THE NINE BIODYNAMIC PREPARATIONS 500-508 are the essence of and are unique to the Biodynamic way for farming and wine-growing. The names of these nine preparations (‘preps’) are Horn manure 500, Horn silica 501, Yarrow 502, Chamomile 503, Stinging nettle 504, Oak bark 505, Dandelion 506, Valerian 507, and Equisetum arvense 508 (Common horsetail). Their regular application to the land is a pre-requisite for any vineyard or other agricultural enterprise to be considered Biodynamic by Demeter, the organization which has regulated Biodynamic farming since it was first described in 1924 (see also Biodynamic certification). The preps are made from wild plants, cow manure and the mineral quartz (silica). They help regulate the farm and the crops, be they perennial wine grape vines, annual vegetables, or farm animals. The idea is that all function healthily, and in a way that also allow them to tune in to both the Earth’s seasonal cycles (autumn, winter, spring, summer) and all celestial cycles as a whole, so that the formative forces which shape matter (vines, shoots, leaves, buds, vine flowers, grapes, pips, tannins) do so in an ideal way.
THREE BIODYNAMIC FIELD SPRAY PREPARATIONS 500, 501 & 508 are sprayed directly on the vineyard or farm individually and at different times during the season. They are Horn manure 500, Horn silica 501, and Equisetum arvense 508 (Common horsetail). They are first stirred or ‘dynamized‘ in water to make it easier for the ‘forces’ they carry to reach the cropland.
SIX BIODYNAMIC COMPOST PREPARATIONS 502-507 are added to the compost pile. They are Yarrow 502, Chamomile 503, Stinging nettle 504, Oak bark 505, Dandelion 506, and Valerian 507. The Biodynamic idea of composting waste generated by the farm/vineyard and returning it to the land is to maintain a terroir-enhancing self-sustaining living organism, this organism idea being the origin of the term ‘organics’ which followed on from Biodynamics and dates from the mid-1940s. Those who are unable to apply the six Biodynamic preparations to the land as compost can do so via sprays such as Maria Thun’s Barrel Compost, Peter Proctor’s Cow Pat Pit, or as Alex Podolinksky’s 500P. In addition, plant-based sprays are also used in Biodynamics (and of course organics) on the ‘use plants to cure plants’ principle.
Diagnostic tools to gauge whether the often fairly left-field practices which Biodynamics entails have any effect include most obviously in wine’s case comparative blind tastings, and less conventionally a technique peculiar to Biodynamics called sensitive crystallization. See also setting up a comparative trial between Biodynamics and organics.