SELF-SUSTAINING LIVING ORGANISM, a fundamental tenet of Biodynamics, one which in contemporary wine terms would be akin to a ‘terroir-driven’.
In his 1924 Agriculture Course Rudolf Steiner said that ‘a farm [vineyard] comes closest to its own essence when it can be conceived of as a kind of independent individuality, a self-contained entity. Every farm ought to aspire to this state of being a self-contained individuality. This state cannot be achieved completely, but it needs to be approached. This means that within our farms, we should attempt to have everything we need for agricultural production, including, of course, the appropriate amount of livestock.1 Rudolf Steiner, Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture (Bio-Dynamic Farming and Gardening Association, Inc. USA, 1993), trans. by C. Creeger and M. Gardner, p.27.
Hugh Lovel points out why Steiner attached such significance to farms having a balance of both livestock and crop plants: ‘Plants are formative. They build. Animals are transformative and they recycle or break down and rebuild. The conventional investigator may say the animal breaks down plant tissues with digestive enzymes. No doubt he will acknowledge that in most cases there is a certain amount of chewing involved. But the BD [biodynamic] practitioner can only shake his head since he knows animal digestion and nervous development run parallel and both these activities are transformative. For one thing, how does the animal select what it chooses to eat?’2Hugh Lovel, A Biodynamic Farm (Acres USA, 2000), p.86-87.
As Biodynamics concerns forces as well as substances, animal manure is seen to provide both substances, via enzymes and other organisms needed in compost (fungi, bacteria), and forces because of the nervous development the animal exerted when digesting the plants to produce the manure in the first place (see also Horn manure 500).
‘Without the digestive activities of animals, plant fibres would be much slower to break down and return to the soil,’ says Lovel.3Hugh Lovel, A Biodynamic Farm (Acres USA, 2000), p.86-87. Thus a diversity of both plant and animal species is needed to assure rapid recycling of plant materials in order for farms and vineyards to become successful self-sustaining organisms capable of transforming one- way waste streams born of an ‘acquire, use, discard’ mentality into a regenerative cycle of fertility.
Composting allows the recycling back onto the land of the by-products of wine production when micro-organisms (mainly bacteria) in manure are allowed to break down organic matter into gas (carbon dioxide), water and, most importantly, solid and stable humus. The two most obviously compostable by-products of winegrowing are cut vine prunings in late winter/early spring, and anything left over from winemaking every autumn, mainly the grape pomace, pressings, stems and lees. Other winery by-products which can also be composted include diatomaceous earth, bentonite finings, used filter pads and even shredded waste paper (a carbon source) from the office.