HE THREW DOWN THE GAUNTLET!

I’ve been on a little hiatus with a short vacation to Ketchum, Idaho, a sales trip to Colorado, some long overdue yard work and getting ready to bottle. Harvest is still some ways off for us. Global warming seems to have skipped over Napa Valley since we’re experiencing one of the coolest summers ever. Harvest appears to be about three weeks late. The next 60 days or so should be very interesting – will it be perfection, heat, rain, or some combination of them all?

In the April 2010 issue of NorthBayBiz Magazine Kevin Morrisey (winemaker & GM of Ehlers Estate Winery) wrote a piece called The Vines Are Alive. The attitude and positions that Mr. Morrisey expresses are exactly what drove me to create BiodynamicsIsAHoax.com. This biodynamic practitioner’s moral superiority is maddening. Had Mr. Morrisey simply extolled the virtues of organic and Biodynamics I wouldn’t have bothered critiquing his article, but he is so dismissive and condescending to conventional and sustainable farming that I felt I had to present an alternative view. He also tries to steal common conventional farming methods and claim them as the sole province of Biodynamic ideology.

#1: Mr. Morrisey talks about Ehlers Estate Winery’s initial foray into Biodynamics as “cleaning up the land” and ridding the soil of “chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers” which he then claims makes better wine. Mr. Morrisey is emphatic on this point: “Does it make better wine? Of course it does — not because it’s certified organic, but because organic and biodynamic farming is being used.” Proof? None offered! In my experience, only Biodynamic supporters claim superiority over other farming methods and denigrate others while doing so! Yes, I’m hyper critical of Biodynamics, but only after reading one too many claims of Biodynamic superiority without any supporting evidence.

#2: It’s my opinion that most California wine grape growers are a savvy, environmentally enlightened group so when Mr. Morrisey refers to conventional viticulture as “industrial” it’s both demeaning and insulting. Yet that is just what Mr. Morrisey does when he tries to justify Biodynamic farming costs of 25 to 30% higher than the “nonorganic, more industrial approaches” to farming that the rest of us practice. Any wonder why a few of us are upset with Biodynamics?

#3: Mr. Morrisey is OK with the added expenses: “Yes, there are added costs –but what of the unseen costs to society, the planet and human health by not doing it?” Wow, here’s another slap in the face! His message is clear: Conventional and sustainable farmers are irresponsible members of our community and our recklessness is causing untold damage to the world!

Before making such grand pronouncements maybe Mr. Morrisey should have considered the possibility that his efforts to be green may have actually increased the size of his vineyard’s carbon footprint because of the additional hours his vineyard workers have to put in. Consider that more man-hours worked, means more man-days required, which means more commuting back and forth to work, thus more gasoline is consumed, more automobiles are required, more farm labor housing is required, more social services are required and it goes on and on. Analyzing exactly how a vineyard can best reduce its carbon footprint is new and complex. Being green in the vineyards isn’t as easy or as black and white as Mr. Morrisey tries to market it.

#4: Mr. Morrisey slides right over the wacky side of Biodynamics with “In addition to working with biodynamic preparations, we put a lot of effort toward managing cover crops and composts.” I’m not Biodynamic and I was working with cover crops in conjunction with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service starting back in 1975 to evaluate which cover crops work best for Napa Valley vineyards. I was one of the earliest vineyards in Napa County to go non-till 35 years ago and like many other vineyards before me, I’ve been returning our stems, pomace and prunings back to the soil since I began Smith-Madrone.

Mr. Morrisey, why do you think you have a monopoly on caring for the earth, the soil, the environment? The vineyard practices that justify your Environmental Merit Badge are practices that we “industrial” farmers have been incorporating into our BMPs (Best Management Practices) since before you got into the wine industry. Cover crops, green manure, compost, IPM (Integrated Pest management), sustainability and much more are all concepts used by many farmers whether they are conventional, sustainable, organic or Biodynamic. True, many of us who are conventional or sustainable do use Nitrogen “out of a bag” (which is processed from the air), but then you, like us, use sulfur dust which is a byproduct from oil refiners. Please don’t forget that sulfur is a registered Pesticide with an EPA Registration number that requires monthly reporting to the Napa County Ag Commissioner, as does the use of all organically approved pesticides. Unless you can tell me that Ehlers Estate has never filed a Monthly Pesticide Use Report your statement that you don’t use pesticides is false!

