I have, generally, been a bit hesitant to write about our biodynamic stature as biodynamics for us is a process of work rather than a method of selling wine. I have often been asked to explain scientifically what biodynamics is, and this, too, I have found difficult to do: Not that biodynamics doesn’t have a basis in science, but rather that I am really not competent to explain it well. Biodynamics for me is intuitive; a craft rather than a science. However, I have recently come across what I think is a wonderful, simple explanation of the biodynamic compost preparations by Professor Stuart B. Hill, previously of the Department of Entomology McGill University, Canada, now Department of Social Ecology, University of Western Sydney-Hawkesbury – and I would like to share his take on biodynamics with you. Professor Hill is one of the few people who have conducted formal research into the mechanics of biodynamics.
“Biodynamics tends to be presented with a high level of mythology and talk of etheric forces and so on, but if you analyse the preparations you find they are in fact, if properly made, highly concentrated inoculums containing high levels of trace elements and a variety of micro-organism.”
The starting point for the compost preparations are the flowers of several plants which Rudolf Steiner specified should be picked on the first day the flowers opened.
“Each of the specified flowers has different characteristics that makes them ideal substrates for specific groups of micro-organisms and picking them on the day they open ensures they contain the most concentrated levels of trace minerals. Different flowering plants use different trace minerals as catalysts to produce odours that attract insects for successful pollination. The plant pumps the minerals, which can be in short supply in some environments, up into the flower on the day it opens to maximise its attraction to pollinators while the receptor are fresh. It then recycles them by translocating them to the next flower that opens and so one; repeatedly re-using the minerals to the plant’s maximum benefit. So picking fresh flowers ensures maximum trace mineral content in the preparations”.
When the mixtures of flowers and other components are buried, as prescribed by Steiner, they are colonised by micro-organisms from the surrounding soil and the microbes continue to multiply and build up on the substrate provided by the flowers until the material is broken down. At that stage they produce spores, so the preparations dug out of the ground are concentrated inoculants of trace minerals and spores of a range of micro-organisms: everything needed to trigger a high level of biological activity in the compost or soil, depending on the particular preparation. There are undoubtedly other factors or forces at work, but that is at least part of the scientific explanation for that element of the process.”