DDT Removal Using Biodynamic Agricultural Methods

Final Report for FW03-025

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2003: $6,932.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: Western
State: Hawaii
Principal Investigator:
Marie Mauger
Spirit of the Earth Farm
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Project Information

Abstract:

SUMMARY

The purpose of this project is to find a simple, safe, sustainable, inexpensive and effective method to block bio-availability or degrade persistent organchlorine pesticides (POP) more rapidly. DDT is the main POP of this research project. The methods used in the field research were the biodynamic method of Rudolf Steiner, high lignin compost and a combination of biodynamics and high lignin compost plus a control using sustainable agriculture.

All treatments to reduce both pesticide accumulation in beets and pesticide concentration in the soil showed measurable success. The Biodynamic treatment plots appeared to show the most influence in terms of both soil-pesticide-residue reduction and beet-pesticide-residue uptake. All show reduced uptake ratios in comparison to the untreated control soil plots.

The biodynamic treatment shows significantly higher reductions in both soil residues and plant uptake than all the other treatments.

OBJECTIVES

1) To conduct a field test to research whether the biodynamic agricultural method of Rudolf Steiner or the use of high lignin compost or a combination of both affects the concentration of POPs or the uptake of DDT in vulnerable crops such as beets.
2) To share the findings with a broad base of agricultural organizations, publications and local media.
3) To create a design model for field-test study that can be duplicated by other researchers.

RESULTS

I set up a field test with 16 10-by-10 foot plots with 10 feet of open space on all sides of each plot. Soil samples from each plot were tested for toxicity and NPK and orgo matter. All plots were cover-cropped twice with buckwheat. The biodynamic Prep 500 was applied to the eight plots receiving biodynamic treatment. The buckwheat was mowed after flowering. Before being spaded in, the biodynamic field spray was applied.

I sent in samples of my field hay, which is used for compost, and both samples came back high in lignin. I built one compost pile with field hay and the other with sudan grass. There was a 4% difference with the sudan grass being the high lignin material. To one pile, I added the biodynamic compost preps added and used the low lignin materials. The other used the high lignin material and had no preps added.

Beds of beets and beans were planted in each plot. The plots receiving the biodynamic treatment again had the Prep 500 applied as well as the Prep 508. At harvest time a sample of beets, beans and soil was sent for toxicity testing. Soil was also tested for NPK and orgo matter.

The biodynamic treatment shows significantly higher reduction in both soil residues of DDT and in plant uptake of DDT than all the other treatments. These results indicate that biodynamic treatments may play a significant role in both pesticide residue reduction in soils and in influencing bio-accumulation issues in vulnerable plants.

BENEFITS OR IMPACTS ON AGRICULTURE

Life on earth, to a large degree, is dependent on healthy soil. The cost per acre per year of using all nine Biodynamic preparations is $80 for the first acre and approximately $30 for each additional acre.

Although not a part of this study, there is documentation regarding the potential for the biodynamic method to increase topsoil rapidly. Instead of losing 10 tons of topsoil a year as many farm operations do, with the Biodynamic method, potentially 10 tons of topsoil a year can be added to an acre of land.

RECOMMENDATIONS OR NEW HYPOTHESES

Projects like mine would be more effective if Western SARE granted more funds for further research. I still have polluted soil where I haven’t applied the biodynamic method. I would be willing to commit to another identically structured project with proper funding.

OUTREACH

I intend to offer an exclusive to the quarterly Biodynamic Journal, and once published send the article to every organic certifying agency, ATTRA, Acres USA, Farm Bureau, seed companies, Seed Saver Exchange, Seeds of Change, Abundant Life, Hawaii Agriculture, the agricultural department at the University of Hawaii and other universities and Pesticide Action Network.

I will also request to be a guest on the local radio garden show.

At farmers markets, which I attend, I will have copies of the article available.

Cooperators

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  • Richard Ebesu
  • Diana Tracy

Research

Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.