IS SULFUR AN ORGANIC CHEMICAL IF IT COMES FROM AN OIL REFINERY?

If, as I mentioned in my post of June 20, “If Biodynamic farming stops mildew and other diseases, sign me up!”  Steiner said unequivocally that using a tea from the Common Horsetail plant (Equisetum arvense) would rid vineyards of mildew, then why does Biodynamics allow the use of Sulfur to control Powdery Mildew?  In fact, I don’t know any Biodynamic grape grower that doesn’t use Sulfur.  ARE THERE ANY OF YOU OUT THERE????? 

 The California grape industry mainly uses sulfur dust to control Powdery Mildew.   Application rates run from 10 to 20 pounds per acre and the number of applications might range from six to twelve or more.  Rain washes the sulfur off and you must immediately re-sulfur.  Sulfur is an element that I used to think came from the ground.   In a sense it does, because it mostly comes from oil.  Sulfur is a byproduct of oil refining, and the best crude oil is called Light Sweet Crude because it has the lowest sulfur content at less than 0.5%.  When crude oil exceeds 5% sulfur it is called Sour Crude and is less valuable.

 As I understand it, tanker trucks take the molten sulfur that has been separated during the refining process and dump the liquid into evaporation ponds.  After the liquid has evaporated the dried sulfur is recovered and processed into many products including dusting sulfur. 

Sulfur is both quarried and underground mined in Michigan, Ohio, Sicily, Poland and Chile.  The demand is much greater than mined sulfur can supply.  

 I use Sulfur DF made by/for Wilbur-Ellis, it is 80% Sulfur and 20% “other ingredients,” whatever those are.  The EPA Registration # is 51036-352-2935.  There is a 24 hour re-entry limit and the applicator is required to wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants, chemical-resistant gloves and shoes plus socks and protective eyewear.

 So here’s the question: Is the sulfur from mines just as “natural” as the sulfur that comes from the refining of oil (the petro-chemical evil doers)?  Before you answer, you should think about Nitrogen.  The plant doesn’t know any difference between the Nitrogen that comes from an “organic” source such as plants or animals and the Nitrogen that comes from a “chemical” factory.

 If you say elemental Sulfur is elemental Sulfur regardless of where it comes from, then why isn’t Nitrogen treated the same way? 

 If you say the mined Sulfur is natural and the oil processed Sulfur is not, then shouldn’t Biodynamic (and organic) farmers refuse to use the petroleum processed Sulfur?

Stuart Smith

34 Responses to IS SULFUR AN ORGANIC CHEMICAL IF IT COMES FROM AN OIL REFINERY?

  1. Tommacg says:

    “plant doesn’t know any difference between the Nitrogen that comes from an “organic” source such as plants or animals and the Nitrogen that comes from a “chemical” factory.”

    Maybe the plant can’t tell but the ecosystem can (which will eventually impact on the plant’s health). There is a difference. Oil-derived nitrogen is very quickly absorbed and water soluble whereas nature’s supply of nitrogen is a slow-release and managed process. One kills the soil, the other doesn’t. One leaches and causes eutrophication, the other doesn’t.

    I admire your attempts to debunk the clearly phoney Steiner but will be reading your previous posts carefully…

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Tommacg,
      Would you explain how chemical Nitrogen kills the soil, I’ve never understood that process? And would you agree that once natural Nitrogen is plant available it is just the same as chemical Nitrogen, and that it can be used just the same by the plant and can be leached from the soil just as quickly?

      I do agree that the natural world processes and produces nitrogen slowly and releases it as the process unfolds. Unfortunately, that timing isn’t when my vines need the nitrogen. Vineyards need nitrogen early in the season (spring mostly) and the natural nitrogen released from the breakdown of the cover crop, cuttings etc isn’t until later in the season (summer) when the vines need to be stopping growth and transitioning to the ripening phase.

