Biodynamic viticulture

Biodynamics is a form of organic agriculture based on the ideas of the Austrian philosopher, Rudolph Steiner.

Two things distinguish it from other forms of organic farming :

  • The use of a complex system of herbal sprays and composting techniques, known as 'preparations'.
  • The timing of the operations on the land, which is strictly regulated by the movements of the spheres.

Biodynamics has made some high profile converts in recent years and is taken seriously by the wine industry purely on the evidence of the wines it produces.

The biodynamic movement is effectively run by an independant organisation called Demeter.


Biodynamics is part of Steiner's wider system of anthroposophy, or spiritual science.

A farm, or a vineyard, is seen as a living system whose functioning is explained in terms of 'formative' forces.

If something is wrong, it is because these forces are out of balance. There might be too much 'astrality', for example, and not enough 'etheric' force.

Even the most distant movements of the stars are connected to the smallest operations of the land. Lay-lines must be taken into account.

The weakness of convetional science, in biodynamic terms, is its obsession with analysing physical effects, and ignorance of the forces that underlie them.

Steiner was well aware that this would appear 'insane' to some people.


Biodynamic practices can appear equally bizarre.

Making 'Horn Manure', for example, involves burying a cow's horn full of manure at the autumn equinox and digging it up in the spring.

But the evidence suggests that biodynamic farming has real benefits for life of the soil.

Analyses by soil microbiologist Claude Bourguignon, for example, found it compared favourably to both conventional and organic farming.

Exactly what it is about biodynamics that produces these benefits, and why, is not yet understood. But that does not make it necessary to accept Steiner's explanations.

Further research may well be able to explain its effect in terms of conventional science.