Biodynamic versus Organic Vineyard Management: Sensory Showdown

As we’ve covered several times on The Academic Wino, organic and biodynamic viticulture and winemaking methods are on the rise, often with the goal of becoming a more sustainable industry and an industry that is kind to the environment and to human health.

There are several differences between organic and biodynamic viticulture, but probably the biggest difference relates to the use of fermented “preparations” in biodynamic vineyard management protocols.  Specifically, these preparations supposedly improve the soil-nutrient cycle, photosynthesis, compostability,

Photo by Flickr user Stefano Lubiana

Photo by Flickr user Stefano Lubiana

energy efficiency, and soil and crop quality.

Physiologically and chemically, biodynamic preparations in vineyards are said to improve overall “balance” within the plant, increase sugar, polyphenol, and anthocyanin concentrations of the grapes.  One somewhat recent study even found that organic and biodynamic wines can be distinguished from one another simply by examining their “chemical fingerprint” using sophisticated 1H-NMR spectroscopy methods.

In terms of organic versus conventional practices, other studies have shown that organic and conventionally made wines differ in terms of polyphenol content (including trans-resveratrol content) and antioxidant activity, though other chemical and sensory characteristics differences, including microbial metabolites, were not always significant.

The study presented today looked at organic versus biodynamic viticulture and winemaking practices, specifically examining the effect of biodynamic “preparations” on the chemical and sensory characteristics of Sangiovese wines in Italy.  Are there chemical and sensory differences between these two techniques?  Is one “superior” to the other in terms of consumer liking and preference?  Let’s find out…


Briefly summarizing the methods, the researchers collected Sangiovese grapes from a vineyard that started off in 2007 as an organic vineyard but then followed a transition to a biodynamic vineyard in the following years.  Specifically, in 2009, 50% of the vineyard had transitioned to biodynamic practices, allowing the researchers to compare organic and biodynamic practices in the same vineyard during the same year.  Grapes and wine were again tested in 2010, to account for any possible differences due to harvest season (i.e. environmental, climate, and acclimation differences).

The preparations used in 2009 for the biodynamic section of the vineyard included: soil application of cow manure and cow fladen, foliar/leaf application of finely ground quartz powder, and soil application of 500 K.  In 2010, the preparations used in the biodynamic section included: trunk paste, a mixture of cow manure, horsetail, and stinging nettle infusion, as well as sand, bentonite, and water was utilized.

For both 2009 and 2010, two replicates of organic treatments were performed, and two replicates of biodynamic treatments were performed.  Each treatment started with 200kg of grapes and followed the same organic winemaking protocols.

At bottling and again 16 months post-fermentation, the following chemical characteristics were measured and analyzed for all wines:   Alcohol strength, dry matter, pH, total acidity, volatile acidity, optical density at 420, 520, and 620nm, total polyphenols, total and free sulfur dioxide, reducing sugars, anthocyanins, individual phenolic compounds, ochratoxin A, total color, total polymeric pigments, tannins, and non-tannin total iron-reactive phenolics.

An electronic nose was used to measure volatile compounds in each of the wines.

Nose.  Copyright RYeamansIrwin2014

Nose. Copyright RYeamansIrwin2014

A sensory panel was chosen to analyze the color, taste, and aroma of the wines.  The sensory panel was recruited from employees and students at the Campus of Food Science in Cesena, Italy.


