The following is a record of indications given verbally by Dr. Steiner
to individuals in answer to questions and with reference to particular
problems and local conditions. (Several of these were given prior
to the Agriculture Course of June, 1924.)
Readers should remember that they are quoted from memory, are fragmentary
and not necessarily of universal application.
indication was given by Dr. Steiner at the Guldesmühle Mill in
Dischingen during a conversation about the more or less harmful influences
of artificial mineral manures. Dr. Steiner said that in view of the
increase in yield which was generally required, they might perhaps not
be able to forego the use of such manures. But the harmful influence,
for human beings and for animals alike, would not fail to ensue. Some
of these influences would not appear in full till generations after.
At any rate it was necessary to discover and apply remedial measures
in good time. Such, for example, were the leaves of fruit-trees, and
it was therefore good to plant fruit-trees on the fields.
indication by Dr. Steiner concerned the use of horn manure. This had
been manufactured at the Guldesmühle Mill, and it was further developed
at Einsingen. In answer to a direct question as to the value of horn
manure, Dr. Steiner replied that mixed with ordinary stable manure,
horn manure was among the very best. Subsequently we asked Dr. Steiner
whether roasted or unroasted horn-meal was better. (At Einsingen we
do not roast it, whereas as a general rule the horn-shavings, etc.,
are first subjected to a very rigorous drying process. The advantage
is that they are more easily ground down after this process. On the
other hand, the roasting involved a loss of about 15 per cent, consisting
mainly of water). Dr. Steiner answered to the effect that unroasted
horn-meal was better on account of the higher hydrogen content. For
the right influence of the manure, the hydrogen content was in fact
far more important even than the nitrogen, though modern science had
not yet awakened to the real importance of the hydrogen content for
—Communicated by Dr. Rudolf Maier.
REPORT OF A CONVERSATION BETWEEN DR. STEINER
AND DR. STREICHER
Streicher: Another matter we are concerned with here is one that
was brought very near to me in my youth. I grew up in the country, and
was much concerned with the problem of manures for plant-life generally.
The present position — the prevalent opinion on these matters
— seems to me highly detrimental. The prevailing notions about
manures have not gone far beyond what was inaugurated by Liebig, who
wanted to instil mineral substances into the soil — nitrogen,
phosphoric acid and potassium, for instance. The artificial manure industry
in its present stage produces nitrogen bound to very strong acids —
hydrochloric and sulphuric. Agriculture is faced with a new danger,
which has even now become reality to some extent. Artificial manures
are brought into the soil, regardless of the way the plants receive
them. These artificials give rise to an acid reaction in the soil, and
in a dry summer the results are disastrous.
Steiner: The fact is, the only really sound manure is cattle manure.
The first principle is to take one's start from this. It is the
really healthy manure. At the same time, a healthy nitrogen content
must be brought about in the soil by discovering some principle, by
virtue of which the soil will be thoroughly worked-through by earth-worms
and similar creatures. I do not think we have yet gone so far as to
be able to tell quite fully what this is.
will also be essential to find the necessary weeds — in a word,
the necessary neighbour-plants. As I said yesterday to Herr St—,
who is now devoting himself to Agriculture, it is important, for example,
to plant sainfoin on the rye- and wheat fields, at least along the edges.
This influence decidedly exists. You should investigate scientifically
how important it is to plant horseradish along the edge of your potato
fields, to have a sprinkling of cornflowers in your corn fields, and
to exterminate the poppy.
should be considered in connection with the manuring question as a whole.
Otherwise you are reduced to the most abstract principles, where for
example you get acids formed in the soil, and you then ask: “How
can I counteract them?” and on these lines, in course of time,
you absolutely kill the soil for plant growth. You make it deaf.
Streicher: The farmers too have a feeling that the soil is extracted
and impoverished by the use of artificial manures.
Steiner: It is not at all a bad expression; it makes the soil deaf.
On the other hand, one must not fall into the extreme of using plant-manure.
It must be admitted that plant-manure is not favourable to plant-growth.
In point of fact, the only ideal manure is cattle-manure — not
plant-manure. Everything follows on this basic principle. Also you must
be clear that very much depends on the neighbouring plants, notably
leguminosae — sainfoin especially. With herbaceous plants you
should also take care as far as possible to plant them in a dry soil,
whereas with cereals a moist soil is needed.
strange as it may sound to the chemist and biologist of to-day, your
human and personal relation to the seed-corn is undoubtedly important.
If you examine it thoroughly, you will find it makes a difference to
the thriving of the corn, whether the sower simply takes the seed-corn
out of a sack and throws it down roughly, or whether he has the habit
of shaking it a little in his hand and throwing it gently, sprinkling
it on the ground. These differences are of importance in relation to
the manuring problem.
be good for you to discuss these matters with farmers, who cannot but
be interested in them. They have no little experience, only their experiences
are eclipsed nowadays. Modern agriculture has such experience no longer.
