Quantum lessons from soil courses at the Biodynamic Agricultural Association of Ireland

The Biodynamic Agricultural Association of Ireland has revitalised itself. In a comfy rut for at least a decade, with a small dedicated group of earnest practitioners, there is a renewed vigour to the organisation.

Their recent newsletter spoke of appraisal and of renewal.

To this end, a series of short, intensive soils courses have been undertaken.

In Spring, a course called “Soils, Biological Farming and Biodynamics” ran and was well attended.

Their recent three-day event, A New Agronomy Primer, with Hugh Lovel was a more ambitious affair.

Some 55 farmers, tillage, dairy and horticulture, or varying sizes, biodynamic, organic and conventional as well as a sprinkling of advisors, all converged on the Ospreys Hotel in Naas.

This event was led by farmer, writer and multidisciplinary scientist Hugh Lovel.

Lovel travelled from Australia to the UK and Ireland for some speaking engagements.

He is on the national board of Biodynamic Agriculture Australia, the biodynamic organisation with the largest membership base in the world.

Lovel is part of a consultancy called Quantum Agriculture, and has pioneered a process called biochemical sequencing, which provides an insight into the conditions needed for optimum plant nutrition.

According to the Biodynamic Agricultural Association of Ireland: “He [Lovel] shows the fascinating roles of boron, silicon and calcium in sap pressure, nutrient delivery, successful fruiting and amino acid production.

"The interplays of nitrogen, magnesium, trace elements, phosphorus, sulphur and magnesium are revealed and the farmer/gardener is given a new practical insight into the role of nutrients.”

Cloughjordan community farm grower Kevin Dudley was in attendance, and was impressed with what he learning and experienced over the three days.

“It was mainly about biochemical process in farming; in other words moving beyond NPK and lime.

"He set out the whole process, about the importance of sulphur, boron and silicon, for example, before even considering Nitrogen,” he said.

With Nitrogen, and indeed other elements, a key issue is availability, they may be in the soil in abundance, but can the crop access them? And what is inhibiting their take up?

“So if you put 10-10-20 into ground, you are drowning the bacteria that can take N out of the air.

"The N from the bag, nitrate, is the same as what bacteria excrete. So you kill the mineral-accessing biology,” Dudley learned.

The importance of good soil tests and good compost were also emphasised; indeed whole new soil testing regimes and the poorly composted nature of much of farm yard manure farmers have access were discussed.

Another issue was how to stabilise nutrients in slurry.

The process Lovel revealed is the addition of humates. Humates are a form of carbon which is in the process of turning into coal.

These, Lovel claimed, bond nutrients into in the slurry, preventing their loss.

The event also included field trips to Alfie and Devon Beetie’s 80 acre tillage farm.

Indeed, some prominent and larger scale farmers, both conventional and already organic, are showing an interest in biodynamic there days, especially the biological agri-science end of it.

The Biodynamic Association of Ireland have great plans for growth and engagement with the farming community, and have seen some noteworthy new recruits, such as tillage Farmer Trevor Harris from Kildare.

Harris has been a demonstration farmer for Teagasc, so many will have visited his 90ha farm near Donadea.

From muck and magic to quantum biology, and it didn’t even take a century.

This seems to be the trajectory of the biodynamic farming movement.

Perhaps a 21st century blossoming for biodynamics is underway.


Lifestyle

Last week, I wrote about 'small is beautiful' as a key to an improved environment for all living things after this Covid crisis is finally over. As I wrote, I saw, in the mind's eye, the village where I live in west Cork and from which my wife and I are temporarily exiled.Damien Enright: Community spirit can ensure we pull through - together

Fifty years ago, a fox was spotted in Dublin’s St. Stephen’s Green. The unfortunate animal was chased by local ‘gurriers’. It took refuge in a tree but was promptly stoned to death.Richard Collins: Wildlife taking back the streets of our cities

The north pier on Cape Clear has been eerily quiet these last few months as no visitors disembark. The ferry is not unloading boatloads of tourists from Baltimore, 45 minutes away, or from Schull, as it would normally.The Islands of Ireland: Cape Clear tells its side of the story

If the Donegal postman and amateur weather forecaster has it right, we could be in for water shortages in the coming months. Michael Gallagher, who predicted the scorching summer of 2018 and the 2010 freeze-up, says we’ll have a ‘lovely’ summer.Donal Hickey: Demand for water to soar

More From The Irish Examiner