Biodynamic (BD) agriculture, a form of organic agriculture, includes the use of specially fermented preparations, but peer-reviewed studies on their efficacy are rare. Composting of a grape pomace and manure mixture was studied in two years (2002 and 2005) with and without the BD compost preparations. Water extracts of finished composts were then used to fertigate wheat seedlings, with and without added inorganic fertilizer. BD-treated mixtures had significantly greater dehydrogenase activity than did untreated (control) mixtures during composting, suggesting greater microbial activity in BD-treated compost. In both years there was a distinct compost effect on wheat shoot and root biomass irrespective of supplemental fertilizer. Shoot biomass was highest in all treatments receiving 1% compost extract. Wheat seedlings that received 1% compost extract in 2005 grew similar root and shoot biomass as fertilized seedlings, despite only containing 30% as much nitrogen as the fertilizer treatment. In both years seedlings that received fertilizer plus 1% compost extract produced 22-61% more shoot biomass and 40-66% more root biomass than seedlings that received fertilizer alone, even at higher rates. In 2002 a 1% extract of BD compost grew 7% taller wheat seedlings than did 1% extract of untreated compost. At 0.1% only BD extract grew taller plants than water, but in 2002 only. No effect on shoot or root biomass was seen at 0.1%. Our results support the use of compost extracts as fertilizer substitutes or supplements, testimonial reports on the growth promoting effects of compost extracts, and the occasional superiority of BD compost to untreated compost.
Copyright (c) 2010. Published by Elsevier Ltd.