      Thanks for your interest and look forward to your response.
      Stu

    • Isotope says:

      Tommacg,

      I’ve grown many a bacteria and yeast in my life and have conducted many experiments directly on soil, which contains bacteria, yeast, and fungi
      (The actually alive part of soil). You couldn’t be more wrong about nitrogen compounds killing the soil. Soil bacteria, fungi, and yeast love free nitrogen. It doesn’t matter if it’s nitrogen from hippie urine or big-pharma plant run-off. Nitrogen is nitrogen regardless of the source, I use refined ammonium chloride for my bacteria… Nitrogen is soluble only based on what the chemical is in question. Nitrate is always mobile, bacteria make it too in the Nitrogen Cycle, and can be applied as fertilizer as well in bound forms. All nitrates leach if they are in excess regardless of the source.

      I’m glad you can see that Steiner is phoney, but you should also look into basic Chemistry before making highly spurious claims regarding the Nitrogen Cycle, which of course you can wiki and they put on some very nice basic overviews there.

    • Tommacg says:

      Hi guys, thanks for responding. And I’m sure you’ll continue to try to correct me on this.

      I’m a beginner grower with clearly less experience than you but hear me out.

      Stu – I agree that once a plant is taking in nitrogen it doesn’t matter whether it’s synthetic or organic. And I’d also agree that an annual judicious application of synthetic fertilizer would be beneficial commercially for you (although in the long-term, multiple applications annually as has become the norm in industrialised agriculture are indeed harmful). For saying that you can use any synthetic fertilizer, I’d imagine many friends of mine would disown me! (Note that this is without discussing sources of it – i.e. rapidly depleting oil – and emissions effects).

      But even in one-off applications “Recent studies have shown that the application of a synthetic fertilizer actually kills a significant percentage of beneficial microorganisms.” Ofcourse, these recover in a matter of months but still…

      In pointing me towards wikipedia on this issue:

      “Organic fertilizers from composts and other sources can be quite variable from one batch to the next.[24] Without batch testing, amounts of applied nutrient cannot be precisely known. Nevertheless they are at least as effective as chemical fertilizers over longer periods of use.[25]”

      “Soluble fertilizer released most of its nitrogen content at the first leaching ” – viz. organic fertilisers don’t have the same level in the slightest of leaching, and over a longer period of time.

      “Organic fertilizers have been known improve the biodiversity (soil life) and long-term productivity of soil,[14][15] and may prove a large depository for excess carbon dioxide.[16][17][18]

      Organic nutrients increase the abundance of soil organisms by providing organic matter and micronutrients for organisms such as fungal mycorrhiza,[19] (which aid plants in absorbing nutrients), and can drastically reduce external inputs of pesticides, energy and fertilizer, at the cost of decreased yield.[20]”

      “Many inorganic fertilizers may not replace trace mineral elements in the soil which become gradually depleted by crops. This depletion has been linked to studies which have shown a marked fall (up to 75%) in the quantities of such minerals present in fruit and vegetables.[”

      Stu, I’m fascinated to know, you seem to have a lot of respect for some biodynamic viticulturists, who must operate organically. How is it that they grow effectively without synthetics when you’re saying you have to apply it?

      Apologies for a rather haphazard reply, it’s still pretty early over here and I’m not functioning at 100% yet!

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Tommacq,
      I understand for early and late- we all make mistakes. I’m working off a new IPad.

      I don’t think I said that growers “have” to use fertilizers organic or chemical – in any event that would be an incorrect statement. In our case I like to fertilize in the fall, just before the rains, so that our cover crop grows quickly and vigorously. I may go every other row or I may skip a year, but I believe it important to use a phosphorus fertilizer coupled with some nitrogen, maybe something like 16-20-0, or 11-52-0. Our soils are low in phosphorus and have low a low Ph, couple that with cool weather and the grasses and legumes can have a difficult time growing vigorously in the winter, without a little help. Some of our older blocks now have well established cover crops, including clovers and so they need very little attention now. It’s all a balancing act.