The nine preparations are really the only unique part of Biodynamic farming and I find it interesting that you failed to discuss preparations like the animal sacrifice (preparation #500) required of certified Biodynamic farmers or the stuffing of yarrow flowers into the bladders of Red Stags (prepartion #502). Or maybe you’d like to explain how the Common Horsetail tea spray (preparation #508) prevented mildew in your vineyards this year? I didn’t think so…that’s why you had to use a petroleum by-product.

If Mr. Morrisey hadn’t written his piece extolling the virtues of Biodynamics while at the same time denigrating others, I wouldn’t have anything to discuss or respond to…He threw down the gauntlet and I accepted the challenge.

Stuart Smith

33 Responses to HE THREW DOWN THE GAUNTLET!

  1. Steve says:

    Stu,

    Thank you for providing this venue to discuss BD. I grow winegrapes in the Sierra foothils and struggle constantly with the pros and cons of organic/sustainable/conventional farming techniques. I really don’t care what you call it. My goal is to produce a quality product that my customer can use to make a great wine and that will provide me, financially, with the ability to continue farming. Yes, there is a financial motivation. But there is also pride in producing grapes that become a great wine. And there are numerous less tangible benefits as well. I’m willing to discuss any and all approaches and techniques of farming, but I expect that there is some provable benefit to balance the costs. That benefit can be to the quality of the product, the cost of goods, the profit margin, the ease of getting the work done, the health & safety of myself, my family and employees, etc. I am not looking for a religion, which is what BD feels like to me. I recenltly had the opportunity to visit with a student of the Rudy S college in Sacramento. It was like speaking to someone who had drunk the cool-aid.

    Here are a few of my thoughts in the form of a Q&A.

    Q – Why do BD growers/vintners brag about being BD?
    A – For those that insist on bragging about being BD, they “believe” that, in the light of our nation’s infatuation with all things green, branding themselves as BD will give them a marketing edge. I put Mr. Morrisey in this group. While I do not respect this approach to marketing, it’s certainly not unique. It’s the “new is better” dish soap appraoch to marketing. In the wine market, this used to be seen only in low-end wines. With BD it appears that mostly high-end growers and vintners have taken to using this approach. I must admit, I’m not sure what that means.

    Q – Why do BD growers/vintners feel that it’s necessary to denigrate all other approaches?
    A – Like a campaigning politician, negative ads work.
    And it apparently makes them feel better about themselves. It is a common tool used by fringe political and religious groups.

    Q – Why do BD growers/vintners not provide support for their propositions?
    A – As you have already pointed out, they have no credible support and they don’t want to look like fools. I appreciate your letter to A.G Kawamura requesting that DFA check out the BD claims. Maybe the letter should also go to Mary-Ann Warmerdam at DPR. Particularly with regard to their pesticidal claims.

    And my personal favorite question, which your discussion brought to mind:
    Q – How does a grower/vintner rationalize a BD approach and at the same time
    1) talk about how important it is to stress the vines in order to produce a great wine, and
    2) sound credible when discussing how terrior and a sense of place are expressed in a wine?
    A – I have no idea. But I’m certain the BDs have an answer.

  2. JohnLopresti says:

    I liked the discussion of soil types. I think I can recall a lecture by Stu exploring how rocks in vineyards in Hungary are so plentiful that often site preparation involves merely raking the rocks into piles which are left in the vineyard.

  3. bill says:

    What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet? / Find peace.

    Obviously you’re having a little trouble with this one.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Bill,
      If trying to stamp out ignorance costs me some discomfort then I consider it a good trade off.
      Stu

  4. Ian Johnson says:

    It is a shame that many farmers who grow either bio or with bio principals are so self-righteous. It is also a shame that you feel the need to undress bio so completely. Mr. Morrisey’s quote about cleaning up the land comes directly from Nicolas Joly’s book “Wine from Sky to Earth”. This alone tells us he sees himself at a pseudo disciple of Joly. Most disciples I’ve ever met haven’t been particularly open-minded. But his closed-mindedness and arrogance, as well as the obvious practices in bio that do not make sense also don’t destroy the value in bio. Bio at it’s core is still organic. There are many organic chemicals used in the vineyard to treat various maladies of the vine that are absolutely necessary. All chemicals are not equal in potential collateral damage. At the very least, practitioners of bio are good caretakers of the land. Some are arrogant and self-righteous others are not. There are few conventional vineyard managers who are not conscientious about chemical use. There is also a huge misunderstanding about chemical use in the vineyard. Take away the quirky bio practices and the arrogance and you have a valid method of viticulture that is very good to the environment.

