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Philosophical and Ecological Principles of Organic and Biodynamic Agriculture

Discuss about The Philosophical and Ecological Basis of both Organic and Biodynamic forms of Agriculture.

Philosophical and Ecological principles govern the production of food and other agricultural yields, which, is being produced organically or bio-dynamically. On a broader podium, organic and biodynamic agriculture retains the physical as well as the biological attribute of the soil by improving the biological interactions that exist in the soil with microorganisms (Chalker-Scott, 2013). The main concern of these two types of agricultural practices is concentrated on striking a balance with the ecology. It involves improving the soil quality, dealing with the pest and disease oriented problems. Application of methods such as crop rotation, symbiotic relation, application of organic manure and biological means of pest control are applied to these types of agriculture (Staudenmaier, 2013). The philosophy between these agricultural practices is similar, to establish a healthy interaction between human and environment because these two systems are interconnected. Any damage inflicted upon the environment will ultimately lead to damaging mankind. Humans cannot walk unscathed by carrying out a one sided deal with nature (Olsen, 2014). The philosophy behind these two types of agricultural practices is the co-existence of all sorts of biological entities with nature. The philosophical and ecological contexts have been discussed keeping in mind the working principles of the two agricultural practices. A brief insight into the basics has been stated along with the standards that are practiced to maintain their individual sustainability. The self-sustaining nature of both the types of agricultural practices has been explored.

Sustainability is an attribute, which is imparted to all sorts of concepts such as success, development, and to several others (Boudreau, 2013). The idea of sustainability is to be able to support the present as well as the future progeny in a comfortable way. Agriculture too has a sustainable aspect. In terms of ecology, sustainable agriculture helps in protecting the health and welfare of the humans as well as the environment (Stein-Bachinger & Fuchs, 2012). Industrial approach towards agriculture has rendered the agricultural lands barren due to over cropping. Due to excessive use of harmful pesticides and insecticides, the soil has become toxic for the crops to grow as well as made the pests resistant towards these chemicals (Arbenz et al., 2015). Not only the pests and plant pathogens, but also the weeds have become resistant towards the weedicides due to frequent application. On the face of global crisis of food, barren lands are a matter of great concern. To avoid such a situation, sustainable agricultural practices should be followed to restore the fertility of the soil. There are several methods that exists for carrying out sustainable agricultural, for example, organic farming, biodynamic farming, permaculture (Sandhu, Porter & Wratten, 2013). The two commonly known types of sustainable agriculture has been described as, namely, organic agriculture and biodynamic agriculture.

Sustainability in Agriculture

Organic agriculture involves a holistic approach to carry out farming without the application of harmful chemicals present in the fertilizers (Altieri, 2016). Sir Albert Howard (1943) has facilitated in coining the term ‘organic agriculture’ (Reganold & Wachter, 2016). He had boiled down to the idea by discussing the means of recycling sewage and agricultural wastes to harness it in preparing organic manure. Organic agriculture specifically involves the usage of sustainable form of energy source such as solar and wind, application of crop rotation and green manure, utilization of mineral-based rocks in the field and planting legumes (Storl, 2013). Unlike conventional method of farming, the use of pesticides is restricted in organic agriculture. The organic agriculturalists mainly concentrate on drawing a strategy that will involve healthy options of farming such as intelligent management of pest control and weed control. Other than these, this type of agricultural aids in retaining the soil moisture too which, is very helpful for drought prone areas, and it also helps in preventing soil erosion which in return aids in retaining the nutrient content of the soil (Koepf, 2005). Application of IPT (Integrated Pest Management) proves to be an efficient technology for facilitating organic agriculture. IPT comprises of applying physical, chemical and mechanical methods to combat the problem of pests and weeds. Uses of traps, physical repellants such as oils and microbial solutions that are insecticidal in nature are involved in IPT (Leifeld et al., 2013).

The philosophical foundation behind organic agricultural practice is inspired from the preservation of the ecology. It is motivated by the philosophy that solely biological processes will be involved in the agricultural practice. Organic agriculture helps in promoting the biodiversity (Tuck et al., 2014). Reports have shown that the diversity of species at organic farms was observed to be higher as the chemical free environment promoted a healthier biome. Organic agriculture has a negligible effect on global warming and it reduces environmental pollution too. When harmful chemicals as pesticides are applied to the soil, the plants uptake the chemicals and leads to bioaccumulation of the chemicals in the leaves and fruits. During rains, the chemicals are washed off into the field run-offs, which fall into a bigger water body such as the rivers or canals or even lakes at times. This leads to the process of eutrophication where the fishes also accumulate the chemicals in their body, which is further consumed by humans (Tuomisto et al., 2012). This entire process can be avoided on practicing of organic agriculture. A healthy option of agriculture is also established in organic agriculture when the livestock is allowed to graze outside and not incorporated with antibiotics or artificial hormones. The idea of genetic engineering of plants is also discouraged in organic agriculture (Andersen et al., 2015, Altieri, 2016). If care is not taken, there will hardly be anything left for the future progeny to experience and explore.  

