Soil quality and profitability of biodynamic and conventional farming systems: A review
John P. Reganold
Abstract. Biodynamic and organic farming are similar in that both are ecologically
oriented and do not use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The main difference is that
biodynamic farmers add eight specific amendments, called preparations, to their soils,
crops, and composts. Recently, there has been an increasing interest in biodynamic
farming practices and systems because they show potential for mitigating some
detrimental effects of chemical-dependent conventional agriculture. Only a few studies
examining biodynamic methods or comparing biodynamic farming with other farming
systems have been published in the referred scientific literature, especially in English.
This paper summarizes data from previous studies, both published and unpublished
(theses), that have compared biodynamic and conventional farming systems with
respect to soil quality or profitability. These studies have shown that the biodynamic
farming systems generally have better soil quality, lower crop yields, and equal or
higher net returns per hectare than their conventional counterparts. Two studies that
included organic management treatments with and without the preparations showed
that the preparations improved biological soil properties and increased crop root
growth. However, more research is needed to determine whether the preparations
affect soil physical, chemical, and biological properties and crop growth and, if so,
their mode of action.
Key words: biodynamic farming, biodynamic preparations, soil quality, farm
profitability, cropping systems, on-farm research, sustainable agriculture.
Research publications concerning biodynamics