  • 2009: Biodynamic treatments resulted in wines with significantly lower alcohol strength, volatile acidity, optical density, color intensity, total polyphenols, and an increase in lactic acid.
  • There was a significant year effect regardless of treatment:
    • 2009: alcohol strength, volatile acidity, dry matter, reducing sugars, optical density, color intensity, and total polyphenols all higher.
    • 2010: total acidity, pH, and total sulfur dioxide all higher.
      • Many of these differences could possibly be attributed to the reduce yield per plant, with 2010 seeing a much higher yield than 2009 (6.0 and 4.5kg, respectively).
  • 2010 saw significantly more rain than 2009.
  • Temperatures in 2010 were generally cooler than they were in 2009.
    • Increased water availability in grapes are associated with a reduction in grape and wine color and well as the concentrations of anthocyanins (very similar to what was seen in the results above).
  • Overall, organic wines differed from biodynamic wines in that organic wines had an 11% increase in alcoholic strength, a 15% increase in dry matter, between 28-47% increase in optical density, a 36% increase in color intensity, and a 21% increase in total polyphenols over biodynamic wines.
    • These results suggest that the switch from organic to biodynamic viticulture management practices has a negative effect on grape and wine chemical characteristics the first harvest year after conversion.
  • Individual phenolic compounds significantly decreased in biodynamic wines after the first year of conversion from organic, however, after two years, there were significantly fewer differences between organic and biodynamic wines in terms of their individual phenolic compound composition.
  • Concentrations of many flavonoids and non-flavonoids were increased in organic wines compared with biodynamic wines.
  • Total color, color intensity, and co-pigmentation were all higher in organic wines in 2009, however, differences among these characteristics between organic and biodynamic wines in 2010 were more comparable to each other.
  • The electronic nose was able to physically distinguish the organic wines from the biodynamic wines based on their chemical composition.
    • The two organic wine treatments were located close to one another on the plot, while the two biodynamic wine treatments were located close to one another but further away from the organic wine treatments on the plot.
    • The 2009 organic wines were distinguished by the following organoleptic characteristics: grass, butter, caramel, vinegar, cooked banana leaf, floral, honey, and rose honey.
    • The 2009 biodynamic wines were distinguished by the following organoleptic characteristics: green and almond.
    • The 2010 organic wines were distinguished by the following organoleptic characteristics: apple, fruity, apricot, grape, brandy, floral, waxy, banana, sweet, cognac, and green.
    • The 2010 biodynamic wines were distinguished by the following organoleptic characteristics: spice, herbal, fruity, apple, cherry, pear, floral, butter, cooked apple, fresh, woody, sweet, pine, and citrus.
      • Most of the significant organoleptic differences between the organic and biodynamic wines in 2009 were NOT significant in 2010 (this takes into account differences according to weather).
  • For the sensory analysis with real life humans and not an electronic robot, only those panelists with more expert experience in wine noted a difference in color between organic and biodynamic wines, while the “non-expert” panelists couldn’t tell the difference and showed no preferences one way or another between organic and biodynamic wines.
    • In terms of sensory characteristics, the average consumer can’t tell the difference between organic Sangiovese wines and biodynamic Sangiovese wines.
  • Ochratoxin A and biogenic amines were below the detection limit in nearly all wines tested, and thus not a threat to human health.
    • The only exception was that one of the two organic wine replicates in 2009 showed minute concentrations of histamine (0.22mg/L), though levels were still below the allowable published limits.


Photo By Deutsch: Maler der Grabkammer des Sennudem English: Painter of the burial chamber of Sennedjem [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Deutsch: Maler der Grabkammer des Sennudem English: Painter of the burial chamber of Sennedjem [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

To conclude this whole study in one sentence, it’s safe to say that biodynamic “preparations” appear to have a significant influence on the chemical and sensory characteristics of Sangiovese wines.

A few thoughts…

  • The researchers only looked at a total of 2 years, the first being the first year after transitioning from organic to biodynamic practices, and the second being the second year after transitioning. I’m not convinced this is enough time to really have an understanding of the possible differences between chemical and sensory characteristics of wines.  I would imagine that it would take a few seasons for the soil, soil microbes, and surrounding environment to acclimate to the new biodynamic treatments, thus resulting in the potential for marked chemical and sensory changes within a short period of time.

This study would be more interesting if it were carried out over a greater number of seasons.  Just between the first and second years the researchers noted significantly fewer differences between the organic and biodynamic wines in terms of their chemical and sensory characteristics.  Over a longer period of time, would we see these differences become even fewer?  Or would we start to see a shift in another direction in terms of differences between the two styles of wine?  Was it just that there was a slight difference in the composition of the biodynamic preparations that caused the greater similarities between the two types of wine?

  • What caused the one organic wine from 2009 to have measurable histamine levels and not any other wine? Well, first of all, sample size is ridiculously low in this study, so this result should be taken with a grain of salt.  Is there really something going on here?  Or was this just the natural variation in the environment?  Is there something about this particular plot that would develop grapes with greater levels of histamine?  Or was this maybe human error in the analysis?  Can’t really say much here, other than it could potentially be interesting for someone studying histamines in wine and how it may or may not relate to the growing environment.
  • There appear to be significant differences in chemical and sensory characteristics of organic and biodynamic Sangiovese wines, yet the consumer couldn’t “tell the difference” either way. Basically, while the electronic nose noted significant chemical differences between the different viticulture management practices, the human sensory panels didn’t have a preference one way or another in terms of which wine they liked best.

This either shows that a) they really could tell a difference or b) they liked (or disliked) them both for different, but equal, reasons.

Overall, this was an interesting study, though I would like to see it done with more replicates and over several more years.  While we don’t have a clear “sensory winner” in this showdown, I think it’s safe to say

Photo by Russell Lee [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Russell Lee [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

that either type of wine would be acceptable for consumers and the marketing focus should remain on the environmental benefits of either organic or biodynamic viticulture management practices compared with conventional methods, instead of trying to nit-pick the sensory differences between the two.

