« The preparations are like instruments for striking up this living music.»
Preparations full of biodynamism
Biodynamic preparations are like homeopathy for the earth and its plants. Producing them is a demanding craft, but one that all can learn. No one holds a patent on them and every grower is independent and autonomous. The preparations have an invigorating, harmonizing and quality-enhancing action in the whole biosphere, and in the produce we harvest.
There are two types of biodynamic preparation; all are entirely natural and their use has a stimulating effect at the etheric level, eliciting dynamic forces of vitality. It is like the resonance that spreads out from a musical instrument and fills the whole surrounding space. Life is the dynamic interplay between earthly substances and celestial forces. The preparations are like instruments for striking up this living music. And when the salad arrives on our plate, it imparts this music to us.
The two biodynamic spray preparations
The first, horn manure preparation, enlivens the soil and helps plants to form good, strong roots. In the autumn you collect well-formed cow dung and fill cow horns with it. These horns, with their manure, are then buried in the ground over winter. In spring, when you dig them up again and tap out the contents, you find you have wonderfully crumbly humus, with a fine-smelling aroma. When the time comes, a small quantity of the horn manure is stirred for an hour in lukewarm water, in the late afternoon, and immediately afterwards is sprayed on the soil or the meadow.
The other, horn silica preparation, improves photosynthesis, strengthens plants and enhances their growth, flowering, fruiting and ripening. Once again you take a cow horn, but now fill it with a few grams of finely ground quartz powder, and this time bury it in the earth over summer. This preparation too is “dynamized” for an hour, but in the early morning. The moment stirring is finished, it is sprayed in a fine mist over plants still wet with dew.
The six biodynamic compost preparations
A second group of preparations is used to enrich and enliven compost. These compost preparations have a regulating action on the composting process and, via the compost, on the whole farm, garden or vineyard.
These compost preparations are as follows: camomile, yarrow, stinging nettle, oak bark, dandelion and valerian. Producing them is a skilled art, and they are often made together by regional groups. To use them, a pinch of each preparation is inserted into the compost heap. It is a distinctive aspect of this “homoeopathy for the earth” that you can produce the “pillules” yourself.
Globally used, locally unique
Biodynamic agriculture, with the preparations, is practised throughout the world in all climates and cultures. Naturally, its universal principles have to be localized for each specific region, which is an interesting challenge. For instance, rice growers in Brazil have found a way of channelling water for rice field irrigation through a sack containing the compost preparations.
Partnership with nature
In daily practice one does not always directly experience the effect of the preparations, but over several years the farm or garden will be invigorated, and will become your reliable partner. Winegrowers most frequently notice the direct effect of the preparations, since vines are a highly sensitive plant, and wine-tasters are alert to the subtlest nuances. A worldwide research and development community exists to study biodynamic preparations. While it is a great challenge for farmers to work with the preparations, it is also a joy, for their use can give everyone a deep sense of active involvement in our human partnership with nature.
Ueli Hurter, Demeter farmer and co-leader of the Section for Agriculture