    • Isotope says:

      Ian, why is it a shame for Stu to be the voice of reason and “undress” a sham for all to see? I think it’s great and that more ignorant people need to understand facts and the science of the world around them rather than wander around the world with comfy little blinders on.

      I’m curious Ian, how many soil science, microbiology or environmental toxicology classes you’ve had. I can’t remember where, but I read this wonderful article about people voicing their opinions online and often having no background in what they profess as their main point. How again is BD a valid method of viticulture if you take the arrogance out of it? How is a powdered poop filled horn spread over 50 acres at a 1:10000000 dilution going to help the environment?

      Thanks, I needed that mid-day laugh.

    • Ian Johnson says:

      I went to the civil engineering school and UCF College of Environmental Engineering. I’m also currently an MW candidate sitting the exam June 2011. That said, the point I did not successfully make is that if you have two people who farm organically, all things equal, and one of them chooses to stand on his head under every full moon, they are still both farming organically. Who cares about the dancing guy? The only problem I see with bio is the condescending tone that is given by some of it’s proponents. No need to bash all of bio for this.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Ian,
      Most conventional and/or sustainable farmers don’t go around thumping their chest in moral righteousness while denigrating others. I thought reading Steiner was hard, reading Joly is even wackier. You are sensitive to this, but then defend Biodynamics as “still organic” and thus good. I disagree. Biodynamics offers only a hoax to its supporters and is a distraction in its divisiveness to the farming community searching for ever better BMPs. Also consider that just because a pesticide comes from a plant doesn’t make it more benign for the environment. Yes, there are some very toxic inorganic chemicals, but some of those organic chemicals can also be very harmful. BTW, is it just conventional wisdom that Biodynamic farmers “are good caretakers of the land” or do you know it for a fact? Clearly your implication is that they are better caretakers of the land than “others” which I challenge. There’s spin in every part of this world, so why do you buy into Biodynamic spin that only they care for the land? It seems to me that you are accepting their standard for defining “care of the land” while I don’t.
      Stu

    • Ian Johnson says:

      You guys are misunderstanding me completely. The point is this: Outside of this self-righteousness I simply don’t care what whacky things people choose to do with their own property. Just as I expect to be left alone to practice whatever I care to practice. You lower yourself to their level with this kind of crusade. You will not save anyone from themselves, ever. It is certainly your right to chastise bio if you like. There comes a point however when I believe this discourse becomes self-serving. And when you have any position of power or influence over people you also have a responsibility to show moderation. There are so many people out there who think they are wine gurus in their small ponds who’ll take what you write and run with it in the wrong direction.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Ian,
      Until the last couple of years I would have agreed with you. I live by the secular Golden Rule – don’t mess with me and I won’t mess with you. Unfortunately, the Biodynamic practitioners were not content with doing their own thing and leaving well enough along; they began claiming that their way was superior, that their grapes were healthier, that their soils were alive and that their wines expressed a truer sense of place – just as Mr. Morrisey did in his article. They have a responsibility to support those claims with facts or accept criticism for not doing so.

      While there have been various critical posts by other bloggers, Biodynamics has had a free rein in saying just about anything without being challenged. My blog is an alternative view of Biodynamics and I consider it my civic duty, my good turn to the farming community, to vigorously pursue the truth of Biodynamics. As of yet, they have not defended the writings of Steiner nor have they defended the efficacy of those nine preparations. They cannot escape criticism by claiming Biodynamics is spiritual and then claim superiority in the material world.

