The Nine Biodynamic Preparations
- By Jacky Blisson MW
- 01 Jan 2021
- 5 MIN
- Level 201
The principle of biodynamic viticulture consists of treating the vineyard as a self-sufficient, living organism. Foliar sprays and composts are used to improve soil quality and vine health. These preparations are made from fermented plant, mineral, and animal manure components.
Certain preparations are diluted to form sprays. Before vineyard application, they must be dynamized. This special stirring process consists of creating a vortex, and then changing direction back and forth over the course of an hour. This vigorous stirring exposes the water’s changing surfaces to cosmic forces thought to activate the preparations, making them more effective. It also oxygenates the mixtures, allowing any microbes present to multiply.
There are nine preparations in total. They are labelled by number, 500 to 508. Each will be described in more detail below.
Biodynamic preparation 500 is made by filling a cow horn with cow manure in the fall/autumn and burying over the winter during which time it ferments and decomposes. The result is a rich, dark humus. Once dug up, diluted, and dynamized, the manure is sprayed on soils during a waning moon.
According to Tuscan biodynamic producer Caiarossa, preparation 500 is highly effective in terms of “structuring the soil, stimulating soil microbial activity and production of humus, regulating the pH balance of soil, stimulating seed germination and root development, and increasing the depth of root systems”.
Preparation 501 is composed of ground quartz crystals and rainwater. This mixture is placed in a cow horn and buried throughout the spring and summer months. After dilution and stirring it is sprayed on the vine canopy, creating a reflective, luminous effect that both stimulates photosynthesis and curbs excessive growth.
English winery, Albury Vineyard, explains that “it is most effective if sprayed at sunrise” on sunny days. They have also observed that preparation 501 makes vines more resistant to fungal attacks.
The use of preparations 500 and 501 are obligatory for certified biodynamic wineries.
502 to 507
Numbers 502 through 507 are plant-derived preparations added to compost mixtures. They control the breakdown of manures and composts, making their trace element more readily available to vines.
Preparation 502 is made from the flower heads of yarrow, fermented in a stag’s bladder which is buried over winter. Its function is to mobilize potassium and sulphur in the soil.
Preparation 503 consists of chamomile blossoms, fermented underground using the small intestine of a cow as a sheath. This chamomile preparation plays a role in regulating calcium and nitrogen activity in the soil.
Preparation 504 is a form of stinging nettle tea. The nettles are buried in clay pots or wooden cases, wrapped in peat, for a year-long period. The use of 504 is said to strengthen the efficacy of preparations 502 and 503. It is also sometimes used as a foliar spray to bolster vines lacking vigour.
Preparation 505 is made from ground oak tree bark placed in the skull of a domestic animal and buried over winter. Oak bark stimulates calcium and phosphorous activity in soils. It also aids in strengthening vine resistance to disease and fungal infection.
Preparation 506 uses dandelion flower heads, fermented in a buried cow mesentery (a fold of membrane that attaches the intestine to the abdominal wall). It influences silica processes, interacts with potash and limestone, and affects nitrogen processes. It is reported to improve flowering and fruit set.
Preparation 507 is made from the juice of valerian flowers. It is used in a tincture and spurs the development of phosphorus-activating bacteria. It also stimulates selenium and magnesium activity.
Preparation 508 is made from the horsetail plant. The shoots, which contain high concentrations of silica, are boiled, and then steeped for several days in rainwater. Once dynamized, this tea is used as a foliar spray, and sometimes as a root dip. It impedes excess water from building up on the vine thereby reducing the risk of fungal infections.