Organic Agriculture

The ecological basis of organic agricultural practice is contingent on the recycling of wastes and economic utilization of resources. The core of organic agriculture revolves around the concept of presence of organic carbon in the soil. The main contributor to the soil carbon is the leguminous plants (Gattinger et al., 2012). They have root nodules, which houses microorganisms that facilitate nitrogen fixing in the soil, providing the crops with the necessary nutrition. Hence, organic agriculture contributes to the sequestration of the carbon in the soil. This step has proved to be advantageous from the point of view of helping to curb the excessive production of carbon dioxide, which, is normally observed in conventional agricultural practices (Sale et al., 2015).

Sustainable aspect of organic agriculture is dependent on several practices of organic agriculture, first, application of conservational measures involving water, usage of crop rotation, the mulches are employed to plants and lastly, zero application of tillage so that the soil level is not perturbed. Secondly, sustainable organic agriculture can be practiced by being concerned about the well-being of the biological entities of the soil, by applying manures as well as composts (Nowak & Szewczyk, 2015). Thirdly, recycling of nutrients leads to effective practicing of sustainable organic agriculture. Recycling of nutrients include rotation of crops, establishing mixed systems by involving crops or livestock, usage of leguminous plants to retain the nutrients in the soil and the usage of trees in the cultivation of crops. Fourthly, sustainable organic agriculture can be followed by managing the habitats by introducing biologically affable pest control measures, which effectively deals with the pests without harming the soil biome (Bedoussac et al., 2015). By following these measures, the soil can be made resilient. It can counter the effect of droughts or floods. Organic agricultural practices help in the retention of moisture and this helps the crops to grow during drought. Whereas, crops are not washed off during floods as the soil act as sponge like properties and it aids in absorbing water and as a result helps in the reduction of the water level.

Biodynamic agriculture works based on the principle that the farm en bloc is treated as a single biological entity, which is managed with a holistic approach. Rudolph Steiner was responsible for highlighting the principles of biodynamic agriculture (Giannattasia et al., 2013). Biodynamic agriculture is dedicated in promoting ecology, economic and as well as human health by practicing a responsive agricultural practice in a social context. It is basically an advanced form of organic farming. Foods grown with the help of biodynamic agriculture possess a higher nutrient quotient. The application of GM (Genetically Modified) crops is restricted in biodynamic agriculture and this is a common aspect of agricultural practice for both organic as well as biodynamic agriculture (Ponzio, Gangatharan & Neri, 2013). The Demeter system of certification was introduced to label foods that have been purely procured out of biodynamic agriculture. A dwindling forest cover and loss of biodiversity at an alarming rate should be a matter of concern for everyone.

Philosophical Foundation and Ecological Basis of Organic Agriculture

The ecological basis of biodynamic agriculture is dependent on several principles, namely,

system involving the incorporation of livestock and crop, principles applied in the application of pesticides and fertilization concerns, implications in respect to the society, usage and respect adhered to the landscape, cosmic sequence and  biodynamic provisions.

The principle of incorporation of livestock and crop involves the formulation of a nutrient cycle, which is independent of the external parameters. The application of nitrogen based fertilizers is restricted in biodynamic agriculture. In biodynamic agriculture livestock are believed to have souls so they are treated fair and square by avoiding the incorporation of antibiotics and growth hormones (Smith, 2015). They are never bred in isolation and dehorning is prohibited too. In biodynamic based farms, crops are grown along with plants that help in contributing to the enhancement of the biodiversity of the region.

The principle regarding application of pesticides and fertilization concerns involves techniques such as rotation of crops and cover cropping to retain the inherent nutrient of the soil. Crop rotation prevents the uptake of same type of minerals from the soil by the plants (Paull, 2014). Growing a different crop in intervals helps in replenishing the nutrient level in the soil. Cover cropping prevents the loss of soil by wind erosion. Growth of legumes is necessary for biodynamic agriculturalists. It helps in fixing nitrogen in the soil with the help of nitrogen fixing microorganisms inhabiting the root nodules of the legumes.

The principle of implications in respect to the society involves practicing farming with a holistic approach where along with crops; the surrounding land’s well being is taken into consideration (Paull, 2013).

The principle of implications in respect to the society involves everybody who lives in and around the area where biodynamic agriculture is practiced so that an all round upliftment of the community takes place (Pechrová & Vlasicová, 2013).

The principle of cosmic sequence involves following the patterns of the moon cycle as well as the phases of the moon. To practice agriculture, a calendar is followed and based on that cultivation; harvesting, and several other farming practices are carried out. Biodynamic agricultural practices triumph over conventional agricultural practices as well as industrialized organic agriculture (Paull, 2013). The cycles of moon are evident in having an effect on the seas and the oceans. This concept is applied by the biodynamic agriculturalists by following the waning and waxing patterns of the moon to practice agriculture.

Sustainable Aspect of Organic Agriculture

The principle of biodynamic provisions involves the application of the originally composed eight different kinds of preparation that enhances the growth of the plant when incorporated in the soil. Different types of composts and manures’ composition was designed by Steiner ranging from 500-508 respectively (Steiner, 1993).