      I’m puzzled by your last comments. I have nothing to gain by this blog. Do you really think it’s in my best interest to take on such venerable and world famous wineries such as DRC, Leroy, Coulee de Serrant, Leflaive or those wineries in my own back yard such as Phelps, Araujo, Quintessa or Grgich Hills? I have not monetized the site, nor am I pushing the sale of my own wine. I have a responsibility to what I think is the truth and I simply do not understand how the pursuit of that truth can make people go in the wrong direction. If you think I’m mistaken, please enlighten me.
      Stu

  5. Liam Clarke says:

    Hi all,

    As a winemaker and viticulturist I am increasingly encountering the notion and practice of Biodynamics. As any farmer knows, soil health is paramount to farming. Therefore any aspects of biodynamics that improve soil health are welcome BUT they must be backed up with scientific, peer reviewed evidence.

    I manage my soil to encourage a positive environment for microbial activity which includes covercrops, composting etc etc. If treatment 501 can facilitate increased microbial activity then I am all for it. Perhaps a member of the faithful can explain to me how crushed quartz (prep 502) FERMENTS (?!) in a cow horn and how it subsequently acts as a fungicide.

    My opinion is that the majority of biodynamics is nothing more than the farmer being attentive to his property/crop/soil. Attention to detail is the key here. If you need a lunar calendar to organise your practices then so be it. I look forward to scientific rigour proving me wrong.

    At the end of the debate the faithful will list a host of notable wine producers that are certified biodynamic. Whilst some of these producers are truly great there are significantly more producers in the same league who farm conventionally and at the same time respect their environment.

    Cheers.

    • Liam Clarke says:

      correction, It should be 500-cow horn manure to increase microbial activity. 501-cushed quartz

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Liam,
      I think you’re on the right track with most of what you say. Yet for the last month or so I’ve been wondering about this idea that you and others espouse (even myself in the past), namely that “soil health,” “soil enrichment,” “soil whatever,” is so all important. I’m a little befuddled at the intolerance so many of us have for our existing soils. What is “soil health” anyway and how should we define it? It seems that everyone wants better, richer, healthier soils than what we have. We’re always trying to change the soil that nature/God gave us. Why isn’t what we have good enough? Isn’t diversity of soil the very basis, the very heart of diversity in our wine? How will we ever find terroir, or that sense of place, that uniqueness, if we’re constantly trying to improve on what nature has provided?

      Now I’m all for correcting minor deficiencies, but only so much as to allow the plants to grow well. I grow vineyards on the top of Spring Mountain in volcanic based soils that are mostly rocky, low in phosphate and low in pH. These are upland soils and will never, ever be anything but upland soils. I’m happy with what I have because I think these soils provide me with wonderful grapes which allow us to make wonderful wine. Yes, the soils at UC Davis are some of the most fertile, wonderful, deep Class 1 farming soils anywhere in the world – but for wine grapes I’m just not interested, let them grow vegetables.

      I want to keep all of the soil that nature has given our site so soil erosion control is paramount. While I don’t want to deplete the soil, I also know that it is folly to try and change the very nature of soil.
      Stu

    • Liam Clarke says:

      Hi Stu,

      I agree with your comments and perhaps ‘soil health’ etc are terms that are too broad to define.

      I am not trying to replicate the soil structure and characteristics of another vineyard/region. By soil health I mean replacing or adjusting nutrition to optimise vine development, always keeping potential wine quality in mind.

      I also mean that I want my soil to be alive with microbial activity + earthworms, nematodes and so on. Continuous tillage and the use of herbicides is detrimental to this objective.

      The majority of Perth (Australia) soils are so old and weathered (Bassendean Soil System) that they are little more than a hydroponic medium. We do have these soils present in our vineyards but fortunately they are shallow and sit on top of alluvial deposits from the Swan River.

      My point is that I am aware of the positives and limitations of the soil and what is required to manage my soil in order to produce wines of distinction.

      Cheers,
      Liam

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Liam,

      Australia’s very old soils do present unique farming issues and demonstrates how a single universal farming system creates issues unless flexibility is built into the system. A piece of land in Australia that most resembles what I farm was a new vineyard site for the Brown Brothers that had been an old dairy. While it was mostly flat, I think (it was 1982) that it was located in the hills, red or reddish soil and didn’t have the rocks that we have. But I was struck by how similar it was. Roger Brown showed us around because he had been in one of my classes at Santa Rosa Junior College and knew our vineyard well.