      Same thing goes for the vines. We don’t have a regimented program here either. We may go several years between fertilizer applications. When we do an application We mostly use a calcium nitrate because I want the calcium to help soil Ph and it can quickly move to the vines roots, especially if we place the 15.5-0-0 right under the drip emitter. On the older blocks that are dry farmed we have to time the application for the best benefit.

      With many years of this program I believe that our cover crops start replenishing those nutrients that you seem concerned with, but grapes do little to deplete the soils, there are many European vines that have been in continuous production since the days of Rome.

      I still don’t understand how commercial fertilizers kill the soil? It certainly hasn’t happened in our forty years of farming.
      Stu

    • Tommacg says:

      Hi Stu,

      Don’t seem to be able to comment on your reply so hope this’ll do.

      Thanks for the information. Clearly, your methods are measured and contemplative. This is in complete contrast to what we have here in Europe thanks to the which is effectively farming by date. The skill and variability are removed from farming by blanket directives to liberally apply NPK on/around a certain date. It’s this kind of blind, blanket application which will seriously affect soil (Europe, and I’m sure America’s dying soils are well documented). You clearly don’t depend on the synthetics.

      The damage stems, apparently, from the level of salts killing beneficial micro-organisms.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Tommacq,

      The blogsite template is not always conducive to good communications, sorry about that. I’ve had exactly the same problems myself. I’m the first to admit I know little of UK or EU farming practices, and yet my eyes buged out at your comments. All I can say is that I hope you are mistaken about UK and EU farmers slavishly farming and fertilizing by dates and not need.

      Not to belabor the point, but I don’t know of any soils that are dying from fertilizing or even over fertilizing in the US. However, one issue with fertilizers (chemical and manure/compost) is the leaching of nitrogen and phosphates into our riparian water systems. Stream side set-backs and riparian buffer zones can minimize these issues, but knowing your nitrogen and other nutrient needs and supplying only what is needed is both responsible and economical. The issue with compost and manure is that it can be overdone just as easily as chemical fertilizers, maybe even easier. Also, you cannot control and predict nitrogen releases from the compost/manure additions.
      Stu

    • Isotope says:

      Tommacg,

      Your first reference, to the studies that show that synthetic fertilizer kills bacteria is from the Ottawa Horticulture Society, with no reference journal article. I’d love to see the data that show that adding Nitrogenous compounds, which by the way, is absolutely required for microbial growth, results in killing. I suppose there is a lethal concentration around 20%, but you wouldn’t/couldn’t ever apply that much on soil. Help me out here and tell me if they did community analysis or some kind of DNA based assay to prove this one.

      I see you wiki’ed the page called “Fertilizer” which is named fairly accurately for the content as well. I was hoping you’d look at the Nitrogen Cycle page which has a nice little flow-chart of nitrogen. Please check that out.

      In any event, I don’t recall any statement that applied to micro-nutrients in your original post. In fact, this discussion was regarding Nitrogen, which you agree now doesn’t matter if it’s synthetic or organic. Though you seem to think that using it more than once will be harmful. May I suggest a drive through Iowa? Most of those farms have been there for quite some time and you’ll be shocked to see the barren wasteland of what was once productive soil…

      I have no doubt that a compost heap has lots of bacterial/fungal/yeast diversity and that adding that compost *may* increase soil diversity. Why is this relevant though? Who cares how many different organisms are in the soil? What if someone has a farm that has just one predominant organism in the soil and everything (as in all the plants) grows just fine?

      One of the fertilizer page references, [14]is a paper about denitrifying bacteria and that is supposed to support the statement “Organic fertilizers have been known improve the biodiversity (soil life) and long-term productivity of soil”??????

      Here’s what the authors state in [14]:

      “In conclusion, a long-term fertilization regimen can differentially affect the activity and composition of the denitrifying community”

      Some wiki pages are inherently flawed. Some are not. I always check references since there are sometimes flaws. Once you find one, especially a gratuitous one, you should make sure you check the references for any of the other statements you are using off of a given page.

      BTW: Oil is only, on average 0.1%-0.3% nitrogen, most of the nitrogen compounds come from the manufacture of ammonia.

