Understanding Biodynamic Preparations
Biodynamic preparations are a key component of biodynamic farming, an ecological and holistic approach to agriculture developed by Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th century. These preparations are intended to enhance soil and plant health, increase biodiversity, and promote overall farm vitality. Two of the most well-known biodynamic preparations are Preparation 500 and the Cow Pat Pit. At our vineyard we have created a Community Cow Pat Pit, Community Preparation 500 and practice biodynamics on our vineyards in Gisborne.
- Preparation 500 (Horn Manure):
- Ingredients: Preparation 500 is made from cow manure that is placed inside cow horns and buried in the ground during the fall and winter months.
- Making Process: The cow horns are filled with fresh manure from lactating cows and buried in the soil during the winter. They remain underground for several months, during which time they undergo a transformative process influenced by cosmic rhythms.
- Application: After being unearthed in the spring, the horn manure is mixed with water and stirred vigorously in a specific pattern, creating a vortex. This preparation is then sprayed onto fields as a fine mist to enhance soil structure, stimulate root development, and promote overall plant vitality.
- Cow Pat Pit (Preparation 502-507):
- Ingredients: Cow Pat Pit is a series of preparations made from fermented cow dung, medicinal herbs, and minerals. Preparations 502 to 507 are different variations of Cow Pat Pit.
- Making Process: Cow dung is collected from lactating cows and mixed with specific herbs and minerals. This mixture is placed in a pit and allowed to ferment over several months, similar to composting. Each preparation in the series uses slightly different ingredients and fermentation times.
- Application: These preparations are applied to the compost pile or directly to the soil. They are believed to enhance the composting process, promote microbial activity, and improve the nutrient content of the soil.
Understanding these biodynamic preparations involves recognizing the belief in cosmic and terrestrial rhythms that influence agricultural processes. Biodynamic practitioners believe that these preparations, when applied at specific times and in specific ways, help harmonize the farm with these rhythms, resulting in healthier plants, more fertile soil, and a balanced ecosystem. Critics often view these practices as unscientific and esoteric, while proponents argue that they contribute to sustainable and regenerative agriculture. We currently do not make the preparation from 501 – 507, these are supplied to us by the NZ Biodynamic Association.
More detail about the biodynamic preparations 501-507:
- Preparation 501 (Horn Silica):
- Ingredients: Preparation 501 is made from finely ground quartz crystals. It is not derived from cow dung like some other preparations.
- Making Process: Quartz crystals are ground into a fine powder and then buried in cow horns, similar to Preparation 500. However, instead of manure, this preparation is buried during the spring and dug up in the fall.
- Application: Preparation 501 is used as a foliar spray during the growing season. It is believed to enhance photosynthesis, improve light absorption in plants, and promote the development of healthy fruits and flowers.
- Preparation 502 (Yarrow Blossom):
- Ingredients: Preparation 502 is made from the yarrow plant (Achillea millefolium).
- Making Process: Yarrow blossoms are harvested and fermented in the bladder of a red deer or cow.
- Application: This preparation is used as a remedy for fungal diseases in plants. It is thought to stimulate the forces of sulfur in the soil and help balance the microorganisms in compost and on the farm.
- Preparation 503 (Chamomile Blossom):
- Ingredients: Preparation 503 is made from chamomile flowers (Matricaria chamomilla).
- Making Process: Chamomile blossoms are fermented in the small intestine of a cow or in a similar container.
- Application: It is used to address plant diseases and encourage beneficial microbial activity in compost. Like other preparations, it aims to enhance soil vitality and plant health.
- Preparation 504 (Stinging Nettle):
- Ingredients: Preparation 504 is made from stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).
- Making Process: Stinging nettle is fermented in the earth during the winter.
- Application: It is applied to the compost pile to enrich it with nutrients and stimulate decomposition. It is believed to enhance the absorption of calcium and sulfur by plants.
- Preparation 505 (Oak Bark):
- Ingredients: Preparation 505 is made from oak bark (Quercus robur).
- Making Process: Oak bark is fermented in the skull of a domestic animal.
- Application: This preparation is used to address plant diseases, particularly those related to fungal issues. It is also applied to compost to stimulate microbial activity.
- Preparation 506 (Dandelion Blossom):
- Ingredients: Preparation 506 is made from dandelion flowers (Taraxacum officinale).
- Making Process: Dandelion blossoms are fermented in the mesentery of a cow.
- Application: It is used to promote the overall health and vitality of plants, improve the quality of crops, and encourage root development.
- Preparation 507 (Valerian Blossom):
- Ingredients: Preparation 507 is made from valerian flowers (Valeriana officinalis).
- Making Process: Valerian blossoms are fermented in the skull of a farm animal.
- Application: It is applied to compost heaps to support microbial activity and decomposition processes. It is believed to enhance soil structure and microbial balance.
Biodynamic Preparation 500 is applied across our vineyards yearly.
Mixing Preparation 500
Mixing Preparation 500 is a crucial step in the biodynamic farming method, and it serves several important purposes in the context of this holistic agricultural approach:
- Activation of Cosmic Forces: Biodynamic farming is based on the belief that cosmic rhythms and forces influence plant growth and soil health. Mixing Preparation 500 is seen as a way to harness and activate these cosmic forces. The stirring process is often done by hand or with specific equipment in a rhythmic and intentional manner, following the principles of biodynamic agriculture.
- Homogenization: Preparation 500, also known as Horn Manure, is made by placing cow manure inside cow horns and burying them underground during the winter. During this period, the manure undergoes transformative processes influenced by cosmic and terrestrial forces. Mixing the preparation with water helps to homogenize it and distribute these cosmic forces evenly throughout the liquid.
- Enhanced Microbial Activity: The stirring and vortex formation during mixing are believed to stimulate the beneficial microbial activity in the preparation. Biodynamic practitioners believe that this activated preparation contains highly concentrated beneficial microorganisms that can contribute to soil health and vitality.
- Dilution and Application: After mixing, the activated Preparation 500 is often diluted with water to create a highly diluted solution. This solution is then applied to the fields as a fine mist or spray. The aim is to spread the cosmic and microbial influences throughout the entire farm, enriching the soil and promoting plant growth.
- Stimulating Root Development: Biodynamic practitioners believe that the application of Preparation 500 to the soil stimulates root development in plants. This, in turn, is believed to enhance nutrient uptake and overall plant health.
- Improving Soil Structure: Proponents claim that the use of Preparation 500 helps improve soil structure, making it more friable and crumbly, which can enhance aeration and water retention in the soil.
It’s important to note that the practices associated with Preparation 500 and biodynamic farming, in general, are considered by some to be esoteric and lacking in scientific evidence. While there are anecdotal reports of improved soil and plant health, there is ongoing debate about the effectiveness of biodynamic preparations within the broader agricultural community. Some farmers find value in these practices, while others prefer more conventional agricultural methods backed by scientific research.