      Maybe you could explain your bases for stating that herbicides are harmful to the soil. I use only Round-up, it the equivalent, and no pre-emergent and believe that I am not harming the soil.
      Stu

    • Liam Clarke says:

      Hi Stu,

      This is my reply to your last comment below (sept 15 8:45). There is no opportunity to reply underneath yours.

      First of all I acknowledge that I am currently using herbicide to control weeds under vine but I am advocating that the business I work for purchase an under vine mower to control weeds instead. Since we only have 3Ha of vines it is an expensive proposal.

      As you alluded too regarding your herbicide strategy, different herbicides have differing effects. With round-up there are articles suggesting that it is detrimental to earthworms and nitrogen fixing bacteria but I acknowledge that the studies are contentious and the methodology of the research has been questioned.

      In Australia Syngenta is actively marketing a product call ‘spray seed’ as being an alternative to round-up to avoid chemical resistance. Farmers using round-up are increasingly reporting chemical resistance, myself included, therefore products like spray seed can be an attractive proposition.

      The active constituents in spray seed are paraquat and diquat. Extremely effective at killing everything including you and I and of course that which is living in the soil. So I contend that even if round-up is perfectly safe to soil microbiology (?) its overuse can ultimately lead to the use of other, potentially dangerous products.

      I’m not going to address every herbicide that I can think of but to my mind there is either hard evidence or at least a question of the negative impact of various herbicide on soil fauna. I advocate that any contentious claims such as those levelled against round-up need to be investigated properly and peer reviewed.

      In the mean time I will continue to advocate a solution to weed control such as regular mowing instead of herbicide sprays that require me to suit up and wear a respirator.

      Cheers

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Liam,
      My God do I hate Paraquat, its just way too dangerous to those of us that used it, i.e. me! Round-up was (and is) such a breath of fresh air after using Paraquat. I’ve heard rumors of resistance to Round-up, but so far they are only rumors with strong denials from the folks who should know the facts. Just the mention of Paraquat makes me realize how important Round-up is to my well being and peace of mind. Unless you’ve ever used Paraquat you just can’t understand. Even if all that you say is true about Round-up I will use it until my dying days as opposed to ever going back and using Paraquat!

      Because I farm in the mountains, when I consider weed control under the vine, wildfire control must be a major consideration. In the old days when I cultivated, our vineyard was a very effective firebreak, but with non-till the cover crop thatch is very flammable and hence the vineyard has become susceptible to fire damage. Having a clean(ish) strip under the vines may help with minimizing fire damage if it should ever come to that. While I can get annual crop insurance, there is no insurance for fire damage to the vines themselves or the loss of grape crop and the resulting wine for the years it takes to reestablish the vineyard – so fire is a huge threat to our existence. Like it or not, living with compromises is a way of life.

      Using weed-eaters is another option for under the vine weed control but then I don’t have even the smallest fire break and hand hoeing 38 acres of vineyard is unacceptable on too many levels. Fortunately, for those growing grapes on the flat lands there are many effective mechanical alternatives. This discussion illustrates why mountain viticulture is difficult and challenging – and why Steiner and Biodynamics is an unnecessary and wasteful time distraction from real issues.
      Stu

    • Larry Perrine says:

      What I find fascinating is when a would-be BD grower tells people my vineyard soil is dead because I use Glyphosate one time per year and then on a back-pack spot basis. All the while BD and organic growers in rainy climates all over the world use copper 5-8 times+ per year applying 3-6 kg Cu/ha to prevent Downy Mildew. Copper used in these amounts clearly damages the soil micorflora and drives earthworms out of the soil. It harms “soil health”. This is shown in numerous peer-reviewed papers and is a fact. An example from Lukas Va Zwieten’s lab in Australia. http://www.asssi.asn.au/downloads/supersoil2004/s3/oral/1573_vanzwieten.htm

      Larry

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Larry,
      Great link! It appears that the European winegrowers may well have a toxicity problem with the copper from their long-term use of Bordeaux spray; but, hoping that Biodynamics will be the cure is folly (look at DRC). If I were in their position I would go to the Universities and ask for real scientific help.

      I spray a 20% solution of Glyphosate and use approximately one gallon per vineyard acre. I use a four gallon pack-back and it takes me about 20 minutes per acre of walking per acre. Weed eaters take up to three man days (not me) and hoeing is unacceptable.
      Stu

    • Liam Clarke says:

      Hi Stu,

      I have used paraquat twice. The first time without incident the second time I ended up in th ER vomitting uncontrolably. We don’t use it anymore.

