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Do planets affect farming activity?
Surinder Sud | August 12, 2003
Back to nature. As part of this move, Indian farm scientists are now evolving a novel form of eco-friendly, chemical-free agriculture, which is different from and, in a way, more natural than even organic farming.
Christened "biodynamic agriculture", this mode of farming is based on performing different farm operations according to a crop calendar based on zodiac principles.
The underlying idea is to gainfully harness natural energies of the cosmos, including those of the earth, animals and plants. The soil and plant health is maintained through the use of materials derived from plants and animals.
The experiments on biodynamic farming in the past three years have shown encouraging results, prompting the Indian Council of Agricultural Research to begin formally promoting it as a method of sustainable clean agriculture.
The nodal agency for research and development work on biodynamic farming is the ICAR's Lucknow-based Central Institute of Subtropical Horticulture. The National Horticulture Board has come forward to support a project for popularising the production of fruits through biodynamic agriculture.
The term biodynamic is derived from the Greek words "Bios" (life) and "dynamics" (energy). The basic hypothesis (which is claimed to have been upheld by the results of field trials) is that the 12 zodiac signs are divisible into four groups of constellations, each of which has certain influences on farm operations and plant life and that these influences are also related to the movement of the moon.
The whole thing is, in turn, related to the four basic elements -- earth, water, fire and air.
Accordingly, the group consisting of Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn is deemed to be related to earth and, hence, influences the development of roots; that of Gemini, Libra and Aquarius concerns air and light and affects flowering; the Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces group is related to water and influences leaf development and Aries, Leo and Sagittarius panel concerns fire and affects the development of fruit and seed.
Elaborating further on this, the literature generated by CISH points out that during the ascending state of moon, the earth "breaths out", activating the forces of light and energy. Therefore, the developments occur in the upper parts of the plant during this period.
Thus, this phase is suitable for sowing of seeds, foliar applications of different health-boosting concoctions and plant propagation activities. Even crop harvesting is recommended for this period.
On the other hand, during the descending phase of moon, the earth is supposed to "breath in" and, therefore, the developments occur below the ground at the root level.
As such, this stage is suitable for land preparation and manure application, transplanting of seedlings, top-working of tree and harvesting of root crops (like potato and onion).
This apart, the emerging science of biodynamic agriculture also borrows several farm practices from the Vedic era, some of which have already found place in modern organic farming (such as the use of earthworms, cowdung and cow urine for soil fertility enhancement and plant health) and a few other wholly novel ones (like the use of cow horn manure and cow horn silica).
Thus, biodynamic farming follows a fixed agricultural calendar for activities like sowing and transplanting, crop modelling through pruning and training (in the case of vines), crop combination and maintenance of optimum moisture.
Application of organic manure and composts produced with the help of earthworms and microbes is recommended to improve soil fertility and ensure sustained soil health. Some specific biodynamic yield enhancers prepared by using cow horns have also been evolved.
Besides, the use of de-oiled cakes of locally available plants like mahuwa, karanj, castor and groundnut is resorted to for augmenting the soil's plant nutrient reserves.
Moreover, proven practices like green manuring (ploughing in leguminous crops to enrich soil fertility), mulching (covering the soil with vegetative or other material) and vermi-inoculation (releasing concentrated potion of earthworms into the soil), too, form part of the biodynamic agriculture.
Chemical pesticides have been replaced in this mode of agriculture with biodynamic insecticides and fungicides prepared from the leaves of leguminous trees, neem, castor and other plants (like pongamia and caliotropis) that have medicinal and pesticidal properties.
Another innovation is the biodynamic tree paste made by mixing cow dung, bentonite (clay) and sand. This paste helps seal cut portions to prevent infection and hasten healing of plant wounds.
According to CISH sources, about 100 farmers in Azamgarh (Uttar Pradesh) have already adopted biodynamic production of medicinal crops like basil and ashwagandha exclusively for export to the US and Europe.CISH has been organising regular training courses in biodynamic farming in the past couple of years. An ad hoc scheme for promotion of organic and biodynamic production of horticultural products in Mizoram, Meghalaya and Sikkim has recently been launched under the technology mission mode project of the ICAR.