The philosophical foundation associated with practicing biodynamic agriculture involves a contribution to nature with the help of practices that are sacred and involve agricultural practices that takes into account the well-being of the nature, human health and welfare. It has a religious approach towards agriculture. Steiner had explained biodynamic agriculture to be responsible in encompassing all aspects of farming involving the wellbeing of the animals and farmers involved as well as nature (Smith & Barquín, 2016). He has laid main emphasis on the idea of metaphysics which lay stress on the concept that biodynamic agriculture is based on the application of forces that exist but cannot be perceived. It has a philosophical approach towards agriculture. Biodynamic agriculture requires the farmer to spare 10% of his land for allowing the natural biodiversity of the area to flourish (Perumal & Vatsala, 2013). A large number of farmers are joining the league of practicing biodynamic agriculture as they are slowly becoming aware of the damaging effect of conventional agricultural practice. Biodynamic agriculture helps in adding a spiritual facet to the agricultural practice where science and technology takes a back seat. The philosophy that also lay behind biodynamic agriculture relates to the ignorance of man regarding the implications his actions may befall on the environment (Damery, 2015). This attitude renders harm to the environment. By practicing biodynamic farming, the adverse effects of industrialized farming can be avoided. The ignorance is evident in the form of usage of GM based seeds. There is hardly a prior knowledge of the implication these GM crops can have on the human system (Gidley, 2012). GM crops are synthesized in the laboratory where their genetic make-up is tweaked with the help of genetic engineering and thorough study needs to be carried out to determine the extent of effect it can have on the body.


The sustainable aspect of biodynamic agriculture pertains to the idea that agriculture practiced in a particular area is not dependent on any external source (Parpinello et al., 2015). It runs on the resources available in that area itself. It renders the farm as a self-sustaining body. The sustainability is also added to dynamic agriculture with the help of the eight different techniques as described by Steiner to increase the growth of the plant by enriching the soil with nutrients. Like the different fossil fuel resources, which are becoming endangered in an accelerated fashion, soil as a resource has also joined the list. The sustainability factor is enhanced on the application of biodynamic agriculture as the quality of soil is highly improved and this leads to imparting better fertility (Botelho et al., 2015). Better fertility is equivalent to greater produce. The microbial population of the soil determines the quality of the soil. The higher organic content of the soil also proves a greater sustainability limit for areas subjected to biodynamic agriculture.

Biodynamic Agriculture

The price of produce from organic agriculture is comparatively higher that the ones produced with the help of conventional agricultural practice (Penfold et al., 2015). This was the main reason why it took so long for the organic produce to gain popularity among the consumers. However, the introductory dip has been overcome mostly due to the surge in the ecological, philosophical as well as the social concern related to the organic movement. Dynamic agriculture provides with an economic system in comparison with the industrial agricultural techniques because dynamic agriculture takes into account the well being of the environment as well as the human (Altieri, 2016). Industrial agricultural practice leads to loss of large extent of lands and the environment being heavily polluted due to the conventional methods of farming. The efficiency is also very low for a conventional farm as compared to an organic farm. Other than this aspect, farmers have faced difficulty in applying the techniques shortlisted in organic agriculture and forms part of the biodynamic agriculture (Crittenden et al., 2014). They require proper training and resources to carry out these types of agriculture. These agricultural types are not economic in the face of production and the failure rates are considerably high. The yields are also considerably low as compared to the conventional agricultural practices (Batary et al., 2013). The only benefit is that, the nutrition aspect remains same and the health quotient seems to be uplifted as they avoid the usage of harmful chemicals.

The ecological and philosophical basis of organic and biodynamic agriculture provides us with a window into the world of agriculture that is dedicated in retaining the inherent properties of the soil. These two agricultural practices aid to maintain the nutrient level of the soil by promoting the growth of the soil micro-flora. These kinds of practices protect the top soil cover by preventing them from being eroded. The crops that are being produced from these agricultural fields is high in nutrition as well as high on the health quotient too. Since these agricultural practices do not entertain the usage of harmful chemicals present in the pesticides, the crops are safe to consume as they are devoid of any accumulated chemicals in their leaves or root tips or in fact in the fruit or grain itself. The farmers should further sustainable agricultural practices as the shortage of food is felt globally. The environment has to be stopped from being degraded any further. Bioremediation techniques need to be applied to the agricultural fields to revert its original condition. The biological method is preferred as their side effects are next to none. A conglomerated effort from agriculturalists across the globe can help revert back the degradation of soil that has set in. As a result it will also indirectly contribute, to remediate the environment too and lessen the extent of water pollution led by agricultural run offs. The lessened use of fossil fuel based resources in farming will also help the cause of environment friendly approach of sustainable agricultural methods. The commercial perquisites are minimal in this case, but the perks associated in the long run should motivate more farmers to embrace these types of sustainable agricultural practices. All these measures are taken in order to create a healthy relationship with the nature rather than violating its resources .

Ecological Basis of Biodynamic Agriculture

References

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Principles of Incorporation

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