(from the 2nd German Edition, abridged).
NOTE BY EDITOR: The following pages are notes of
collective conversations with Dr. Steiner on various
After the more or less harmful effects of mineral fertilisers
had been referred to, Dr. Steiner said on one occasion: In view
of the obvious increase in output which people today seem to,
think necessary, this kind of fertiliser might perhaps
not be dispensed with. But the harmful effects upon man
and animal will not fail to ensue. Some of these effects will
appear only after several generations have passed. Remedies,
therefore, have to be found in time. Such remedies are e.g. the
leaves of fruit trees. It can be recommended, therefore, to
plant fruit trees around arable land.
another discussion, Dr. Steiner spoke of the value of horn meal
(ground horns and claws of cattle) as a fertiliser. He
said that horn meal was one of the very best fertilisers if
mixed with farmyard manure. The horn meal should not be sharply
baked; the fresh horn meal is better because of its higher
content of hydrogen. Hydrogen, Dr. Steiner said, is more
important for its effect on the soil even than nitrogen. The
Science of today has not yet discovered the importance of
hydrogen for plant growth.
(Taken from a conversation between Dr. Steiner and Dr. chem.
Streicher complained that modern agriculture confined
itself to replacing in the soil the nitrogen, phosphoric
acid and potassium, just as Liebig had suggested decades ago.
Great danger arises from the nitrogen being compounded with
very strong acids, which cause acidity of the soil and in case
of drought in summer may become disastrous.
STEINER: Actually, the only healthy fertilizer is cattle,
manure. This should be our starting point. In addition to this
a principle has to be found whereby a healthy nitrogen content
of the soil may be brought about. I cannot yet tell how this
can be done; it ought to be a principle which causes the
earthworms and similar animals to “work the soil
through.” Besides this, certain weeds have to be
discovered which should be planted in the neighbourhood of the
field. It is, for example, important to plant sainfoin on rye
and wheat fields — at least along the edge. This
influence actually exists. You have to test rationally
[“rational” is often used by Dr. Steiner in the
sense of Goethe, as opposite to mere empiricism.] by experiment
the fact that it is good to have horse radish planted along the
edge of potato fields, and corn flowers grown among corn and to
have the poppies destroyed. It is such things as these which
have to be considered in studying the whole problem of
fertilizers. Otherwise you arrive at abstract principles and
confine yourselves to the mere neutralisation of the acidity of
the soil. This would kill step by step the fertility of the
soil; it would make it “deaf” (taub).
Neither should one fall into the other extreme and use only
plant manure. This is without doubt unfavourable to plant
growth. The only ideal fertilizer is cattle manure. Besides
this much depends on plant association, e.g. leguminous plants,
especially sainfoin. And care should be taken to place all
herbaceous plants in a dry soil, whereas cereals need a moist
importance certainly attaches to the personal human relation of
the sower to the seed (paradoxical as this may seem to the
modern chemist and biologist). If you observe carefully you
will find a different effect produced by the way in which the
sower proceeds, whether he simply takes the seed from out of
the sack and flings it down, or whether he is accustomed to
shake it a little in his hand and to strew it gently on the
ground. These differences are of importance for the problem of
manuring and it would be good to discuss them with interested
farmers for they have experience in the things which are
beginning to be lost in modern agriculture. I would
advise you to examine old agricultural calendars to find
hints on the problem of manuring. They contain ideas which
sound strange but which could be formulated in chemical
[DR. STREICHER here mentioned that the critical situation
of the farmer has been aggravated by the infectious diseases
which decimated the livestock last year, and by the shortage of
STEINER: Scientists should have the courage to point out where
the principal harm is done. Stable feeding, which has
been unduly praised in late years, has no doubt some connection
with cattle tuberculosis as well as with the fact that the
yield of milk is increased for a time and so on. The state of
health, however, declines of course in the subsequent
generations. And it is certain that the dung which the
farmer's wife gathers in her basket or collects with a shovel
from the meadow is better than the dung produced in
Moreover, the animal should be prevented from taking in the
breath of its neighbour while feeding. This is harmful. In
walking across the pastures, you will see that the animals
graze at some distance from each other, because they do not
want to have the breath of the neighbour near themselves.
It may also happen that an animal gets some little sores and if
the breath of another animal touches this wound it will
undoubtedly be a cause of disease.
[DR. STREICHER indicated that there are tendencies in modern
agriculture to feed livestock directly on urea and to avoid the
“indirect” way of feeding them on plants; the urea
is gained from synthetic nitrogen. People think that the
farding bag (rumen) of the cow contains certain bacteria which
decompose the urea and builds it up into albumen. If these
experiments are adopted in practice by farmers, the
deterioration of the livestock may be intensified.]
STEINER: With experiments of this kind no true results can be
attained. We have to realise that in the sphere of vitality
there is always present the law of inertia, if I might
call it so. The effects may not manifest themselves in this or
the following, but certainly they will do so in the third
generation. The workings of the vital force will meantime veil
the result. If such experiments deal only with one generation,
you get quite a wrong impression. In the third generation
one will have effects which have their cause in the feeding of
the grand-parent animals, but science will seek for the causes
elsewhere. Vitality cannot be broken down at once, but only in
the course of generations.
STREICHER mentioned experiments of the English botanist
Bottomley who succeeded in producing in peat moss a certain
bacterial life., which results in decomposing the humus
substance to other unknown substances, which have a stimulating
effect upon plant growth. He calls them `Auximones’ and puts
them on the same level as biologists do vitamins.