      I think that we have come to a consensus in that it is essential for the intelligent farmer to tailor their strategy to their individual needs and requirements. Always ask questions and keep on evolving. Blindly following a questionable strategy is counter productive.

      Cheers.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Liam,

      You’re lucky to have lived!

      Your experience with Paraquat is exactly why I now use Glyphosate. The PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) requirement for applicators is: long-sleeved shirt, long pants with shoes and socks. When using concentrations over 30% additional PPPE is the use of rubber gloves – way better than Paraquat.
      Stu

  6. tom merle says:

    And then we have this from Bart Araujo in Jay McInerney’s Saturday wine column in the Wall Street Journal. [The legendary Eisele Vineyard was converted over to BD in 2002]. “Mr. Araujo cheerfully admits that he doesn’t understand all of the intricacies of biodynamics. ‘But hey,’ he says, ‘I’m a Catholic. I’m used to making leaps of faith.’ He says the vineyard is far healthier and than it was 10 years ago, before the switch, and ripens earlier.

  7. Nick Nakorn says:

    Hi Stu,
    Zooey kindly posted this on Facebook:

    http://www.lenndevours.com/2010/09/science-of-biodynamics-part-4-preparations.html

    Supports your point very well.

    Nick

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Nick,

      Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve been following the posts and think they are very good. Even commented about animal sacrifice this evening, unfortunately, using new iPad while in Iowa and having step learning curve resulting in several mistakes.
      Stu

  8. Hans N. Poket says:

    I have been asking BD farmers why they practice BD. They tell me it improves the soil. They use compost.

    What do the BD farmers think the rest of us are doing? We use compost too! Of course soil improves with compost use over time. It’s not BD, it’s called adding compost. Anyone can do it and most vineyards do, and have done so since the beginning of agriculture.

    BD farmers are in tune with nature? Well, a successful farmer has to be in tune with nature. We all follow the seasons, and treat ours farms as a living thing.

    The rubbish the BD farmers tell me either evaporates when you ask informed questions, or they hide behind bogus “scientific studies” by entities that have financial interests in the study’s conclusions.

    BD farmers spin more self-serving lies than the Bush Administration did. They remind me of Tea Party members who create false images of their competitors. This reminds me of an old fashioned trade war, where BD farmers brag like snake oil salesmen while denigrating others so BD farmers can charge more for vegetables.

  9. Marcelo says:

    The biodynamics pontification syndrome appears to be a global phenomenon. Last year I attended a lecture by a local biodynamics advocate, Mr. Cecchin, on the virtues of biodynamic grapegrowing. What I gathered can be summarized in four points:

    1) Total lack of evidence on the effectiveness of biodynamic practices such as the use of special preparations and following the moon’s cycles.
    2) No correlation whatsoever between biodynamic grapegrowing and wine quality (the wines of Bodega Familia Cecchin were forgetable to say the least).
    3) Not a slightest clue on the physics or chemistry principles and mechanisms involved, that supposedly make biodynamics work. Everything boiled down to “the vineyard is a living organism”, whatever that means.
    4) Aggressive ranting dismissing all non-biodynamic farming methods as inferior and unkind to the environment.

    This is a very instructive and needed blog. Thank you! Regards from Argentina

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Marcelo,
      My experiences are the same as yours. biodynamics free ride is over. While this blog is specific to Biodynamics, several others have done articles about Biodynamics that were critical, so I think/hope the supporters of Biodynamics are going to have to start justifying what they claim!

      Weclome Argentina!
      Stu

  10. Diego says:

    Stu,

    Good post, it’s obvious that you are fired up.
    First off, have you read this article?

    http://www.sfweekly.com/2008-11-19/restaurants/voodoo-on-the-vine/

    SF Weekly article called “voodoo on the vine”, published 2008. Very interesting piece (and frankly, surprisingly coming out of SF). I don’t have a lot of media exposure, but it’s one of the only major articles (besides your website, of course) I have seen which criticizes BD farming. I am sure you have seen this one, but if not, happy reading.

