Avondale

Avondale - What, and Why Biodynamic Preparation BD501?

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At Avondale we practise sustainable and natural viticulture in line with our ethos Terra Est Vita – ‘Soil is Life’. We know that for the land and the business to thrive, every aspect of our living system must also thrive. In everything that we do, we uphold the key principle of Life – to constantly create conditions conducive to more Life.

Avondale’s proprietor Johnathan Grieve explains these principles in a series of blog articles which provide an overview of the Biodynamic preparations we use.

In our previous article of this series on Biodynamic preparations, I wrote about Horn Manure also known as BD500, which is used to build soil structure, humus and promote soil micro-life thus enhancing the plants’ uptake of nutrition.  We are now going to take a look at the counterpart to BD500, which is Horn Silica or BD501.   While the preparations perfectly complement one another and are used in tandem, they are polar opposites. Unlike the grounding force of BD500, BD501 is concerned with the above-ground energies and is used to enhance photosynthesis in the leaves and ensure optimal fruiting.  It interacts with light and warmth when the Earth awakens from the darkness of the winter sleep and bursts into life in the spring.

What exactly is BD501?
BD501 is simply modern shorthand name for the Biodynamic (BD) preparation that Rudolph Steiner introduced as Horn Silica.  The preparation involves packing finely ground quartz crystal rock into the horns of cows.  The preparation is then buried in spring on a Flower day with a descending moon, and then lifted in autumn.

As weird and wonderful, as that might sound, there is careful reasoning behind the Biodynamic preparations which helps people develop an understanding of how Biodynamic agriculture works.

Why Cow Horns?
Rather than use the horns of a goat or a kudu, Steiner specified the use of cow horns.  The reason for this is that BD501 specifically works to release cosmic energies as the earth deeply ‘exhales’ in spring.  If you look at a cow, it is certainly an earthy animal.  It is solidly grounded in its stance and gait, and feeds with its head low to the ground.  The cow’s very being expresses its strong bond with the earth.

There is a reason too, to use the horns of cows, not bulls.  When it comes to the earth, we obviously want to optimise on female, mothering and fertile energies – hence the preference for also using cow horns bearing birthing rings.  Another point of interest is that the horn of a cow has a far greater blood flow through it, than that of a bull.  It is estimated that 80% of the blood flow of a cow goes through its horns, despite there being no servicing there of any vital organ.  The cow horn is therefore specifically imbued with a richness of life-giving blood.

Why use quartz crystal?
Quality quartz crystal is used in BD501 because its very precise structure absorbs and radiates light.  The idea is to take the pure quartz crystals and grind them up as finely as possible.  Typically, this starts with crushing it up in crude rudimentary manner, followed by milling in a pestle and mortar. Once we have it as fine as possible, we insert the fine powder between two sheets of glass and grind it even finer. The end result should be as fine as possible, and it ends up resembling fine talcum powder.

The ground crystal is mixed into a firm paste with good quality water; the paste is  then packed into the cow horns. It is left to settle overnight and in the morning, we pour off any excess water.

Why do we bury BD501 in Spring?
Biodynamic agriculture has a keen focus on tuning into the natural rhythms of the Earth and the cosmos.  Just as night and day can be seen as the Earth breathing in and breathing out with each turn of the earth, so there is a seasonal cycle in tune with the Earth’s yearly journey around the Sun.  Once a year then, the planet deeply exhales – in spring, as an awakening from the winter dormancy.

As we want BD501 to enhance photosynthesis in the leaves and fruiting, we bury it in September to early October in the Southern Hemisphere.  We do this on a Flower day of the Biodynamic calendar when there is a descending moon.  The packed horns are buried in a pit about 30 to 40 centimetres deep in an area on the farm where the soil is fertile, well-aerated and well-drained.  The location of the pit should be in a sunny prominent open position. We bury the horns with the tip planted in soil that is enriched with Biodynamic compost.  The pit is covered over with soil, leaving the preparation to develop over spring and summer. Once BD501 is ready it is lifted in autumn and, in contrast to BD500 which is stored in a cool, dark place, BD501 is stored in glass containers in light area.

When we are ready to use BD501, we add a small dose to water and ‘dynamise’ the solution by means of a specific way of stirring that simulates the power of a vortex.  In the early morning, preferably when there is moisture in the air, and when the light is at a low angle, it is sprayed on the plants.  We also make use of it in the field broadcaster.  BD501 is applied in spring at the onset of the vines’ leaf development, and in summer to stimulate optimal fruiting.   I will go into more detail on the application of the preparations in future posts.  Horn Silica enhances the effects of warmth and light on the plant to promote healthy growth.  By stimulating photosynthesis it works to increase the vines uptake of nutrients.

With regular applications, BD501 will assist with:

  • Better photosynthesis
  • Stronger root exudation and nitrogen fixing
  • Healthy, stronger, balanced, more compact and resilient leaf      growth
  • Better expression of genetic material
  • Protection from certain diseases
  • Robust flowering, fruiting and ripening
  • Raising the Brix level in fruits
  • Improved flavour and nutritional value in fruits

In the next article, I will share my insights and experience of making and using BD502 – Yarrow, which is the first of the Biodynamic preparations made from herbs and used for compost-making.  In the series, we will cover all 9 Biodynamic preparations, dynamising, application timbering and the dosage of each preparation. Connect with us on Facebook to be notified about when we post the next article.  Alternatively, you can follow the blog on this page and get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

(You’ll find more about the Root, Leaf, Flower and Fruit days in our article on about how the Biodynamic Planting calendar impacts on also wine-tasting.)



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