STEINER: If these substances are used to stimulate the
growth of plants destined for human food, no ill results may
appear in those who eat this food. But their children will
perhaps be born with hydrocephalus. The procedure shows that
the plants will become hypertrophied and if they serve as food,
the nerve life of the succeeding generations
deteriorates. One has to realise that certain effects upon the
life process do not manifest themselves until the succeeding or
even the third generation. Research has to be extended as
far as this.
STREICHER said that experiments of a scientist in Freiburg have
shown that organic compounds of quicksilver have an
extraordinarily stimulating effect upon vegetable growth«
People hope that in this way vegetables can be produced in a
very short time. The plants exhibit signs of hypertrophy.
STEINER: In this case one should find out whether the children
of those who consume them become impotent. All this has to be
considered. Experiments must not be carried out in too
restricted a sphere, because the vital process is something
which goes on in “Time,” and only in course of
years does it degenerate in its inherent forces.
Further Indications on Agriculture given by Rudolf Steiner.
STEINER in answer to a question by Herr Stegemann.: In sowing
oats one should take care that the soil is dry; the same
applies to potatoes and root crops. [Wheat and rye on the other
hand should be sown in moist soil.] As marginal plants for
cereals, Dr. Steiner named deadnettle and sainfoin; they
should be planted at a distance of 4½ to 5½ yards.
Turnips and potatoes can be surrounded by horseradish;
this need only be planted at the four corners of the field and
must be removed every year.
Animal pests, Dr. Steiner said, will vanish gradually with the
cultivation of new kinds of plants.
combat wireworms, Dr. Steiner recommended the exposure of
rain water to the waning moon for a fortnight. The water must
be poured on the places where the wireworms occur and must
moisten the ground as deep as the worms go.
order to prevent the degeneration of the potato, he recommended
that seed potatoes be cut into small pieces with one eye only
in each. This process should be repeated the following
a question by Count von Keyserlingk: As a remedy against rust,
the field can be surrounded with a border of stinging
Manure heaps should be carried out to the field and remain
there until they are wanted.
Steiner recommended that an orchard on peaty ground be treated
with Kali Magnesia.
looking at the flower garden at Whitsuntide, 1924, Dr. Steiner
said: “The flowers do not seem to be quite happy here|
there is too much iron in the soil.” On coming to the
roses, which were not flowering well and were suffering from
mildew, he recommended that very finely distributed lead
should be added to the soil.
When he was questioned about the enormous number of cow horns
that would surely be necessary for treating the 30,000 acres at
Koberwitz, Dr. Steiner gave the astonishing reply that
when all measures were fully applied, as few as 150 cow horns
When asked about sainfoin, his instructions were to use about 2
lbs. for sowing with one acre of corn.
combat snails and slugs, Dr. Steiner recommended that a
solution of 3-in-100 seed of conifers should be sprayed. This
is understood to mean: obtain the sap of these seeds by
pressure, dilute it in the proportion of 3:1000 of water and
spray this on to the plant beds. Dr. Steiner encouraged such an
experiment. Similar experiments should be made elsewhere.
On a walk through the fields at Arlesheim and Dornach, Dr.
Steiner told those who were with him that to increase the
vigour of Preparation 500 for use upon meadows .and
fields with fruit trees the following should be done: Take some
fruit and a handful of leaves of the fruit trees in question
and boil them in ¼ gallon of water so as to form a kind of
infusion, then add this “fruit tea” when the
content of the cow horn is stirred in the pail.
order to strengthen diseased and weak fruit trees a 4-irich
deep trench can be made around the stem at a distance
corresponding to the crown of the tree and into this a
considerable quantity of the diluted and stirred cow horn
preparation (Nr. 500) can be poured.
Referring to the silica preparation (Nr. 501), Dr. Steiner said
that it might even suffice to take a lump of quartz the size of
a. bean and knead it with moist soil from the ground on which
the preparation later on is to be sprayed; this mixture to be
filled into the horn. If little pieces of it are diluted and
stirred with water, this will hold sufficient
Marginal plants for vegetables in the garden: sainfoin,
dandelion and horseradish.
Concerning plant diseases, Dr. Steiner said that plants
actually cannot be ill because the etheric principle is always
healthy. When troubles appear, they show that the environment
of the plants, and especially the soil, is out of order. Thus
the soil has to be treated, not the plant. As an example, he
recommended the strengthening of aged trees by taking fresh
soil from the roots of blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) and birch
and spreading that around the roots of the trees.
can make the weed-destroyer (pepper) more effective by burning
the root-stock together with the seeds of the weed in
(Report by Ehrenfried Pfeiffer)
Some years before the war, when asked about the use of human
faeces, Dr. Steiner gave a warning against the use of them
because the circle from man to plant and from the (manured)
plant back to man is too short. The way should lead from man to
plant, from plant to animal, from animal to plant and then back
again to man.
Peat moss as a means of soil improvement was more than once
rejected by Rudolf Steiner. It is, he said, neither suitable as
manure nor for improving the physical condition of the soil. We
ought to add humus again' and again in every form instead: as
compost, leaf mould, etc.
a question concerning mineral manure (cf. page 39, 47 of this
lecture course) Dr. Steiner replied: If one is compelled to use
it, one has always to mix it up with liquid or solid stable
manure. The use of liquid matter from the closet he strongly
objected to; neither should this be poured on fresh compost
“even if the soil is not to be used for four years, it
will still contain what is harmful.”
Under trees infested with Woolly Aphis, nasturtium (Tropaeolum)
should be planted in a circle.