2024 Biodynamic Agriculture Conference

In 1924, Rudolf Steiner developed the methods of biodynamics in his Agriculture Course.

In the eight lectures of the Course held in Koberwitz, we encounter the conceptual images and principles that form the basis of the worldwide biodynamic movement. At the Anniversary Conference in 2024, we take a look at these deep contents of the Agriculture Course.

To upload the pdf programme click Here

Regeneration of the Earth Through Biodynamic Farming

Today we’re with Arizona Muse, founder of DIRT.Charity and one of this year’s guest speakers at the Agriculture Conference of the Goetheanum. Her charity DIRT, Foundation for the Regeneration of Earth, aims to regenerate the Earth’s soils through Biodynamic Farming with a special aim to help brands acknowledge and reconcile their involvement in creating the environmental problems they’re now racing to solve.

To read more click HERE

The quality of biodynamic products and what it means for the earth and for human beings

Theme of the year 2021/2022

The aim of this new theme of the year is to explore the quality of biodynamic products in depth. Biodynamic agriculture enjoys great popularity all over the world. The area farmed biodynamically is constantly expanding, specialized enterprises are converting to biodynamics and biodynamic products are in demand on the market. Besides quantity, the quality of a product is always important: after all, food should taste good and do us good.
To read more click HERE

Photos of Preparation Day at the Hack Farm May 16, 2018

Photos from Prep Day at the Hack Farm



“Stirring” Barrel Compost (BC)

Taking oak bark compost preparation (505) out of skulls that were in rain barrels over the winter


 Picking dandelions to make  the compost preparation 506

Digging up Horn Manure  (500)

Digging up  compost preparations


(Many thanks to Yehuda Nestel, for the photos!)

The Open Source Seed Initiative


The Open Source Seed Initiative

Today, only a handful of companies account for most of the world’s commercial breeding and seed sales. Increasingly, patenting is used to enhance the power and control of these companies over the seeds and the farmers that feed the world. Patented seeds cannot be saved, replanted, or shared by farmers and gardeners. And because there is no research exemption for patented material, plant breeders at universities and small seed companies cannot use patented seed to create the new crop varieties that should be the foundation of a just and sustainable agriculture. Inspired by the free and open source software movement that has provided alternatives to proprietary software, OSSI was created to free the seed – to make sure that the genes in at least some seed can never be locked away from use by intellectual property rights.

How OSSI Works:

OSSI works with plant breeders who commit to making one or more of their varieties available exclusively under the OSSI Pledge: Growers have the freedom to use these OSSI-Pledged seeds in any way you choose. In return, they pledge not to restrict others’ use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents or other means, and to include this Pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives. This “copyleft” commitment ensures that the Pledge is transmitted with any further distribution of the seed or the seed of any new varieties bred from it. In this way, OSSI preserves the unencumbered exchange of plant germplasm for breeding purposes and guarantees the rights of farmers and gardeners to save and replant seed.

The OSSI Pledge ensures the Four Open Source Seed Freedoms for this and future generations: 1) The freedom to save or grow seed for replanting or for any other purpose; 2) the freedom to share, trade, or sell seed to others; 3) the freedom to trial and study seed and to share or publish information about it; 4) the freedom to select or adapt the seed, make crosses with it, or use it to breed new lines and varieties.

OSSI Partner Seed Companies sell OSSI-Pledged varieties, acknowledge the OSSI breeders in their variety descriptions, label OSSI-Pledged varieties with the OSSI logo, and include the Pledge and information about OSSI in their catalogs and on their websites.

The Seed List of OSSI-Pledged varieties gives complete descriptions and photos for each OSSI-Pledged variety and links to every OSSI Partner Seed Company that carries each variety.

Through its educational and outreach activities, OSSI creates awareness of the value of purchasing “freed seed” and guides customers to its Seed Company Partners. OSSI is thereby creating a market for ethically produced, “freed seed” analogous to the markets for “fair trade” and “organic” products.

