The Compost Manufacturer’s Manual

Pfeiffer, Ehrenfried E.

Original publication date: 1956
Original publisher: The Pfeiffer Foundation, Inc. - Philadelphia, PA
Publication status: Out of print

The scan for this book was given to us by Steve Diver, a scholar of the BD movement with a passionate interest in composting. Steve has long supported the Soil and Health Library. Of this book, Steve says:

Pfeiffer was ahead of his times in the areas of:  manufacturing large-scale composting equipment, bacterial cultures to facilitate the break-down and build-up phases of the composting process – the catabolic and anabolic microbially-driven processes — that turns raw organic matter into compost humus; pioneered the technique of sensitive crystallization (for which he was given an honorary PhD because it was used to accurately detect cancer at an early stage); pioneered the technique of circular paper chromatography (which accurately detects the quality and integrity of soils, composts, fresh produce and grain crops); pioneered the Pfeiffer Compost Starter and the Pfeiffer Field & Garden Spray (which contain over 55 strains of microbes that perform specific functions, integrated with the appropriate Biodynamic Preparations, in an all-in-one farmer-friendly approach to biodynamic humus management and food quality); pioneered clay-humus or humified compost (amending the compost windrow with clayey soil); pioneered mineralized compost (amending the compost windrow with rock minerals to facilitate mineral bio-availability, resulting in chelated minerals and trace elements, through microbial action and their organic acids and enzyme metabolites).

Fifty years before the soil foodweb became in the 1990s, Pfeiffer was using microscopes, preparing microbial inoculants, making superior quality composts, teaching farmers how to employ biological farming practices to improve soil organic matter, soil structure, and soil fertility – which in modern times is known as “soil health” — and conducting cutting edge research on soil fertility, soil biology, soil humus, and food quality.

As you can see from the references in The Compost Manufacturer’s Manual, Pfeiffer did not work in a vacuum. He was in touch with and drew upon other worldwide pioneers in soil microbiology and humus management.  This Euro-centric humus movement included luminaries such as Selman Waksman, Raul H. France – the father of soil edaphon or soil ecology, and his wife Anne-France Harrar, Hans-Peter Rusch, and of course Sir Albert Howard working in India – also with clay-humus compost – and others.  From a purely biodynamic historical perspective, it is interesting to note that Ehrenfried Pfeiffer was like a combined young pupil and personal assistant to Rudolf Steiner, which gave Pfeiffer great insight and impulse to work with the naturally-occurring earthly and cosmic forces that embody soil and human health.  The very first biodynamic horn preparations were buried in the ground two years before the Agriculture Course lectures, from which Bio-Dynamic Agriculture arose, with Rudolf Steiner giving instructions to only two people who were present: Ehrenfried Pfeiffer and Guenther Wachsmuth.

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