  2. Matthew says:

    Wowzers!!
    Sam viticulteur makes me hate BD even more than I do already. Pompous rants filled with half-truths and straw-man arguments.
    Watch FOX much.

  3. Isotope says:

    Sam, very entertaining, as always:

    “Dammit, nothing is totally pure, but it doesn’t mean we stop trying to do better.”

    So honestly Sam, how is belief in silly rituals going to result in better agriculture or wine?

    98% of winemakers are highly ignorant of both legitimate organic chemistry and microbiology. That is why they contract their science out to places like ETS. I’ve talked on the phone with them before, we had a little chuckle about what most winemakers understand about science. That is also why they can sucker people into “Scorpion TM” tests that are significantly more expensive than doing it yourself. When I told my rep for bio equipment that it’s over a hundred bucks to shop out a sample he thought I mean a 96 well plate, not a single sample of wine…

    I know fairly well known winemakers that have absolutely no understanding of very basic acid-base chemistry and couldn’t figure out the henderson-hasselbach equation to save themselves.

    If ya’ll want to do a better job shouldn’t you go back to school? Shouldn’t there be a highly critical evaluation of what an Enology degree covers? Why is it that the primary cause of the fermentation, yeast and bacterial metabolic pathways are not even discussed by most winemakers?

    “If I have a headache, I may take an ibuprofen. I could also take a cup of willow bark tea for the salicylate it contains. I could also meditate which may help address the cause of the problem.”
    – Dehydration is the probable cause of the headache, the former two will work better than the latter

    “But the list of adherants kind of proves that it works, at least on the high end”

    Really? I didn’t realize that it was BD now and not “terroir”!!! Of course, why bother looking at what bacteria and yeast are in the facilities/winery etc, as we all know great wine is made in the vineyard, not during the fermentation when biological reactions are occuring, catalyzed by yeast and bacteria, making different flavor compounds. Those silly beer people and their stupid research…

    “I find that water changes texture when oxygenated intentionally rather than just run into the sprayer straight away.”

    Really? I’d like to see this double blind, with a variety of oxygen concentrations. How are you oxygenating the water? You can’t really get it above 8-9mg/L without a pure 02 tank. Why would a winery have a pure 02 tank? You *are* aware I hope that the atmosphere is mostly nitrogen…

    Thanks for the many belly laughs Sam. I hope you’ll invite me over to your house someday and we can talk about how the sun obviously revolves around the earth.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Isotope,
      Your comments remind me of the good old days when I was at Davis taking chemistry and bacteriology classes – what fun that was.
      Thanks,
      Stu

    • Sam viticulteur says:

      Your obvious contempt for art and intuition as guiding principles for winegrowing and wine making clearly shows your ignorance of these ancient time proven methods which work. Oh ya, and can produce beautiful results. Who gives a shit about your sour rants toward all the plebes. You are obviously sooo much smarter than the thousands who make beautiful artistic wine. I would not knowingly drink your sterile techno vin swill if you paid me you Nazi. Sour rants and sour grapes from you man.

    • Isotope says:

      I have no contempt for art. Wine is not a painting, it is a mixture of organic chemicals and organic acids created by bacteria, yeast and the grape itself. In fact wine will make itself if left completely alone. That is part of the problem with the wine industry and most certainly with the commonplace perspective in the industry that “thinking about chemistry and improving quality is hard, lets not do that, lets just go with ego, and romantic propaganda of the day”. Insert random romantic propaganda here: “Family Estate Winery” “Biodynamic” “Unique Terroir” “A Passion for Winemaking”. A kitchy story on a back-label doesn’t make a wine taste better, especially when it is fouled by 4-ethylphenol or TCA. I’m sure none of your wine has ever had a spoilage chemical, just like all the other “wine-makers” who think that their hand-crafted ego juice has never had a dreaded “problem”. I’m sure *you* “Make” the wine for your self and not for any reviewer too…

      I suppose I just have contempt for RO services to remove all your extra ethanol, acetic acid, and 4-ep and to continue to hear the drum-beat, ART ART ART. I’d like to see the Mona Lisa de-blued. That’d be awesome.