More information on OSSI, the OSSI Pledge, and a list of breeder partners is here:

OSSI In Brief (6-26-16)

OSSI Pledge and 4 Seed Freedoms

Breeder Partner List (August 15 2016)

For more information or to contact them, go to http://osseeds.org/about/


Using BD Preparations in Gardens

Using BD Preparations in Gardens

Once you have the preps put them immediately into glass jars with top left on loosely. (Baby food jars work well for the compost preps and half-pint jars work for the 500 (Horn manure) and BC (Barrel compost). These jars should be buried in peat moss in a wood box. The peat moss secures the concentration of the preps. Keep the box in a cool dark area. You will want to put the 501 (horn silica) – it looks like icing sugar – in a glass jar with holes in the lid and put it in a window in the sunshine.  Don’t forget to label the lids.

The container for mixing the 500, 501 and Barrel Compost preparations, in order of preference is: a wood barrel with straight sides; a metal (stainless steel is best) barrel/pail, an old metal garbage bin works well; a ceramic container like a five-gallon crock is good; a plastic five-gallon pail. The containers should have straight sides for easier stirring and should hold at least five gallons of liquid.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 500 (Horn Manure) is mixed about 1 oz (28 grams) in two gallons/ 8-10 liters of warm (preferably) rain water any time after 3pm.  Stir first one way until you get a good vortex in the pail, then reverse the stirring in the other direction until you get a good vortex again. You continue stirring one way then the other for one hour. By doing this you are potentizing the mixture, thereby creating a homeopathic substance. The 500 is sprayed on the ground in large droplets. We often just use a handful of cedar branches or a hand broom to flick the mixture around. The 500 promotes root growth and aids humus formation, thus improving the water-holding capacity of the soil and stimulating the microbes to help the plant take up what it needs. Use this spray after you have put down your compost and before you plant your plants or seeds. The 500 can be sprayed a second time later in the season.  If you have already planted, then spray on the ground between the rows.

The same mixing procedure is used for the 501 (Horn Silica). Mix for one hour 1 gram of 501 in two gallons of cool rainwater early in the morning. This potentized mixture is sprayed in the air above the plants in a fine mist. It promotes photosynthesis and increases assimilation of nutrients and the production of chlorophyll, as well as giving structure to the plants. It is important that the 501 is sprayed before 10am because spraying later could result in plants with burned leaves or stunted growth. BD 501 is also used to help stave off fungal disease and increase the fruit’s flavour, colour and post-harvest quality. It is used by grape growers and orchardists to increase Brix (sugar) levels. Apply the 501 when the flower buds are opening on tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and flowers. Spray 501 on fruit trees when the fruit begins to form. Potatoes are best sprayed when flower formation begins and members of the cruciferae family respond to repeated applications. Use 501 in the greenhouse once the fruit has set.



Barrel Compost helps decompose material in the ground and turn it into humus. If you chose to use this preparation, mix it the same as 500 and 501 but only for 20 minutes 1 oz(28 grams) in two gallons of rainwater later in the afternoon. This preparation is sprayed like the 500, in large droplets on the soil and grass late in the afternoon. It can be sprayed on the soil 24 hours before spraying the 500, or these preparations tend to negate each other somewhat.

The rest of the preps are placed in the compost pile. Once the compost pile is built and ready to be left (not turned any more), make evenly spaced holes on the edge of the pile and extending into the middle. The preps are placed in sequence in the holes 502 – 506. The 507 (Valerian) is mixed 30 drops to 1 gallon of water in the 500/501 fashion for 10 minutes, and sprayed over the compost pile to protect it. The pile is then covered with a thin layer of soil, straw or some kind of mulch (not plastic) to protect it against too much rain or snow. It is then left undisturbed until the next spring when it is used on the garden.

The compost preps have the following functions:

  • 502 Yarrow – used to attract potassium and trace elements such as selenium and sulphur
  • 503 Chamomile – stabilize nitrogen, calcium and sulphur, as well as magnesium and boron
  • 504 Stinging nettle –  aids in chlorophyll formation and stimulates iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulphur activity in the soil.
  • 505 Oak bark – is used to help restore water balance after too much rain or a full moon. It also helps protect against fungal diseases and stimulates calcium and phosphorus activity in the soil.
  • 506 Dandelion – used to increase flowering and filling of fruit.
  • 507 Valerian – used to mobilize phosphorus – activating bacteria as well as selenium and magnesium.

