Biodynamic farming is a holistic approach to agriculture that combines biodynamics, organic farming, and traditional knowledge. In a world where many farmers are looking for ways to become more sustainable, biodynamic viticulture, the art of biodynamically growing grapevines has been one of the long-standing success stories. This holistic view of agriculture takes into account all aspects of the farm, from the soil to the plants and animals to the people who work on it.
The century-old practice is guided by a special biodynamic calendar, from planting, pruning, watering to harvesting while observing the rhythms of nature: earth, fire, air, and water. To better understand sustainable viticulture, we need to look at the four tenets of biodynamic grape farming and what makes it so successful today.
Preparing the Soil with Biodynamic Preparations
The foundation of biodynamic viticulture is the special preparation of the soil. Biodynamic soil is often prepared with manure and herbs, such as yarrow flowers. The special preparation is traditionally made in a cow horn, or small pot buried away from sunlight for up to one year before use, and then mixed into water and sprayed on the soil at least ten days prior to planting. This sustainable farming practice is said to improve vine health.
Viticulturists also have to take into account the lunar phases when preparing the soil. Biodynamic preparations are said to help stimulate the life forces in the soil and improve water retention and drainage. This biodynamic viticulture practice may help soils in biodynamic grape farms to be healthier, more nutritious, and better able to retain water. The result is healthier vines and grapes.
Using Only Plant Nutrients That Come from Natural Sources
To ensure the vines are not depleted of essential minerals, biodynamic grape farming relies on the use of cover crops and composts to return these nutrients back into the soil. In addition, biodynamics discourages the use of synthetic fertilizers in favor of plant-based preparations that are made from naturally occurring substances. Relying on natural resources and biodynamic preparations ensures that vines are not left vulnerable to depletion and pest infestation.
The plant fertilization practices of biodynamic viticulture are sustainable and consider how different choices will affect future generations and farm sustainability. For instance, composting helps build up organic matter in soils, which sequesters carbon and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. By relying on common natural herbs, minerals, and farm by-products for vine fertilization, biodynamic grape farming becomes self-sufficient by promoting overall health through plant nutrient cycles that mimic natural systems.
Tailoring Grape Vine Farm Care
Another key sustainable viticulture practice is the use of crop-specific husbandry practices. Crop-specific viticulture care differs between grape vines farms in different locations, climates, soils, and microclimates. This care requires biodynamic practitioners to pay especially close attention to the needs of their specific fields and how they’re changing throughout each growing season. Careful observation of the site-specific conditions is needed for these practices to effectively protect the surrounding ecosystem and increase soil fertility.
The biodynamic viticulture philosophy affects all aspects of wine production, including the way grapes are grown, fermented, and bottled, so that biodynamic wines can be distinguished from organic or conventional ones by their unique character. Common crop-specific husbandry practices in biodynamic grape farms include biennial composting, biweekly weed control practices, and the use of biodynamic sprays. The holistic farm management approach of biodynamics helps create a self-sustaining vineyard that is in balance with the environment.
Growing in Balance with Other Life Forms
The last tenet of biodynamic grapevine farming is dynamic cooperation with other life forms. Biodynamics takes an interdisciplinary approach to holistically understanding how soil, plant, and animal interactions affect the vineyard ecosystem. Biodynamic viticulture recognizes that all organisms in a grapevine system are interconnected and reliant upon one another for healthy growth and production. Farmers must take a proactive approach to managing their vineyards, fostering a healthy and balanced ecosystem that can resist pests and diseases.
That’s why at least 10% of grapevine farms are dedicated to planting biodiversity-rich habitats. These include hedgerows, trees, and other flora that provide shelter and food for beneficial insects, birds, and other animals. By creating a natural habitat in and around the vineyard, biodynamic farmers are promoting the entire ecosystem’s health. The goal is to create a self-sustaining farm where all components work together in harmony.
Learn More About Biodynamic Viticulture
The biodynamic approach to grapevine farming is holistic, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. It takes into account the complex interactions among soil, plants, and animals to create a healthy and productive vineyard ecosystem. With these four tenets of biodynamic grapevine farming in mind, you can apply these principles to your vineyard or garden. The ultimate goal is to work with nature, rather than against it, to create a healthy farming system that delivers high yields.
If you’re interested in learning more about sustainable viticulture or want to start practicing biodynamic viticulture in your vineyard, you can find the tools and materials at Fruit Growers Supply. We’re your one-stop shop for fruit supply needs and are focused on sustainability practices in our operations. Give us a call today.