      Sam, you grow grapes, not wine. Wine is made from grapes, if you are growing wine you might have a contract with monsanto soon.

      Sam, is there any reason in your response you didn’t address any of my questions regarding your on-site oxygen tank for making hyper-oxygenated water?

      Thanks, I love having a good chuckle and could you let me know what label you make? I rarely buy wine anymore due to the fact that I don’t want to accidentally support a BD whacko. I switched back to beer since they seem to understand what benefits to filtration are. But just in case, I don’t want to buy wine from someone who would call someone a nazi on a message board.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Isotope (and Sam),

      Mostly I delete bad language and name calling, but in this case I knew you would handle it well – which you did. Sam, not to pile on, but I’ve seen with this blog that it is mostly the Biodynamic supporters who will not respond to direct questions, can’t keep on topic, wing off into outer space over some obscure and ancient individual and then end up calling someone a name. Alas, it can happen to any of us, me included, but a little more civility would be appropriate. I do differentiate between fun and entertaining and mean and nasty. I don’t know who Isotope is, but he clearly is a seasoned professional and has offered some great insights into our world.
      Stu

    • Isotope says:

      Thanks Stu,

      What’s the winery URL? I’d like to order some of what you make. Would love to give it a try and perhaps as gifts. It’s Smith Madrone right?

      Take Care!

    • Sam viticulteur says:

      Isotope, I’m not avoiding your questions, it just hard to type everything I want to on an iPhone keyboard.
      First off, are you actually a wine maker? Kind of sounds like your a chemist and have contempt for actual winemakers.
      Second, I use a high volume air blower connected to small pore tube diffusers to create tiny air bubbles in a 300 gallon macro bin in which high quality compost (innoculant) and foods (yeast hulls, fish hydrolysate, soluble kelp, molasses, fulvic acid, etc) exponentially multiply from the innitial ingredients. Obviously, the “texture” of the water changes over the 24-36 brew time. Lab tests confirm that the process cultures aerobic bacterial and fungal biomass and minimizes anaerobic pathogenic microbes.
      I am a farmer and winemaker. I have nothing against science. I get soil tests done by Kinsey labs, a progressive Albrecht style consultant. I don’t do in house lab wine lab tests mostly, except for very basic harvest time numbers on the juice. I don’t care to ever do the technical stuff b/c there are specialists for these.
      I live what you seem to despise my friend. Question is, why?
      I am certain you neither make wine nor grow anything except perhaps some house plants. No winemaker I know “drinks only beer”. I think your just a disgruntled chemist with a whole lotta pent up anger against people living life artistically. After all, there ain’t much romantic about the chemical industry, right?
      Cheers, Sam
      ps I apologize for calling you a Nazi

    • Isotope says:

      Apology accepted, I am also most certainly a scientist. I have worked in the wine industry as well. The problem with the wine industry is that it is primarily populated with non-scientists who think they are doing things scientifically. My friend wants us to purchase grapes this year and make some wine. I said sure because it is quite easy if you approach it with a perspective of logic and reason, wine generally makes itself. I guess that won’t make me a wine-maker this year, because I’m going to keep ego and snake-oil science out of it.

      No matter how many air bubbles you have, you are still using air. Is this macro-bin for the purposes of fertilizing something? I’m guessing yes but if you think this is how you need to rehydrate yeast I’m very entertained. Also, now I think this should be quite obvious, you’ve added molasses to water, along with a whole pile of other things, it’s no longer water. That “texture” is not because of oxygen, it’s because you’ve added chemicals to the water. Just because the package says “yeast hulls” doesn’t make it any less of a chemical. It just happens to be of an unrefined sort.

      Here are some examples of some pathogens that are aerobes:

      Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus
      legionella pneumophilia
      mycobacterium tuberculosis

      I thought of listing the *many* anerobic non-pathogens but any bacteria or fungus can be pathogenic to something, especially when an immune system is compromised.