I’d love to hear what you all think about this topic.  Let’s have a discussion!

Further reading:

Parpinello, G.P., Rombolà, A.D., Simoni, M., and Versari, A. 2015. Chemical and sensory characterisation of Sangiovese red wines: Comparison between biodynamic and organic management. Food Chemistry 167: 145-152.

27 comments for “Biodynamic versus Organic Vineyard Management: Sensory Showdown

  1. Hans WP
    December 2, 2014 at 11:39 am

    The first question that enters my mind is not only about the number of years in the study, but also the site characteristics of the vineyard where the organic and biodynamic practices were implemented. Is the soil type uniform across the entire vineyard? What about slope, aspect or vine age? Perhaps some of this is detailed in the paper itself, but if the researchers were unable to replicate the treatments randomly within the vineyard (which is understandable when doing research in a commercial vineyard), it makes it harder to draw conclusions based on the statistics gathered. I’m not faulting the study, and perhaps the authors’ conclusions are correct – I just wonder about the power of the statistics that come from studies like this, and suggest that the conclusions should be taken with a few grains of salt.

    • Becca
      December 2, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      Thank you for your insightful comments, Hans! You raise some very important questions here. Things can get very complicated very quickly, so without knowing the details of the site characteristics, it is very difficult to make any solid conclusions. Interesting, but not conclusive, I’d say!

  2. December 2, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Regarding histamines found in the wine, all the treatments were allowed to undergo non-inoculated MLF. The histamine would probably come from strains of indigenous bacteria which contains histadine decarboxylase gene which was not evenly distributed in winery. It is unlikely the vineyard was the source of this bacteria differences due to high sulphite use in the initial stages of the experiment.

    As for the differences found between the treatments, it could be just crop level related. Since no vineyard data was presented (yield/picking dates/density picking/pruning weights) its hard to know if the differences are due to management or another factor. Yield is reported but only an average across year and not for each indvidual treatment in each season. Also the report states they were same technical ripeness, but good vineyard experimental design is to wait (even a few weeks) and harvest both treatments at the same sugar levels, and not pick on the same day. Many of the wine results just seem to be that the BD grapes in 2009 were less ripe

    • Becca
      December 2, 2014 at 5:52 pm

      Hi Tony! Thank you so much for your great comments! You added some very important details to what I had touched on in the summary post, and you’re right—it’s difficult to know for sure what is going on without more vineyard/harvest data.

      Thank you, also, for adding some clarification to my histamine question—very helpful! Cheers!

  3. Scott Vin
    December 2, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    No mention is made of the parameters used to determine when the fruit was picked (date, Brix, phenolic content, etc.). Any difference in alcohol content, such as the one that was observed, is primarily due to the amount of glucose+fructose present in the grapes when picking (or due to unintended differences in fermentation techniques and temperatures that cause alcohol to volatilize more rapidly). Without some solid picking parameters, it’s hard to compare biodynamic versus organic treatments on any meaningful basis – if the sugar content, which is largely a function of time (within normal harvest windows), of the fruit varied from treatment to treatment, it’s a pretty good bet that many of the other compounds analyzed are different from treatment to treatment due to the physiological stage of the fruit at harvest.The big question that arises: are the differences found due to the two treatments (biodynamic versus organic) or because grapes from the two treatments were picked at two different places in their physiological development?

    • Becca
      December 2, 2014 at 5:53 pm

      I’d say you’re spot on, Scott! It is really tough to know what exactly is going on without more information, and frankly, a lot more replication. Perhaps this study will spawn other researchers to do a more in-depth analysis.

      Thank you for your insightful comments! Cheers!

  4. Terry S
    December 2, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    I have been managing my certified organic vineyard for 11 years and have been applying BD preps for the last 4.
    I don’t have any hard evidence to publish a study as to any differences and truly that is not why I farm this way. The motivation comes from a desire to make the land and plants healthier and better able to handle their environment. Also to make wine that truly expresses the site, good or bad( I know , not necessarily good business model). I believe either of these farming methods do that and will let the experts determine the sensory implications.
    Bottom line, farming these ways gets the Farmer in the vineyard more and that is a very good thing

    • Becca
      December 2, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      You’re right Terry—I would imagine most, if not all, farmers practicing organic or BD methods are doing it for any sensory benefit per se. It’s all about what the methods represent and how that makes farming closer to the goal of greater sustainability. Cheers!

