity, innovation and resilience of Irish farmers, make Irish barley amongst the very best in the world. While acreage of tillage land has been decreasing over the recent years, mainly due to competition from the dairy sector, yields have actually increased. The vast number of Irish tillage farmers rely upon conventional farming techniques, utilising the standard fertiliser supplements to both protect the crop from disease and to improve yield. There is no effective alternative to meet all the demand, but the increased demands have led to reduced crop rotations and more stress on the land. Biodynamics looks to address this issue and to restore a balance to the soil and hence the crops they produce a benefit. Often ridiculed, much-maligned and misunderstood, Biodynamics has found its way from complete obscurity to now finding favour in the agricultural realms. There is no steadfast scientific study available to either confirm or dispel the benefits of Biodynamic practices, however, observations do show, for example, that many leading wineries are Biodynamic. In fact, it is in wine regions of the world such as France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand and the US that Biodynamics has become more prevalent.   So, what is Biodynamics? The word itself stems from the root of two Greek words, bio, meaning life, and dyn, meaning strength or power. It is not Organic farming, although its resulting products are organic. Biodynamics can be defined as a method of agriculture-based upon the teachings of Rudolf Steiner who formalised the practice back in 1924. These embody solid science-based organic practices with alchemy, lunar cycles and homoeopathic-like based practices. At the heart of Biodynamics is the Biodynamics calendar which is based on the positioning and alignment of stars and the moon. This provides optimum dates for sowing, harvesting, spraying and other practices. It also includes Steiner’s nine “preparations” made from herbs, mineral substances and animal manures. - 'At the heart of Biodynamics is the Biodynamics calendar which is based on the positioning and alignment of stars and the moon.' -   These are diluted with rainwater and turned into field sprays and compost. Like in homoeopathy, the concentrations of these are in the low parts per million. There are three Biodynamic farmers producing barley in Ireland: John McDonnell in Shalvanstown, County Meath, Alan Mooney in Portgloriam, County Kildare and Trevor Harris in Cooltrim, County Kildare. To find out more we visited Trevor on his 140-acre farm where he lives with his family and pet dog Buzz. Trevor is a third-generation farmer and had been an organic farmer for a long time before making the transition to Biodynamic farming three years ago. He became involved in Biodynamic farming after attending a soils course held by the BDAAI (Biodynamics Agricultural Association of Ireland). Trevor explained that the two most important elements in the soil are air and water. These provide the base conditions to add life to the soil. Using Biodynamic principles and cover crops are grown in winter leads to more life in the soil. These include microbes, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, protozoa, worms and beetles.   - "There are over seven billion microorganisms in a handful of soil." -   With the right balance of micronutrients and nutrients in the soil, the plant receives more nutrients and hence get better flavour and more sugar. Better barley and better whiskey too? Trevor explained that there is a lot more work involved in Biodynamic farming than inorganic. More cost, more time, more spraying. All the preparations sprayed on the soil and crops are chemical-free and done in line with the Biodynamic calendar. Trevor meticulously documents every aspect of the process along with all his observations. He says he can see how the soil has changed and despite the harsh winter and dry summer you can see and feel the air in the soil. Trevor is a real student of Biodynamics. He follows the influencers and developers of the sector closely. One of these being Enzo Nastati, the principal director of The Eureka Institute in Italy. He has been a Biodynamic farmer and researcher for decades and understands that the Biodynamic agricultural method was always intended to be developed and fortified to meet changing demands over time. Having published over 80 books on agriculture, animal management, bees, and Spiritual Science (the holistic philosophy of Rudolf Steiner), Mr. Nastati’s work has been recognized around the world where he lectures, consults, and conducts continuing research. Enzo has spent the past 40 years researching and developing preparations and application techniques to further meet the demands of our modern-day. His work addresses the difficulties presented by electromagnetic fields, radioactive pollution, industrial pollution, water quality deterioration, GMOs, and other harmful effects of modern technology. Some of the preparations in some sense may seem quite obscure but in a very real way, they each have a purpose. Take for example the preparation of Horn Manure also known as “500”. This is essentially taking cow manure and filling cow horns with it. These are then buried in a pit for six months over the winter. When placed in a cow horn under the ground, where the temperature is constant throughout the winter, the manure ferments much like a kombucha culture. When it is exhumed, the material looks like chocolate and has an earthy aroma. This compost is then combined with rainwater heated to 34 degrees Celsius in a barrel. The concentrations are extremely low, 85g in about 35 litres of water per hectare. The method of stirring is important, almost a spiritual ritual. The stirrer, designed by Alex Pobiliski, stirs in one direction and creates a vortex then switches direction and create chaos whose energy is then transferred onto the water. The spray must then be used within at most 2 hours. Horn Manure Spray is applied in the afternoon before 5. Spray Horn Manure is applied twice a year to the soil, in spring and in autumn and only on days determined by the Biodynamic calendar.   The benefits of a Horn Manure are: helps create structure in the soil stimulates soil microbial activity of the soil and the production of humus regulates the pH balance of the soil stimulates seed germination and root development, increasing depth of root systems improves the development of leguminous plants and nodule formation helps dissolve minerals even in deep layers and can help counteract excessive salt levels   Another preparation Horn Silica (“501”) which instead of manure uses finely ground quartz. It acts in polarity with Horn Silica. It is not used on the soil but works on the aerial parts of plants during their growth phase. Benefits are: raises photosynthetic effect and promotes plant vigour, and reins in excessive growth reduces their susceptibility to diseases promotes vertical growth strengthens plants and gives them greater suppleness improves the quality and resistance of leaf surfaces and fruit skins ensures food quality, enhancing flavour, aroma and nutritional quality   Livestock benefit by feeding on plants that have received Horn Silica. The animals themselves are healthier, and the quantity and quality of meat and milk are improved There are an additional seven preparations which form part of the Biodynamic practices, each with its own purpose. Trevor employs crop rotation which includes cereal, barley, peas and grass. He also makes use of cover crops including vetch (a legume), leafy turnip, sunflowers, swiss chard, corn camomile and buckwheat. This helps return nutrients and balance to the soil. Trevor also applies the biodynamic principles to his livestock of 34 cows and calves and his 67 sheep. They provide the feedback loop in this self-sustained entity. Trevor’s farm is certified as Biodynamic by Demeter which is a worldwide certification system, used to verify to the consumers in over 50 countries that food or product has been produced by Biodynamic methods. Asking Trevor what were his biggest challenges, he explained getting the soil right without causing damage and getting oxygen into soil despite adverse weather conditions. He never once complained about the harsh weather conditions, the cynicism that exists, the low yields or the long working hours. It was all about the farm and the way of life. Having good energy about the place, an ability to deal with issues better, reading and observing nature, and knowing that he was looking after his family and the farm in a sustainable and ecologically sound manner far outweighed any challenges.     - 'The spiritual theory behind it is that by planting death and decay into the soil, breathes vitality and new life into the earth.' -   Biodynamics is designed to enhance plant growth and improve the quality of the crops. The spiritual theory behind it is that by planting death and decay into the soil, breathes vitality and new life into the earth. It wo
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