    Secondly, it’s obvious that many BD growers are very reluctant to talk about the kooky preparations, perhaps because they think that they 1) Don’t make a darn bit of sense or 2) will drive customers away. Instead, like in the article you reviewed, BD winegrowers seem to refer to more tangible practices that are much easier to digest, and have science to back them up. (like composting, IPM, cover crops). As you stated, all of these practices have been a part of any sustainably-minded winegrower and other responsible land stewards in agriculture.

    So, my question is: If both marketers, winemakers, and consumers seem to be embarrassed (for lack of a better word) by the crazy aspects of Steiner and BD farming, but continue to use sustainable BMPs like the ones mentioned to improve vine health and reduce impact on the environment, then why not drop the BD and just become a responsible landsteward, farming his/her winegrapes in the most sustainable manner possible? Does the BioDynamics brand have THAT much equity in the marketplace?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts and your continued effort here.

    • biodynamicshoax says:

      Diego,

      Yes, I have read that article and it is excellent. You have reminded me that I need to do a post of just other articles on Biodynamics – thanks for that. You might take a look at the New York Cork Report (http://lennthompson.typepad.com/lenndevours/page/2/) and scroll down to a series of three articles on Biodynamics. Don’t know if more will be forthcoming or not, the dates are August, 12, 19, and 27. Also check out 1winedue, Joe Roberts (http://www.1winedude.com/index.php/page/2/) who did a recent article on Biodynamics. Unfortunately, and as many of the folks commented, Joe fell off the wagon right at the end, but it’s still worth reading.

      Since I first started writing about Biodynamics I have had many of my friends personally applaud me for doing so, but simply will not go public. Like it or not, Biodynamics is considered part of the green movement and this country is in a hysteria over being green and anything negative attached to green can and will impact their income! The fear reminds me of the Joe McCarthyism from the 1950s.

      I’d sure like to know that answer too! An acquaintance who once worked for a Biodynamic winery in Sonoma said if you didn’t want the public to see what you were doing (Biodynamics and the Voodoo stuff) then it probably wasn’t the right thing to be doing. My view (hope) is that in the next 15-25 years folks will sort out the wheat from the BS of the four farming methods (conventional, sustainable, organic and Biodynamics) and evolve into that one which works best. Personally, I believe the winning will be sustainable, but ….
      Stu

  11. Isotope says:

    Hi Stu!

    Another great piece as always. I find in part 1 there to be a great deal of humor. For whatever reason, it seems like the BD folks have no understanding of the chemical reactions that take place in soil, partially due to microbial degradation.

    If you type in a search on pubmed.gov and type in “pesticide degrading bacteria” there are 160 free full text articles.

    “Arthrobacter strain … degrades Atrazine in the presence of inorganic N sources”

    “Genetic and phenotypic diversity of Fenitrothion-degrading bacteria isolated from soils”

    I suppose the take-home point overall that needs to be made is that not all compounds are DDT. Seems that the BD group is more than willing to use copper and sulfur and ignore the inherent hypocrisy of using those compounds for BD agriculture, since many aren’t relying on the “preparations”, while calling all of the other, possibly synthetic compounds, as things in the soil that need to be cleaned up. How do they know there is anything in the soil that is bad? None of them would ever get the complete herbicide/pesticide analysis, it would be too expensive and I’m reasonably certain they wouldn’t understand the results. Wouldn’t it be an amusing little shock that the vineyard had massive amounts of 2-4,D in the soil due to farmer Bob down the road spraying an incorrectly diluted volume?

    On a similar note, some of these compounds are not exactly water soluble and how would they find their way into the grape itself? Grapes are watery, acidic and full of sugar, pH 3.X isn’t exactly conducive for certain compounds to migrate all the way from the root into the fruit.

    Thanks again Stu, for finding another winery for me to boycott.

  12. Gary says:

    Every attempt at organized agriculture interferes with nature. None of it’s natural! Why these biodynamic folks think their method is any less intrusive than traditional agriculture is beyond me. I mean they put their grape vines up in unnaturally straight rows, hang them on artificial trellises and prune them for better production, too. No? We need agriculture. We should not abuse or poison the land. I just think that science and wise husbandry will get us farther than speculative voodoo and holier than thou attitudes. The only way for us not to impact the Earth is to dry up and blow away. And that ain’t gonna happen … at least not intentionally.

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