      I don’t understand why every non-scientist thinks Oxygen is pure and non-toxic. Oxygen is toxic, especially to DNA. You have evolved, because of our microbial friends, methods to detoxify Oxygen. This is why people talk about anti-oxidant effects as being beneficial. Your body has to continually fight oxygen damage. So does every other creature on the planet that is capable of surviving the constant barrage of oxy-radicals. Your mixture above, has no more oxygen in it than any other water with added sugars and yeast hulls. That is, unless you have an O2 tank supplying gas.

      If you add sugar to water and some non-sterile acids and amino acids you will most certainly have bacterial growth. That is why laboratories use ultra-pure water. Otherwise micro-organisms grow up in your solutions.

      You aren’t living life artistically. You are living life ignorantly and instead of saying, “I don’t have the technical background to understand my trade” you are saying the highly ego comforting “I do all these tasks which make the wine better even though there is no proof, I’m going to stick by my opinion.”

      Do I despise that?

      Yes, It’s dishonest to yourself and to others.

      It takes many, many years of education and financial debt to understand chemistry and microbiology. It is very sad after getting all educated with how accessible information is on the internet nowadays to see how many people would prefer to keep the blinders on, rather than take them off when facts are so easy to find.

      I have directly heard at a seminar an exchange where a wine-maker was told that biogenic amine levels might become a regulatory issue (which they should). The topic was in regards to exports to the EU. His response was “I don’t export my wine to the EU”. And people wonder why the FDA exists… A wine-maker, speaking for his industry, I don’t care that I’m going to potentially poison you, as long as you are an American. I’ll take a pint of Guinness please.

      Knowing the full range of science that is out there, and the wine industries absolute ignorance of it, is a complete shame. Don’t you want your product to be safe for human consumption? I know for a fact that some wines have excessive copper levels, *well* over what people should consume. But of course “Bordeaux Blend” is an organic…

      Why is it romantic or artistic to be ignorant? Why is it that the wine industry endeavors so whole-heartedly to be sustainable and low impact on the environment, but when human health is concerned they couldn’t care less? I don’t want to drink dangerous levels of biogenic amines, do you?

    • Sam viticulteur says:

      Isotope, for being such a world class rocket scientist you really sound rather uneducated. Oh ya, and bitter. You make an awful lot of assumptions about winemakers.
      Once again obviously you are not a farmer because you know nothing of agriculture. (really, you’ve never heard of compost tea?). Also you’re obviously not a winemaker as evidenced by your unabashed contempt for all those ego maniacs doinking around in their cellars oblivious to what’s in their tanks and barrels. (by the way, you really think all beers are sterile filtered? Really?).

      Ok then Einstein, you win. I’m obviously a bloody idiot, all wine makers are ego maniacs , biodynamics is an obvious hoax, and if only YOU were in charge of the wine industry EVERYTHING would be so perfect. Fair enough. You win.

      But at the end of the day, I think you’re really just a disgruntled chemist angry at the world who understands very little of agriculture or winemaking on a practical artistic level. Good luck at the chemical factory in the future. God help ya.

      I’m through with this nonsense, and won’t be reading this blog from now on. So fare well, you win, I lose.

    • Sam, why is it so hard to admit wine is not art? (It’s also not made purely by science, which I hope most scientists could admit.) Winemaking is a craft, and there are many ways to approach the craft. But it is not somehow more noble or artistic to be uneducated or unaware of certain techniques at your disposal. I think it just supports Isotope’s point–ego blinds many a winemaker. I think Isotope is being rather over the top in his contempt, but maybe he has good reason to be annoyed. Winemakers and growers seem to be quick to take credit for anything good that happens. It was their cellar work or their unique plot of vines that created the wine. But the guy who knows all the little techniques to make sure everything stays on track apparently did nothing. Or when things go wrong, the guy who knows how to fix it needs to sit behind the curtain to maintain the illusion.

