Dandelion gives a boost to Lithuania’s vegetables
In Lithuania, biodynamic research by Lithuanian women scientists on squash and potatoes, inspired by Swiss dandelion meadows, has led to striking discoveries.
When the doors on the West opened for Lithuania in 1990, they were also thrown wide for Lithuanian scientists. Professor of agronomy Honorata Danilčenko came to stay in Switzerland toward the end of that decade, and on one of her excursions she saw a meadow on a hill covered in flowers, especially dandelions, but adjoining it a field with nothing but green grass.
Discovered in Switzerland, studied in Lithuania
When she asked why there was such a marked difference between the two meadows, she was told that the one full of flowers belonged to a biodynamic farmer, and that dandelion blossoms are a constituent of one of the biodynamic preparations. She decided to test these preparations, till then unknown to her, in Lithuania, but to do so as a scientist, not a farmer.
She invited her PhD student, Edita Juknevičienė, along with a fellow professor, Elvyra Jarienė, and her PhD student, Nijolė Vaitkevičienė, to join her in a shared research project. The trials ran from 2012 to 2015, and were conducted on squash and potatoes, two important vegetables in Lithuania. The scientists tested the soil, the plants and the crops.
Horn manure and horn silica prove their worth
First the soil was prepared for sowing, then soil samples were taken, and finally biodynamic horn manure spraying preparation was applied to the land. Two weeks later, immediately before sowing, soil samples were taken once again. Soil analyses showed markedly improved soil activity, with increases of around 14% in phosphor content, 13% in nitrogen content and 5% in potassium content. These significant soil improvements occurred within only two weeks of the first application of the biodynamic preparation, which appears to contain signal molecules to which soil bacteria immediately react.
Warmer soils, bigger root networks
Furthermore, the soil temperature between days 56 and 70 of the growing period was found to be 0.56°C higher than in the control group. As long ago as 1988, the German scientist Dr U. J. König found that biodynamic horn manure preparation has a stimulating action on soil respiration. In addition, a significant increase in the enzyme activity of urease (nitrogen enzyme) and sacharase (sugar enzyme) was recorded over the whole vegetation period. The root volume of biodynamic squash was 1.47 times greater than that of the control, and harvested quantities were 15% higher for all three squash varieties and also for the potatoes.
The scientists were also keen to know whether the biodynamic preparations enhanced concentrations of secondary phytonutrients – an important parameter for food quality. Application of the two biodynamic preparations horn manure and horn silica led to significant phytonutrient increases of between 13% and 109% compared to the control group.
As in many other trials, the Lithuanian investigators found that the appearance, taste, aroma and structure of the squash and potatoes were improved by biodynamic horn silica preparation. The research demonstrated that use of biodynamic preparations can improve soil quality, increase the activity of soil enzymes and enhance the nutritional value of produce.
Dr Edita Juknevičienė, Aleksandras-Stulginskis-University, Lithuania
For the dissertation (in English) go to www.tinyurl.com/y99s7zjy