Since Biodynamics is a system of farming, it should be examined
holistically, by comparing a B.D. farm with a conventional or organic farm
in the same region. Western Germany before the unification studied B.D.
farms in this manner and found real differences in productivity, use of
farm labor, farm income, etc. Ther have aslo been shown to be real
differences in in the quality of produce grown using Biodynamic methods.
Using the B.D. preparations or Pfeiffer's compost starter has been shown
to have reproducible effects on compost. I could go on, but I would
suggest that anyone who is interested should consult either Bio-Dynamic
Agriculture by H.H. Koepf, B.D. Pettersson and W. Schaumann, or Culture
and Horticulture by Wolf Storl.
Which brings me back to the original question, is there a demonstrable
effect on soil quality with the use of composted manure vs. raw manure,
something that Ann Clark talked about. She said that it should be better
to compost organic materials before applying them to the soil. You can try
this out in your home garden, and I don't think there is any question, a
compost pile can work a lot better than sheet composting. My point is,
however, that it was a Biodynamic idea to compost farm manure in the first
place (at least in recent Western circles). The reasoning was that where
you have a limited amount of animal manure and other organic wastes
available to provide nutrients to a farm, you should be applying them in a
manner that conserves and makes the best use of these materials. What a
good compost does is stabilize the organic matter and make it into
long-lasting humus. You may lose some nitrogen and some of the gross
yield-increasing effects, but the soil will benefit more from an
application of compost than one of fresh manure. There are other benfits
of composting as well. To B.D. farmers, that question was important,
because they were not importing feeds and fertilizers from off the farm.
They were interested in the farm as a functioning organism - sustainable,
in other words, living and viable.
Crop Consultant, Central NY Crop Management Association