      I think in particular Isotope is pointing to all these “vintners” who buy a winery as a lifestyle, then hire specialists to do everything for them. Then they stick their name on the bottle and invoke something like BioD and unique terroir when really they have a lot of smart people working their butts off to get some unbalanced young vine grapes into the form of a luxury wine.

    • Pinotphyle says:

      Sam,
      You should look at what Steiner says about Jews and his other racial theories before accusing his critics of being Nazis.
      You might also investigate the high regard for Steiner’s theories amongst prominent Nazis.

  4. Hans N. Poket says:

    Exactly when did Steiner allow the use of sulfur?

    Sulfur is a chemical. It’s use is antithetical to the preachings of Steiner. Who granted permission to use sulfur and thereby violate the philosophy of Steiner?

    Do biodynamic farmers not trust preparations 500-508?

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Hans,
      At least there’s a few of us that see the hypocrisy of Biodynamics and sulfur use. Check out the video Larry posted at the bottom of this page, it should make every organic and Biodynamic farmer that uses sulfur from this source go screaming into the night with guilt.

      The sulfur mining video reminds me of an interesting parallel to big game hunting in Africa. On moral and humanitarian principles, many hunters won’t go to the countries like Zimbabwe because they feel they would be supporting a corrupt and oppressive regime. On the other hand, by not hunting in those countries you rob the people of precious money that supports the wildlife habitat, the infrastructure and the game wardens that protect and manage the herds. Without the hunters’ money and fees, the system collapses and the natives turn to illegal poaching and substance hunting and the animal populations are decimated. A real conundrum.
      Stu

  5. Jason says:

    The inevitable retort will be that “BD has moved on from Steiner” because Steiner can’t lend credibility to the movement.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Jason,
      I agree with you. It appears most of Biodynamics mission statements are post Steiner, yet Demeter is adamant that you can’t be certified without using all nine preparations. My guess is that most folks only read the Demeter website for their information and have no idea how nutty Steiner really is.
      Stu

  6. JIm says:

    Good Analysis

    Also note that Mineral oils like Stylet oil which are approved for organic and biodynamic agriculture and find use in mildew and pest control, are also products derived from the petrolium industry.

  7. Diego says:

    Stu,

    I read above that you do not know of any BD grower that does NOT use sulfur to control powdery mildew. Whether it’s mined or processed sulfur from crude, it is still classified as a pesticide. I think we all can agree that it is widely believed by consumers out there that both biodynamic and organic farming do not use pesticides or “chemicals”. So are you telling me that (gasp!), my favorite BioDynamic vineyards are being treated with PESTICIDES?

    But not to get off topic, I think you have a good question here. Just brainstorming: How would you compare/differentiate the following? Would you consider them “natural”, as you described above?

    1) Process of making sulfur from crude oil through evaporation
    2) Creation of certain synthetic pesticides from plant based materials/compounds
    3) Creation of human medicines from plant materials/compounds.

    If you go back far enough in the creation process of any material, can’t we find “natural” sources for all matter on this earth?

    The question is, where do we humans want to draw that imaginary line between “natural” and synthetic?

    Great post. Should initiate some good discussion.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Diego,

      And no matter the source, sulfur has an EPA registration number to go with it, along with PPEs and reentry time limits. But to me, sulfur use is an admission that Steiner was wrong and Biodynamics doen’t work.
      Stu

    • Larry says:

      Sulfur is captured from natural gas and crude oil during the refining process to prevent contaminating the useful petro-chemical (gasoline) and to prevent sulfur dioxide emissions from polluting the air (we now use scrubbers to capture it and a whole series of reactions to purify it). In its molten form it is then transported in rail cars or trucks to the sulfur plants around country.
      There is no significant sulfur mining done in the US or anywhere today. Except in Indonesia.

      http://worldfocus.org/blog/2009/08/07/indonesian-sulfur-miners-toil-in-smouldering-volcanoes/6695/

      This video might put you off the mined stuff for good.

