IF BIODYNAMIC FARMING STOPS MILDEW AND OTHER DISEASES, SIGN ME UP!!!

 One of the main tenets of Biodynamics is that their vineyards will be healthier and thus able to ward off diseases.  In a recent Wine Spectator story Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti stated, “What we are interested in biodynamie is the use of plants to fight mildew. [This] helps to diminish in some years the use of copper, which unfortunately is the unavoidable way in organic cultivation to fight mildew.”

 From  “Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of AGRICULTURE” by Rudolf Steiner, published 1993 from the Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening Association, Inc. – page 128, lecture six, on disease control, originally given on June 14, 1924:

         “Let us assume, however, that the Moon’s influence is too strong, that the soil is overly enlivened.  In this case, the vitality works up too strongly from below, and something that should occur only in seed formation starts to happen earlier.  When the vitality is too strong, it doesn’t reach all the way to the top; its very intensity makes it start working lower down.  Thus, because of the effect of the Moon, there is insufficient force for seed formation.  The seed incorporates a kind of dying like into itself, and through this dying life a kind of second ground-level is formed above the level of the soil.  Although there is no actual soil up there, the same influences are present.  As a result, the seed, or the upper part of the plant, becomes a kind of soil for other organisms.  Parasites and all kinds of fungi appear – blights and mildews and the like…  Direct perception reveals what I have just described.”

         “So what should we do now?  We need to relieve the soil of the excessive lunar force; we need to find some way of reducing the water’s mediating capacity, of giving the soil more earthiness of the water that is present does not absorb the excess lunar influence.  We accomplish this – though outwardly everything remains the same – by making a fairly concentrated tea out of Equisetum arvense, which we then dilute and use as a kind of liquid manure on the fields where we want to combat blight and similar plant diseases.”

 DISCUSSION FOLLOWING LECTURE SIX, page 134:

QUESTION: “Can these methods for alleviating plant diseases be applied to vineyards too?

STEINER: “I can only say that I am convinced that the vineyards could have been protected (from Phylloxera devastation) if people had gone about it in the way I have indicated.”

 QUESTION:  ‘What about downy mildew?”

 STEINER: “That can be treated just like any other blight.”

Was Steiner right, does using a tea made from Equisetum arvense prevent disease like powder and downy mildew?  What about other diseases like measles, oak root fungus or even Eutypa?   If the answer is yes, I will immediately convert to Biodynamic farming.                                                                                                                          Stuart Smith

11 Responses to IF BIODYNAMIC FARMING STOPS MILDEW AND OTHER DISEASES, SIGN ME UP!!!

  1. Finde das da ist nützlich Erst in der Mitte des Mai ist der Winter vorbei.

  2. Roger says:

    It is amazing to witness some beliefs that are just not workable. I recall a grower friend who insisted that scheduled applications of compost tea was a suitable and valid powdery mildew control, that using basic sulphur was poor judgement. The next year he was in a grower seminar covering all the new chemical treatments. I asked about his compost tea applications and was simply told, ‘why do you think I am here’ Powery Mildew had overrun his vineyard.

    Stu, I am with you, if all this theory controls Powdery Mildew (or Bot, Measels or Eutypa just to name a few), sign me up. Facts seem to support natural elements such as sulphur do get the job done on mildew, even if we want to call it a chemical.

  3. Chris Carter says:

    Hahaha brilliant! Google Ads throws up a link to purchase BD preparation 501!

  4. Gregg Burke says:

    I am not a save the earth soapbox kind of person, but I do believe that the fewer chemicals in use for farming the better it is for all of us. Specially for those who have to work with them. I have to read more and educate myself more on biodynamics, but I like the blog you have real passion.
    Cheers

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Gregg,

      Thanks for the nice comments. Chemical applications is clearly a hot button topic today. I do agree that fewer chemicals is always better, all things being equal. Unfortuantely, the wine industry is faced with some very serious bugs and exceptions must be made. I also think education and knowledge of specific chemicals is more important than a generalized fear of chemcials. There are chemicals that we should be concerned about and chemicals that don’t rise to that level of concern – at least for me.
      Stu

  5. biodynamicshoax says:

    Gregg,

    I haven’t found any farming “practices” of Biodynamics that I would consider valid and even worth trying.

    However, I do believe that Steiner’s concern for the land and soil admirable and will be his only lasting contribution to farming. Also, while impractical, Steiner’s view of a closed system is a good place to start a conversation about long-term sustainality.

