Where does biodynamics come from?

Biodynamicsis one of the major trends in agriculture at the moment and affects for the most part the wine industry but can also be applied to other types of farms.

First of all, what is biodynamics? Biodynamics is a more advanced method of cultivation than the traditional method.organic farming. Biodynamic farming is therefore more demanding than organic farming. In both cases, the use of phytosanitary products is limited or even forbidden. Biodynamic farming often uses even lower doses of inputs than organic farming, especially in terms of sulfur. The other major differences between biodynamic agriculture and organic agriculture are crop rotation, adapted loading (on the density of occupation) and especially the influence of the Moon and the planets, which means that the work in the vineyard must be based on the rhythms of the Sun and the Moon.

Often questioned for its lack of scientific proof, biodynamics has proven to be a way for many producers to be truly respectful and in tune with nature and to better reveal the terroir.

German origins

In 1924, Rudolf Steiner (1861 - 1925) gave the "Farmers' Course" in Germany to a handful of farmers wishing to avoid the use of pesticides and fertilizers which were in full development at that time. This course can be considered as the first general ecology course that offers perspectives on the co-evolution of the Earth and human beings in a context that extends to the cosmos. It is the foundation of biodynamics. It is a practical agricultural manual that provides methodological bases for working (fertilization, composting, preparation, pest control, animal feeding, etc.). It is also a working basis for an inner journey that can allow the acquisition of new skills to care for the Earth and feed it.

Steiner, although the founder of biodynamics, was strongly inspired by Goethe (1749 - 1842) who already considered the plant as a whole in his essay published in 1829: The Metamorphosis of Plants. Goethe theorized the fact of "apprehending the plant in its entirety and not in its minute dissectable parts" (Guichard, 2017) unlike many scientists of his time. This is the only way to grasp its deep nature and thus be able to help it.

The arrival in France of biodynamics

Biodynamics arrived in France in 1925, one year after Rudolf Steiner's Course for Farmers in Germany, thanks to a first farm in Alsace that converted to it. In 1928 in Germany, the Demeter cooperative was created and its French version was created in 1979. But already in 1958 the association of biodynamic culture is created in Strasbourg and counts a little more than a hundred members. Organic agriculture (AB) was recognized in France in 1981, which makes it a much more recent movement.

Today in France, it is Nicolas Joly who is considered the father of biodynamic viticulture. Started in 1984 on his vineyard of the Coulée de Serrant (7 hectares vineyard in the Loire), he quotes about biodynamics in his book "Le vin du ciel à la terre : la viticulture en biodynamie" in 1997: "Little by little, I saw nature reborn".

Biodynamics today in France

Today, all the associations are united under the aegis of the Movement of Biodynamic Agriculture (MABD) representing 450 producers, the vast majority of which are winegrowers. If we consider the Demeter certified estates (325) as well as those who are members of the Biodyvin association (135 in 2017), we estimate that there are about 450 wineries practicing Biodynamic Agriculture.biodynamicsSome are members of both organizations. This represents 1% of the French vineyards.

The number of certified wineries has been increasing steadily for the last 5 years at a rate of 15% per year. More than a handful of winegrowers, great names in viticulture have joined the Demeter label: Château Palmer in Margaux, Château Pontet-Canet in Pauillac or Marcel Deiss in Alsace. On the Biodyvin side, we find the Domaine de la Romanée Conti, the Clos de Tart or Chambert in Cahors.

Edouard Rapp

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