      Yes, Stylet oil (mineral oil or paraffinic oil) is a natural material separated out of crude oil (just like gasoline) through a complex series of distillations and exotic metal-catalyzed chemical reactions. This is in order to get rid of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) such as benzene and toluene that contaminate the oil and are carcinogenic. These PAHs are then added back to the gasolene to up the octane.

      Copper….we don’t need to even start.

      Thanks Stu.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Larry,
      Thanks for the more complete version. I find the whole refining process fascinating. I just love visiting other production facilities, be it wineries, lumber mills, pipe plants, mines – anything that produces, makes, fabricates, processes or grows something.
      Thanks,
      Stu

    • Sam viticulteur says:

      Nicolas Joly believes that sulfur brings heat to the vine and is beneficial around flowering time. It seems to me that there has been many interprative and methodological updates to biodynamics post Steiner, partly because of the cryptic nature of his lecture on agriculture. There are many people doing it in different ways all around the world, not merely worshipping the literal word of Steiner as the only way to farm. Many also don’t care about Demeter certification one bit, but find value in some BD practices. For instance, I don’t at all worship Steiner, but I find that water changes texture when oxygenated intentionally rather than just run into the sprayer straight away. BD specifies vortexially stirring for a specified period of time in order to “potentize” the innoculated water. This is very similar to brewing aerated compost teas which hyper oxogenate the water selecting for aerobic bacteria and fungi. In short, both are beneficial aerobic cultures achieved through different methods. BD uses horn manure etc. and the other simply good compost. Both aim to achieve a similar goal- encouragement of a vibrant rhizospere.

      If I have a headache, I may take an ibuprofen. I could also take a cup of willow bark tea for the salicylate it contains. I could also meditate which may help address the cause of the problem.

      Point is, there is always more than one way to go about it. Sometimes it’s a combination if methods. I can understand Stu’s revulsion to biodynamics in a way, because he’s obviously turned off by the archane ritualistic aspects of it, and the claims of superior vines and wines by some in the industry. But the list of adherants kind of proves that it works, at least on the high end: Joly, chapoutier, Huet, zind-humbrecht, DRC, domaine Leroy, on and on, not to mention all those in the new world..
      It doesn’t matter if they use copper sulfate in moderation. It doesn’t matter if they use a little sulfur in the wine. The point is about conscientious the use.

      We all use plastic, we all drive trucks and tractors, we use electricity. We may use petro derived sulfur. Dammit, nothing is totally pure, but it doesn’t mean we stop trying to do better.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Sam,
      If you can read and understand Nicolas Joly you’re a better man than me. I find him to be more difficult to read than Steiner.

      When I started this blog I knew I would be an unknown upstart taking on the likes of Joly, DRC, Leroy, Quintessa, Grgich Hills and Phelps. Some of those people are my friends, but that’s not going to stop me because I think they’ve taken a wrong turn. Mass hysteria is still mass hysteria whether it includes friends or the rich and famous. Sacrificing animals in the belief that it will grow more and better food crops is just not acceptable to me. And I do love rib eyes and wild game.

      I am against anything (arcane, ritualistic or not) if it can’t be proven to work. I’m not against experimenting and trying to find things that will make our lives better; I favor those efforts, yet I’m not going to stand idly by while everyone else admires the emperors’ new clothes and not shout out that he’s naked. Up until now, Biodynamics has had a free ride to say anything it wants, however outlandish and not be challenged – that time is now over. The world we live in maybe grey, but that shouldn’t stop us from challenging conventional wisdom.
      Stu

    • Larry says:

      Here is funtional video of Indonesian sulfur miners. It is worth a look to see that what may be mined may not desirable becasue it is “natural” as opposed to a “synthetic” petroleum-derived sulfur that actually keeps our air cleaner by eliminating SO2 emissions.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Larry,
      What a video! Demeter says that the farthest away compost should be trucked to a farm is 250 miles, that limitation doesn’t seem to apply to sulfur. Seems like Biodynamics has several cracks beginning to emerge in its armor.
      Thanks,
      Stu

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