    I believe that any environmental degration is not sustainable.
    Stu

    • George Bachich says:

      Stu,
      I have enjoyed reading all your blog entries and nearly all the comments, and at the risk of upsetting some of your readers, I will say that I take issue with only one thing you have written. I think you should be careful about saying or even believing that “any environmental degradation is not sustainable”. The earth is a very resilient system. Tremendous environmental damage can occur and be substantially or even completely healed in a few years, an incredibly short time period in geological terms. Examples include the Santa Barbara oil spills, the Valdez oil spill, The Yellowstone fires, the Mount St. Helens eruption,”dead” Lake Erie; the Midwestern “Dust Bowl”, and I’m sure we could list many others. This healing capacity, so evident after great environmental damage, must also be at work nearly invisibly, constantly healing relatively minor damage, making some level of environmental damage entirely sustainable, even if the assault is constant and enduring. Even when the healing capacity is locally overwhelmed and significant visible degradation occurs, if that area is given a rest, it will naturally recover. Of course, we should be considerate of the environment and try not to overwhelm its healing capacity, nor overestimate it. But neither should we ignore nor underestimate it, as it is this healing capacity that enables us to make our living from the planet.

  6. Gregg Burke says:

    I am not a grape grower, but I have read about biodynamics and some of it seems like Yani listening new age horse pucky, but some of the practices seem to make sense. Is there any part of biodynamics that you find true or useful?

  7. Larry says:

    Stu:

    Good analysis of the untenable nonsense put forward by BD practioners and camp followers about “disease being the absence of health”. And their concoctions making the vines so healthy, they don’t have to spray protective fungicides to prevent Powdery and Downy Mildew (in wet climates).

    Below is an amazing piece of slight-of-hand. Domaine Huet, such a great producer of Loire Chenin is now fully on board with the voodoo.

    Direct from the Domaine Huet website.

    “Results” Page

    “After 10 years of experience, I find the results achieved to be extremely encouraging. Having applied the method described (Biodynamics) above to our vines, we find that they are in perfect health, they do not suffer from mildew, nor oidium, nor mites or vine pests and this without using any chemicals.”

    “Vinification” Page

    “The only products we use to protect the vines are the Bordeaux mixture (made by adding slaked lime to a copper sulfate Soilution), sulphur powder, and plant-based preparations such as horsetail, nettle and yarrow.”

    http://www.huet-echansonne.com/MaisonHuet/MaisonHuet_vinif.php?LangueSite=EN

    On one page their vines are perfectly healthy with no disease using no fungicides. On another page they claim they use “only” copper and sulfur for disease protection. Well, what else does one need?

    Its almost as though European BD practioners like Joly and Huet have re-defined sulfur and copper into non-chemical status. They are merely essential nutrients.

    From Joly’s website:

    “The domaine started biodynamic farming in 1980. Since 1984, the entire vineyards has been farmed biodymalically. Since 1984, no synthetic chemical products, insecticides, systemic products or nitrates have been usel on the property.”

    “A small amount of sulphur and “bouillie bordelaise” (copper and lime) are sprayed each year on the vines (about 10 kilos of “bouillie bordelaise” per hectare, the équivalent of 2,5 kilos of copper). Sulphur has a beneficial effect when the vines are in flower. The amount of copper is limited, an excess would be harmful to the life of the soil.”

    Joly also uses no synthetic chemicals. Only copper and sulfur.

    Amazing.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Larry,

      Amazing is right, great find! I’m really convinced that most Biodynamic farmers and supporters haven’t read Steiner’s original words and just believe in, and follow the Demeter guidelines.
      Stu

    • Tim M says:

      I’m reminded of a trip to Burgundy I was on with winemakers, growers, and plant pathologists in early ’90s. In the vineyard tours we’d ask ‘What do you do for diseases and insects?’ They would point to the pheromone ties (for European Grape Berry Moth)and say we use ‘La Lutte Biologique’). We’d say yes but what do you do about ‘oidium’- the answer – after some hesitation – was ‘of course we spray when we need to’.

      They knew not to mention fungicides and to tout ‘biological control’. The word ‘biodynamic’, and the concept that use of these preparations makes plants immune to diseases (pathogen, weather and feeble genetics of V.vinifera towards these imported pathogens don’t matter?) serves as the same shorthand for consumers. De-emphasize and reclassify sulfur and copper, and don’t admit to ever seeing powdery and downy mildew, in fact claim to have ‘solved’ it by being a better steward of the earth, in contrast to those dumb ‘conventional’ farmers that are on the chemical treadmill.

      ‘biodynamics’ works as a marketing concept because it provides a nice package for saying ‘see- we’re beyond organic’. It’s no good explaining to the public that ‘yes, we do have weeds and diseases and we do need to deal with them'(beyond buzz words such as biodiversity, they aren’t particularly interested in the details) – which is why ‘sustainability’ (well yes, what we do to manage our vineyards depends upon what happens in that particular growing season) is a tough concept to explain in a tasting room. And why it’s easy for those with the biodynamic label to lump other (non-biodynamic, non-organic) growers into the stereotype of ‘industrial agriculture’.

      If the label wasn’t important (for sales, image, marketing, addressing concerns of neighbors)we could all just quietly use our sustainable, organic, or biodynamic farming methods for our own personal satisfaction, i.e. that ‘yes, I am being a responsible steward of the earth’.

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