Converting to biodynamics happened on our farm over 30 years ago. While we can now convert a farm over in 3 years, this has not always been the case. When we first converted over the home farm it took us ten years before we were happy with the results.
In the first five years of converting to Biodynamics we took the purists’ approach, which was to cut out fertilisers and pesticides and simply spray out the biodynamic preps.
For us it was a dreadful failure.
We live in a high rainfall, tropical climate that can expect 150 inches of rain in a year. Our farm had also been farmed conventionally for the past 40 years with generous dollops of super phosphate and urea sprayed onto our paddocks. Too much soluble fertilisers have a tendency to breakdown organic matter and cause essential nutrients to leach away as well as upset the natural soil biology.
Our fathers’ well-fertilised, productive pastures turned yellow and lost their vigour, the few remaining legumes disappeared and milk production plummeted. Our pastures had become addicted to continuous applications of fertilisers and were going into withdrawal.
Financially this was nightmare.
Luckily Lewis and Judy O’Farrell on the hot humid lowlands below us were converting their banana farm to biodynamics at the same time. We were able to console and encourage each other as well as bounce around some ideas.
Unfortunately, we had been to Victoria and seen how simply spraying the preps out had worked so well on some farms. It made us persistent and we kept waiting for something to happen. After a few years however the economics made us realise that we had to try something else.
We started reading everything we could on Biodynamics, Organic and biological farming. There were no other local organic farmers to visit at the time and this was well before the Internet!
After much research we decided that for the biodynamics to work well we had to remineralise the soil with rock dusts and rejuvenate the pastures with a diverse range of legumes and herbs.
We undertook some good quality soil tests (not the free ones from a fertiliser company that simply indicate that you are short of their proprietary NPK fertilisers) and found that the soil was chronically lacking in Calcium and Magnesium. Because of this the soil was very acid and had high levels of iron, aluminium and manganese, which are toxic to legumes. These legumes are the key to driving a productive organic pasture.