Since European settlement, many areas of Australia have lost up to a metre of top soil and we are now farming in subsoils. Fifty years ago, one in 100 people suffered from cancer. Today, that figure is more like 1 in 5.
An increase in human disease could well be linked to a decrease in soil health and the nutrition that we derive from produce grown in depleted soils. Beneficial microbial populations are knocked out whenever synthetic chemicals or fertilizers are applied to the soil.
Farming organically using biodynamic practices is one option for farming in a more sustainable manner and it is the method that Gemtree Vineyards has chosen in an effort to improve fruit quality. Biodynamics is about soil fertility and the recognition of a relationship between plant growth and the lunar cycle. It provides an opportunity for farmers to regain the role and function as providers for and caretakers of the health and welfare of the community, as well as the environment.
If biodynamics is about soil fertility then soil fertility is about humus. Microbes are the bridge between the soil and the plant. When microbes, particularly fungi, are given the chance to completely digest organic matter, humus is formed. Soils with low carbon (organic matter) levels have poor water holding capacity. Humus is the foundation for good soil structure and holds up to 90% of its weight in water.
Biodynamics is a proactive approach to farming that looks at the individuality of each property and adds back with natural plant and animal life to emulate nature and create a self-sustainable environment. Biodynamic farming integrates agricultural, biological and ecological scientific knowledge into crop rotations, compost production, plant diversity, homeopathic sprays and soil and animal practices.
With the increased threat of:
• climate change and lower rainfall;
• cancer and human illness;
• a greater use of chemicals to control pests and diseases that thrive in monocultures (single crop
• degrading soils;
one has to question are we going about our farming in the right way?
Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within an ecosystem. Greater biodiversity implies greater health. The Gemtree Wetlands has many native plant species and a number of these are planted alongside our vines as well, contributing to the biodiversity of the land.
As a family company with a future generation to consider, our business and farming practices must be sustainable. Biodynamics is not only about having a softer impact on the environment than conventional practices but is ensuring that what we are doing is improving upon what we already have, not denigrating it.
For more information about sustainable living, please visit McLaren Vale Sustainability Group. Click Here