Casuarina Biodynamics

Casuarina Biodynamics - John Bradshaw


Casuarina 2Adrian Wojtowicz and Kirsten Alford (pictured with green manure crop) have been in conversion to Biodynamics on their 50 acre (20Ha) property at Wurdi Buloc, Victoria, for 2 years now. Adrian grew up on the property and they bought it from his grandfather 5 years ago.


Adrian had been market gardening conventionally on nearby leased properties for the previous 14 years. However both he and Kirsten (a qualified Naturopath) had been leaning towards organics for some time, as neither were happy spraying chemicals (they have two young children), and had been applying poultry manure as their main fertiliser. Two years ago they visited a sustainability expo in Bendigo, and there met a Biodynamic farming couple who had a stall. After talking to them for a few hours they decided to bypass ordinary organics and go straight to Biodynamics.


They contacted Darren Aitken (Biodynamic Agricultural Association of Australia advisor), and attended an introductory field day run by him, where they learnt the important basic Biodynamic techniques. Adrian had been growing green manures for several years to improve the soil, while he continued growing vegetables conventionally elsewhere. Now he began applying prepared 500 to the soil, stirring by hand in a copper for the whole 50 acres! He now has an 8 acre stirring machine which makes life a lot easier.


The soil is an excellent virgin soil but even after 2 years it has improved considerably with 500 application. Adrian says that before BD, he could pull out a clump of rye grass and it would have virtually no soil attached, but now it comes with a big clump of soil because of the active feeder roots. The soil has more humus and is  holding more moisture. Rye grass used to be easy to kill with cultivation but is now much harder because of the root/soil connection and the extra soil moisture. Adrian and Kirsten have also noticed that the plant structure and form has improved. Before, with poultry manure, the plants were pushed and the leaves grew on top of each other, as with artificial fertilisers, with no organization. Now, plants are more upright and each leaf is spaced individually in an organised way so they are each getting maximum light. Soil structure will continue to improve progressively. 


Adrian is growing 5 acres of potatoes and has 7 acres under fixed sprinklers, much of it under crop, and 5 acres under green manure. He grows a wide range of vegetables including brassicas, peas, onions, silver beet, lettuces and more.


Green Manure

Green manure and prepared 500 form the basis of the soil fertility program. In autumn, Adrian prepares the ground  with a chisel plough and direct drills a mix of rye corn, clovers (including Balansa), dun peas and lupins in rows 125-150mm apart. The only input he uses is a bit of lime. In spring the crop is mulched with a PTO mulcher, and worked in with a Rehabilitator plough (when he can borrow one) or his chisel plough, when enough soil moisture is present. If it is a wet season he will leave it, after mulching, for a day before ploughing in, otherwise he works it in straight away. The Rehabilitator is used twice, once down and once across, and is more effective than the chisel plough. After ploughing in he sprays prepared 500. 500 is also applied to newly sown green manures and newly sown or planted vegetable crops. 501 has not been used on the vegetables yet – the seasons have been so dry that it has not been needed, and could in fact be detrimental under these drought conditions.


During the digesting process, Adrian will allow weeds to germinate, then go through with his triple K cultivator to lightly and shallowly tickle and kill the weeds. He will do this several times to reduce the weed burden over a 6-8 week period, then bed-form and plant seedlings.


If a green manure is to be sown in spring, Adrian uses a wide mix of species including oats, wheat, barley, millet, dun peas, sorghum, sunflowers, Balansa clover and buckwheat.



Adrian used to grow all his own seedlings, but hasn’t had  enough  water  during  the  drought,  and  now buys them from Boomaroo at Little River. He has an exemption from the Biodynamic Research Institute to use these seedlings. He plants with a seedling planter that is pulled by the tractor.


Watering and weeding

Adrian has two large irrigation dams that rely on runoff. Water is in short supply due to the extended drought and he is applying for a bore permit to supplement the dam water. He has installed underground water to 7 acres, with  a  central  150mm  main  and  50mm  PVC  piping leading  to  40mm risers with wind fighter sprinklers. He

prefers these to impact sprinklers as they provide more even coverage. He used PVC in preference to aluminium as the aluminium pipes open at the O-rings when the pump stops, letting go all the water in the pipes. The underground pipes are 750mm under the surface to allow the Rehabilitator plough to be used across as well as along the rows. Adrian borrowed a Dingo digger, mounted it at the back of the tractor, and powered the chain from the tractor PTO to dig so deep. He has considered T-Tape but it concentrates the water too close to the plant, is not as good as sprinklers for germination of direct sown seed such as beetroot, carrot etc., and doesn’t last long, resulting in replacement costs and much waste piping.


Potatoes are irrigated by aluminium pipes with sprinklers. They can be easily moved to allow cultivation and hilling.


Apart from false seed beds before the crops are planted, Adrian uses some flame weeding, killing newly emerging weeds just before the crop emerges or is planted. Once crops are in he uses a variety of measures including a Weed Fix tickler, blades and small tynes, plus several drain weeding implements. Once the crops get too big and their feeder roots get into the drains, Adrian stops cultivating. This year has been a bad one for weeds. Potatoes will be harrowed soon to flatten the rows and kill the weeds. Later, as the potatoes emerge, the hilling up process will start. They are progressively hilled quite high during the season. 


With watering limited to 3 hours once a week, plants are under a bit of stress. Adrian prefers to water first thing in the morning. This allows the plants to dry off quicker, and is of major importance with brassicas which can develop white blister when leaves remain wet at night and night temperatures are over 200C.


Pests and Diseases

Adrian and Kirsten find that they have very few problems with pests under Biodynamic management. The only pests that require attention are the caterpillars of the diamond backed moth and cabbage butterfly, which attack brassicas in the warmer weather. Their preferred remedy is to spray Dipel (bacillus thuringiensis), a caterpillar disease. This disease can hang around a bit during the season, and continue to be effective.



Adrian and Kirsten sell most of their produce (certified Biodynamic by the Biodynamic Research Institute) through the Biodynamic Marketing Company, under the name Casuarina Biodynamics.


They are more than happy with the results they have achieved to date with Biodynamics, and like so many of us, look forward to some reasonable rains in coming months and years to accelerate progress and make market gardening that little bit easier.