Altogether I should advise you think it will serve you well —
to use old peasant-calendars in connection with manuring problems. They
contain very curious instructions, some of which you will indeed bc
able to formulate in chemical terms.
Streicher: It is difficult for the modern farmer, especially just
now. Last year the stock of cattle was much reduced by illness; and
it has very largely been reduced by lack of fodder.
Steiner: Scientists will have to summon up courage to point out
the main detrimental causes. The undue praise of stable feeding in recent
times is undoubtedly connected with the prevalent tuberculosis among
cattle. For all I know, the animals may be able to give more milk for
a short time, or what not; but their state of health deteriorates through
generation after generation. It should go without saying.
manure which the peasant-woman — basket on back and shovel in
hand — gleans from the meadows, is undoubtedly better than the
manure you get by stable-feeding. Also the animals ought not to have
to absorb the breath of the neighbouring animal while they are feeding;
that is undoubtedly harmful.
on to the pastures and you will see, they keep a certain distance apart.
Look at the pastures for once, and you will find that of their own accord
the beasts take their stand at a considerable distance from one another.
The animal cannot abide the breath of the neighbouring animal while
it is feeding. And, after all, how easily it occurs that an animal gets
an abrasion, and if the breath of the neighbouring beast comes into
this, it will undoubtedly be a cause of disease.
Streicher: Perhaps I may point out certain prevailing tendencies
in outer science — in the use of artificial manures and synthetic
materials? Having succeeded in the synthetic fabrification of nitrogen
products, they are now boasting the discovery of the synthesis of protein.
They find it tedious to have to go via the plants in gaining protein.
There is already a movement on foot to short circuit this “roundabout
way” of the plant, and to feed the animals on synthetic nitrogen
sound strange, but scientists have made investigations on these lines.
They set great store by the synthetic urea which is added as a concentrated
foodstuff to the ordinary hay, as cattle fodder. It has also been tried
on sheep. The idea is that certain bacteria live in the paunch of the
animal, and that these bacteria will disintegrate the urea and transform
it into albumen or protein. I think the danger is very real. If these
experiments are continued — if it becomes habitual among farmers
to give urea and other synthetic foods — the present symptoms
of deterioration in our stock will go from bad to worse.
Steiner: True results can never follow from experiments conducted
in this way. In the sphere of vitality — if I may so express it
— there is always the law of inertia. That is to say, it may not
appear in the present generation or in the next, but it will in the
third. The vitalising influence goes on beyond the first few generations.
If you restrict your investigations to the present and do not extend
them over several generations, you get a completely false picture. Then,
when you do observe the next generation but one, you turn your attention
to quite other causes than the real ones, namely, the feeding of the
grandparent beasts. Vitality cannot be broken down at once. It is surely
broken, but only in succeeding generations.
Streicher: In studying this question last year, I came upon a piece
of work that gained publicity in England during the war — I mean
the researches of the English botanist, Bottomley. Bottomley discovered
that there are certain plants which cannot absorb mineral manure directly.
If you make a solution of nutritive salts, certain plants cannot live
in it for long. On the other hand, he observed that if a certain bacterial
life was brought about in the soil, substances were thereby formed which
he could not quite get hold of chemically. He puts them side by side
with the “Vitamins” of the biologists. Adding these substances
in imponderable quantities to the nutritive salt solution, he finds
that the plants unfold a quite extraordinary life. The substances he
thus produces he describes as “auxines” — life-kindling
substances. During the war, when England was obliged to till the soil
for the growth of cereals, this “Humogen” — as it
was named by Bottomley — was produced in large quantities and
added to the earth. In certain cases it had an extraordinary effect;
in other cases the effect was absent.
Steiner: Which plants received this blessing?
Streicher: It is not said.
Streicher: In the growth of cereals. ...
Steiner: If it is done with food-plants, the people who consume
them will suffer no great harm, but their children may very well be
born with hydrocephalus. From the whole process it is evident that the
development of the plant has been hypertrophied. When such plants are
used for nourishment, the result is a malformation of the nervous life
in the next generation. This is the fundamental fact: certain effects
in the life-process only show themselves in the next generation, or
even only in the next but one. So far must the investigations be extended.
Streicher: One could mention in the same connection the experiments
initiated by a Freiburg scientist. He made organic mercury salts and
manured the vegetable gardens with them during the war. Growth was remarkably
enhanced by this “mercury manuring.” People even began to
hope that the whole question of plant-growth would rapidly be solved;
that vegetables would be produced in a very short time. These vegetables
too showed a hypertrophied growth.
Steiner: You would have to investigate whether the children of
those who consume them do not grow up impotent. These things must all
be examined, for in this sphere you simply cannot make your experiments
within narrow limits. The vital process goes on in time, and only in
the course of time does it degenerate in its inherent forces.