508 (horsetail, or equisetum) is not applied to a compost pile, but is recommended by Steiner for fungal diseases as a foliar spray or root dip.

Note:  The rates for application of 500 and 501 on a farm are a bit different. The volume of water is reduced to about ¼ the amount suggested for the garden or two litres per acre. This is because sprayer nozzles can be set finer than garden sprayers and so the farmer gets a more concentrated rate for the farm.

DOK-Trial The world’s most significant long-term field trial comparing organic and conventional cropping systems





Since 1978, biodynamic (D), organic (O) and conventional (K for German: “konventionell”) production of arable crops such as wheat, potatoes, maize, soya and grass-clover leys has been compared at the same site in a practice-oriented trial design. In addition there is a stockless, non-organic variant receiving mineral fertilizer only (M). At the outset of the trial the aim was to clarify whether organic arable farming is feasible at all given natural pressures from weeds, pests and diseases and whether it would produce sufficient yields. The results showed that good, high-quality yields can indeed be achieved. (1)

Since the mid-1990s the focus has been on questions relating to sustainable farming, soil quality, and product quality. (2),(3),(4),(5),(6)

Fertile soil is the basis of all agricultural production. A number of research teams therefore aim at understanding the ecological processes taking place in the soil, at the soil surface, and above the surface within the model system that is the DOK Trial.

In brief: The most significant results to date

Yield levels of organic crops are approximately 20% below those receiving mineral fertilizer – while nutrient inputs in the organic and biodynamic systems are 65% lower for mineral nitrogen, 40% lower for phosphorus and 45% lower for potassium.

Long-term nutrient input/output accounting shows a nitrogen deficit for all systems; in other words all systems received less nitrogen as fertilizer than was withdrawn with the crop (the additional nitrogen withdrawn was derived from soil mineralization, nitrogen fixation by leguminous plants, and aerial deposition). For phosphorus and potassium the deficits are greater in the organic and biodynamic systems than in the conventional one. Therefore it is important to keep an eye on and regularly determine with soil analyses the available nutrients and nutrient reserves.

Organically grown crops require 30-50% less energy per unit area (including energy for the production of fertilizers and pesticides). Even though yields in the conventional system are higher per unit area, energy usage per unit of yield is lower by 19% in the organic systems.

In the biodynamic system, soil organic matter (humus) content remained stable for the first 21 years of the trial while it declined in all other systems. Differences in this respect between the biodynamic and the purely mineral system are significant. (2)

More detailed information on the DOK Trial: The trial site

The trial site is located in the Leimen valley near Basel, Switzerland at 300 metres above sea level. Mean temperature is 9.5°C and mean annual precipitation is 792 mm. The soil is a haplic luvisol on deposits of alluvial loess.

The experiment has a randomized split-split-plot design with four field replicates. Every year, three crops of the seven-year crop rotation are grown side-by-side at two fertilization intensities each (D1, D2, O1, O2, K1, K2). In addition to the conventional treatment M which only receives mineral fertilizer (only at level 2 fertilization intensity), one treatment (N) has received no fertilizer at all since the beginning of the trial. There are thus a total of 96 plots, each plot being 100m² (5m x 20m) in size. Since 1991 the level 2 fertilization intensity, a level customarily used by farmers, corresponds to 1.4 LU/ha in all systems while level 1 corresponds to 0.7 LU/ha. Since 1985 the treatments K1, K2 and M have been managed in accordance with the requirements of integrated production. (7)

The cropping systems being compared in the trial differ primarily in terms of fertilizer usage and plant protection, while crop rotations, soil cultivation and choice of cultivars are the same across all treatments.


Over the first 21 years of the trial, there was a 50% lower input in fertilizers and fossil energy and a complete absence of chemically-synthesized plant protection products in the organic cropping systems compared to the conventional system, whereas mean crop yield was only 20% lower.

Potato yields showed the biggest comparative shortfall, with yields in the organic systems being 34-42% lower than in the conventional plots. This trend continued in the fourth crop rotation period (1999-2005). The reasons for this yield reduction are the crop’s high nutrient demand over a relatively short growing period and the potatoes’ susceptibility to diseases (late blight on foliage and tubers). However, in the 2006-2012 period there was only a mean yield reduction of approximately 22%.

