Avondale’s innovative promotion of the Biodynamic Planting Calendar through our Luna Taste Test and our Biodynamic Luncheons have shown me just how many people are interested in how Biodynamic farming works. I’ve decided to start a new series of blog articles which will provide an overview of the Biodynamic preparations to explain what they are and why we use them.
In 1924, the philosopher and originator of Biodynamic agriculture, Rudolph Steiner presented eight lectures in response to rising concerns about soil degradation and the impact of chemical fertilisers amongst German farmers. These lectures were translated into English and published in 1928 as The Agriculture Course (A lot of Steiner’s views on Biodynamics were deeply influenced by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe). Steiner’s view was that farmers needed to focus on the cosmic energies and the relationships they had with agriculture. He presented nine preparations that needed to be made and used by farmers in very specific ways in order to protect and enhance soil fertility, as well as to ensure healthy plant growth and animal development.
While Steiner named these Biodynamic preparations, they are now commonly known as BD500, BD501, BD502, BD503, BD504, BD505, BD506, BD507 and BD508. Often thought of as ‘mysterious’ code names, these are simply shorthand name with BD standing for Biodynamic. The first two, BD500 and BD501 play specific roles in the natural system – they are prepared in particular seasons, buried in the ground to transform over time, lifted when ready and then used when needed by applying them to the soil. BD502 to BD507 are all used in the making of compost. BD508 acts as a general ‘health tonic’ for the land, and it works closely alongside BD500 and BD501.
We use BD500, also known as Horn Manure, as an important part of our ongoing quest to create stable humus in Avondale’s soils. It acts as a powerful soil activator bringing the energies to the soil, and stimulating the calcium and nitrogen relationships to foster abundant, balanced life in the soil. By contrast, BD501, also known as Horn Silica, is outwardly and productively focused, drawing in light and atmospheric energies to stimulate green growth, fertility, flowering and fruiting.
Once we have made BD500, BD501 and BD508, they are applied on the farm in various ways, such as by spraying, applying by hand and through the field broadcaster.
All of these preparations are integral to Biodynamic farming. They have often been referred to as the ‘homeopathy’ of agriculture as volume is of little consequence – for example, 300 grams of BD500 is used per hectare and just 5 grams of BD501 per hectare. Their essential role is to ensure that all the natural systems on a farm are working together. They link the natural predators, the cover crops, the microbes in the soil and so much more, with the cosmic energies that influence all life. As an artist, the best analogy I have is the perspective of the potter. A potter takes a piece of clay, sits at the spinning wheel to make an extraordinary object. But if his hands are not wet, the creation cannot manifest and the work falls apart. It is the water on the potter’s hands that enables a beautiful work to be created. The Biodynamic preparations are like water on the wine farmer’s hands which makes everything work together in the vineyard and enables the production of balanced, flavourful and healthy grapes – essential if you want to make extraordinary wines.
It is true that, for some, the making of Biodynamic preparations may seem weird and wonderful. But I have found that once you understand the careful reasoning behind the methodologies it is not odd at all. In fact, it’s a proverbial ‘coming down to earth’ that serves to demystify Biodynamic farming and lead us to a more holistic and harmless way of farming.
In the next articles, I will share my insights and experience of each of the nine Biodynamic preparations. Connect with us on Facebook to be notified about when we post the next article on BD500 – Horn Manure. Alternatively, you can follow the blog on this page and get every new post delivered to your Inbox.