FURTHER INDICATIONS BY DR. STEINER RELATING TO
gave the following answers to questions by Herr Stegemann:
the ground for oats, one should take care that the soil is dry. So,
too, for potatoes and root-crops. Wheat and rye on the other hand should
be sown in a moist soil.
for cereals, Dr. Steiner indicated dead-nettle and sainfoin. They should
be planted four to five metres apart. Horse-radish might be good as
a border-plant for roots and potatoes. It need only be planted at the
four corners of the plot. It must be eradicated every year.
animal pests, Dr. Steiner remarked that as new cultivated plants were
evolved, they would increasingly disappear.
wire-worm, Dr. Steiner gave the following method: Expose rain-water
to the waning moon for a fortnight, and then pour the water over the
places where the worm occurs. One should take enough water to moisten
the soil through to the level where the worm abides.
the deterioration of the potato, Dr. Steiner said the seed-potato should
be cut into pieces until every little piece has only a single eye. The
same process should be repeated in the following year.
* * *
to questions by Count Carl von Keyserlingk, Dr. Steiner gave
the following indications (communicated by Count Adalbert Keyserlingk):
smut, a ring of stinging-nettles should be planted round the fields.
On the same occasion, Dr. Steiner remarked that it is good to put the
manure-heaps on the field until the time when the manure is needed.
For an orchardry on a rather moist and boggy soil, Dr. Steiner recommended
through the flower gardens at Whitsun, 1924, Dr. Steiner remarked as
he looked at the flowers: “They none of them seem to feel quite
happy here; there is too much iron in the soil.” When he came
to the roses, which were not flowering well, and did not look at all
healthy (mildew), Dr. Steiner advised that very finely divided lead
be given to the soil.
was pointed out that an enormous number of cow horns would surely be
needed for the Koberwitz estate—an area of 18,500 acres —
Dr. Steiner gave the astonishing reply that once it was all in working
order, probably no more than 150 cow-horns would be needed for this
To a question
by Count Wolfgang von Keyserlingk on the use of sainfoin, Dr.
Steiner answered that about 2 lb. of sainfoin seed should be included
with the seed-corn per three-fifths acre.
* * *
In Dornach and Arlesheim we suffer from an awful plague of slugs. They
eat up all the foliage.
them, Dr. Steiner advised the following remedy: Sprinkle out a 3-in-1,000
dilution of pine-cone seeds. The answer is to be understood as follows:
The soluble content of the seeds (which must presumably be extracted
by pressure) should be dissolved in water to a dilution of 3-in-1,000,
and this should then be sprinkled over the beds affected. Dr. Steiner
said we should begin by making this experiment. It would be very interesting
if parallel experiments were made at other places.
we were going round the Dornach and Arlesheim plantations, Dr. Steiner
advised the following method of strengthening preparation “500”
for the meadow-land — for the land where fruit-trees were standing.
Take a few fruits and a handful of leaves of the kind of fruit in question;
make a decoction of these with a litre of water, and add this fruit-decoction
to the bucket in which the content of the horn is being stirred.
To strengthen sick and feeble fruit-trees, a circular trench about a
hand's-breadth deep may be dug around the tree in a circumference
approximately corresponding to the crown of the tree. Into this trench
pour larger quantities of the stirred-up preparation “500.”
silica preparation “501,” Dr. Steiner said it would even
suffice to mingle and knead up a piece of quartz of the size of a bean
with soil from the land which is afterwards to be sprinkled, and put
this mixture into the horn. This would already contain sufficient silica-radiation
if a little of it was dissolved and stirred.
plants for vegetable gardens, sainfoin, dandelion and horse-radish were
To a question
about plant-diseases, Dr. Steiner answered: Properly speaking, there
can be no such thing as sick plants, for the etheric is always healthy.
If disturbances occur in spite of this, it is a sign that something
is wrong with the environment of the plant, especially the soil. To
strengthen trees that are growing old, he said we might try the effect
of putting fresh earth around their roots — earth taken from the
neighbourhood of the roots of sloe (Prunus spinosa) and birch.
the destruction of weeds more effective, the root-stock and
seed of the weed may be burned.
Communicated by Ehrenfried Pfeiffer.
before the War, Dr. Steiner said, in answer to a question about the
use of night-soil: It should not bc used at all, because the cycle from
man to plant and back again to man is too short. (The question referred
to gardening.) The proper cycle is from man to plant, from plant to
animal, from animal to plant; then only from the plant again to man.
repeatedly and expressly rejected the use of peat for the improvement
of the soil, whether as manure or as a would-be improvement of the physical
properties of the soil. Humus and humus again should be given to the
soil in every conceivable form — as compost, leaf-mould, etc.
Communicated by Frl. Gertrud Michels.
* * *
To a question
on the use of mineral manure (compare page 70 of the Course), Dr. Steiner
answered: If obliged to use mineral manure, one should always mix it
first with dung or liquid manure. Dr. Steiner strongly rejected the
use of lavatory fluid. It should not even be emptied out on to fresh
compost — “not even if the compost-earth will only be needed
after four years. Even then, things are contained in it which are not
Communicated by Frau A. Ganz.
* * *
trees that suffer from woolly aphis (Eriosoma lanigerum), a
ring of nasturtiums should be planted.
Communicated by Franz Lippert.