For winter wheat, yield shortfalls were in the order of 11-14% in the 1985-2005 period and 33% in the 2005-2012 period (fertilization intensity had been increased in the conventional treatments).

Mean soyabean yields over six cropping years in the 1999-2012 period were at par between the organic and conventional treatments (2.8 t DM/ha).

Over the same period, silage maize yields in the organic systems were 11% lower than those in the conventional system (17.5 t DM/ha and 19.6 t DM/ha respectively).

Yields from the organic grass-clover leys were 11-13% lower than their conventional counterparts in the 1978-1998 period, 5% higher in the 1999-2005 period, and approximately 11% lower again between 2006 and 2012.

In summary, organic yield levels over 35 years of the trial and taken together for all crops were approximately 80% of those produced by the conventional system.

Nutrient efficiency and energy efficiency

The efficiency of the utilization of existing resources is an important indicator of the sustainability of a production system. For assessment purposes, all factors contributing to the production of a unit of yield are converted into energy units. A comparison of energy efficiency must consider not only direct energy inputs (tractor fuel) but also indirect energy inputs required to produce bought-in farming inputs (fertilizers, plant protectants).

Organic systems require slightly higher energy inputs for infrastructure and machinery than conventional systems (e.g. for hoeing and harrowing) but significantly less energy for fertilizer and pesticides.

The energy input per unit of yield (harvested crop) in the 1978-1998 period was 19% lower in the organic systems than that of their conventional counterpart, and 30-50% lower per unit area.

Soil fertility, soil life, and species diversity

Thanks to the long-term nature of the trial it has been possible to observe the impact of the different production methods on the soil. The results have shown, for example, that the organically and biodynamically managed plots contain 25% more soil micro-organisms and exhibit higher long-term soil fertility than the conventional plots (8),(9),(10). Plants in the organically and biodynamically managed plots are more strongly colonized by mycorrhiza (symbiotic association between fungi and plant roots) and a greater number of mycorrhizal fungi species are involved (higher biodiversity) (11), (12). In the springtime when the soil is not yet fully covered by vegetation, differences in the soil structure are also evident. This is due to differences in the types and quantities of organic fertilizers applied and the soil pH (13). Organic management also has a positive impact on the species diversity of predatory epigaeic arthropods (14), (15).

Related projects

As the DOK Trial deals with entire systems it does not allow for assertions to be made on the effect of biodynamic preparations on their own. It was for this reason that the Frick trial on preparations and soil was established, as part of which the biodynamic preparations are studied as one of the factors varied in the factorial design.

Using the DOK Trial as a model, farming systems comparisons have also been established in three countries in the tropics and are managed by FiBL.

Current FiBL projects as part of the DOK Trial

Research teams all over Europe work on questions addressed with the help of the DOK Trial. To date approximately 200 publications have resulted from this trial.

At present, seven doctoral theses under the Swiss National Science Foundation’s National Research Programme NRP 68  are being prepared based on the DOK Trial.

FiBL is currently conducting, or has recently concluded, a number of projects or sub-projects as part of the DOK Trial, a selection of which is given below:

  • Agronomic performance of the different cropping systems
  • Microbial diversity and carbon fluxes
  • Influence of biocontrol organisms on soil processes (NRP 59 – Soil)
  • Mycorrhizal diversity and functionality
  • Infrastructures for ecosystem research (contribution to the transnational EXPEER database)
  • Greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sinks in Swiss agricultural soils (FOEN – Greenhouse Gas Emissions)
  • Populations of denitrifying microorganisms (NRP 68)Recently concluded projects at FiBL (selection):
  • Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon
  • University of Basel: Prof. Dr. Thomas Boller, Prof. Dr. Andres Wiemken, Dr. Franz Conen
  • University of Zurich: Prof. Dr. Rainer Schulin, Prof. Dr. Emmanuel, Frossard, Dr. Astrid ObersonFunding
  • Basic grant for management of the DOK Trial: Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture


Scientific journal articles

  1. Mäder P, Fliessbach A, Dubois D, Gunst L, Fried P, Niggli U. Soil fertility and biodiversity in organic farming. Science. 2002;296:1694-7.
  2. Fliessbach A, Oberholzer H-R, Gunst L, Mäder P. Soil organic matter and biological soil quality indicators after 21 years of organic and conventional farming. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 2007;118:273-84.
  3. Langenkämper G, Zörb C, Seifert M, Mäder P, Fretzdorff B, Betsche T. Nutritional quality of organic and conventional wheat. Journal of Applied Botany and Food Quality 2006;80:150-4.
  4. Mäder P, Hahn D, Dubois D, Gunst L, Alföldi T, Bermann H, et al. Wheat quality in organic and conventional farming: results of a 21-year old field experiment. Journal of the Science of  Food and Agriculture 2007;87:1826-35.
  5. Hildermann I, Thommen A, Dubois D, Boller T, Wiemken A, Maeder P. Yield and baking quality of winter wheat cultivars in different farming systems of the DOK long-term trial. Journal of the Science of  Food and Agriculture 2009;89(14):2477-91.
  6. Zörb C, Niehaus K, Barsch A, Betsche T, Langenkämper G. Levels of compounds and metabolites in wheat ears and in grains under special consideration of organic and conventional agriculture. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2009b;57:9555-62.
  7. Mäder P, Fliessbach A, Dubois D, Gunst L, Jossi W, Widmer F, et al. The DOK experiment (Switzerland). In: Raupp J, Pekrun C, Oltmanns M, Köpke U, editors. Long-term Field Experiments in Organic Farming International Society of Organic Agriculture Research (ISOFAR), Scientific Series. Berlin: Verlag Dr. Köster; 2006. p. 41-58.
  8. Fliessbach A, Mäder P, Niggli U. Mineralization and microbial assimilation of 14C-labeled straw in soils of organic and conventional agricultural systems. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 2000;32:1131-1139.
  9. Esperschütz J,Gattinger A, Mäder P, Schloter M, Fliessbach A. Response of soil microbial biomass and community structures to conventional and organic farming systems under identical crop rotations. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 2007;61(1):26-37.
  10. Mäder P, Edenhofer S, Boller T, Wiemken A, Niggli U. Arbuscular mycorrhizae in a long-term field trial comparing low-input (organic, biological) and high-input (conventional) farming systems ina rop rotation. Biology and Fertility of Soil 2000;31:150-6.
  11. Oehl F, Sieverding E, Ineichen K, Mäder P, Boller T, Wiemken A. Impact of land use intensity on the species diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in agrooecosystems of central Europe. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2003;69:2816-24.
  12. Oehl F, Sieverding E, Mäder P, Dubois D, Ineichen K, Boller T, et al. Impact of long-term conventional and organic farming on the diversity of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. Oecologia 2004;138:574-83.
  13. Siegrist S, Schaub D, Pfiffner L, Mäder P. Does organic agriculture reduce soil erodibility? Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 1998;69:253-64.
  14. Pfiffner L, Niggli U. Effects of bio-dynamic, organic and conventional farming on ground beetles (Col. Carabidae) and other epigaeic arthropods in winter wheat. Biological Agriculture and Horticulture 1996;12:353-64.
  15. Pfiffner L, Mäder P. Effects of Biodynamic, Organic and Conventional Production Systems on Earthworm Populations. Biological Agriculture and Horticulture 1997;15:3-10.
  16. Hildermann I, Messmer M, Dubois D, Boller T, Wiemken A, Mäder P. Nutrient use efficiency and arbuscular mycorrhizal root colonization of winter wheat cultivars in different farming systems of the DOK long-term trial. Journal of the Science of  Food and Agriculture 2010;90:2027-38.
  17. Fliessbach A, Messmer M, Nietlispach B, Infante V, Mäder P. Effects of conventionally bred and Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) maize varieties on soil microbial biomass and activity. Biology and Fertility of Soils 2012;48:315-24.
  18. Fliessbach A, Nietlispach B, Messmer M, Rodríguez-Romero A-S, Mäder P. Microbial response of soils with organic and conventional management history to the cultivation of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)-maize under climate chamber conditions. Biology and Fertility of Soils 2013;49:829-837.
  19. Arncken CM, Mäder P, Mayer J, Weibel FP. Sensory, yield and quality differences between organically and conventionally grown winter wheat. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 2012;92(14):2819-25.
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