  5. December 2, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    First of all, when you have small sample and then get a small effect – you probably have a false positive. You can rerun your tests until you get any results you wish. Bad science. Second, as a wine maker, I am nonplussed with your differences in alcohol levels. I see differences alcohol levels in barrels of wine from my same vineyard block. I can even resubmit the same samples to the lab and get different alcohol levels. But my fundamental issue is the respect you give to an authoritarian and mystical farming system created within the racist and occult meanderings of a deluded Rudolf Steiner who died in 1925 as if it were based on some scientific foundation. Remember, biodynamics was created by séance. It is made up of magical beliefs. It has no basis in reality, it was completely dreamed up by Steiner just like all of his seriously ridiculous writings. It has been the darling of some very unsavory creeps like the SS who set up biodynamic farms at Dachau concentration camp to the Golden Dawn ultra rightists to Jorian Jenks the organic farmer and nasty fascist to pathetic Nicholas Kollerstrom the holocaust denier and believer in crop circles. A more interesting article might deal with the truly stupid things Steiner said and the ugly anti humanist history where this lunacy derives. Blavatsky and her follower Steiner made up things that the naive take as gospel. Studying Steiner is like studying Nostradamus.

    • Becca
      December 2, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      You’re completely right about the small sample size/small effect/false positive issue, John. I’d briefly mentioned something along those lines toward the end in the “thoughts” section of the piece, but probably didn’t highlight it as much as I could have.

      I think this study is more pilot study style, and that hopefully others interested in the topic will do a more in-depth analysis with a much greater sample size (and overall more solid methods).

      Your musings on the history of biodynamic farms were certainly a jolt to me and something I’ll need to look into further to truly understand. Perhaps the researchers of the study I summarized weren’t aware of these darker origins either! I can’t comment on this at all, but would love it if someone else with more knowledge on that side of history would chime in and debate this!

      Thank you for commenting, John! Cheers!

      • December 3, 2014 at 10:13 am

        Hello Becca!
        I’m glad to be writing about biodynamics. And that’s good. What I noticed in that at experiments in Italy. It is possible that they created their own biodynamic preparations. What actually in their nature were not well made. If they took the biodynamic preparations from a pro, the difference would be safe there in a positive way because I experienced it myself.

        I would compare this with that. Example: Researchers want to see that which composition is better on the violin (vineyard) and want to conclude that is good complicated compositions by Mozart (biodynamic), or with a little primitive tones (organic).
        Amateurs in this area of playing struggling with Mozart’s composition, violin just squawk! Attempt with a simple and conclude that there is harmony there is so and benefits. Mozart sucks for them.

        To take a true professional man that tool in the hands (biodynamic) and made excellent preparations would be very positive in a higher percentage above organic that they observed in the experiment.

        The physiognomy of the vineyard and soil and grass visually even see the difference very much. I saw in France in Burgundy in organic vineyard where the man first skeptical sprayed with 500 in 4 rows of vineyards after year the day was shocked results and immediately decided to move on biodynamics, and that the wine not to speak of!

        The only professionals who are dealing with it for years and supplying hundreds most winemakers and worldwide with its their bio-dynamic preparations are son and father Vincent and Pierre MASSON in Burgudny (French winemakers and others are the largest users of their preparations because of high quality). Biodynamic preparations are the most delicate and very sensitive to electrical waves, if you expose them, effectiveness stops.(cellphones, el. cabels) That is why the making and storing just delicate, since it requires experience, skill and knowledge.

        What strikes me and it always what people do not know and it’s new to them.
        Our grandparents was new and strange radio waves and electricity and considered it evil, magic, esoteric. Energy is everywhere. Each of us radiates energy and the non-life case, a certainly space where biodynamics takes energy through waves. Every physicist knows or one who has a knowledge of physics. We would “should” call sorcerers and magicians Newton, Einstein etc. because they set theory laws “nonsense” ?! NO!

        Biodynamics is NOT esoteric, not magic, not negative and not holistic. It’s real!

        Scientific measurements and the development of preparations of biodinamics made long long before the years, under the leadership of Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer and Lilly Colisko I put a link on the bottom of their biographies at their institutes which are named after them. People should know most about them and not about the founder Steiner. lila-Kolískova /

        As for the connection with the Nazis with Rudolf Steiner. His books were opposed to Nazi doctrine, so they burned at “Nazi book burnings” in 1933. In 1921, Adolf Hitler attacked Steiner on many fronts, including accusations that he was a tool of the Jews, while other nationalist extremists in Germany called for a “war against Steiner”.
        The fact that someone is a fascist and an individual and used Biodynamics has no clue that biodynamics is bad reputation. Like the criminal who goes to church, that the church is bad.

        As for the Theosophy and Blavatsky. Steiner was the theosophists but up to the moment when he realized where it is and where it leads. In wrong way.

        Rudolf Steiner’s many ideas and knowledge is taken from the German writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It was his role model.

        I still have a lot to say and explain. Funny how someone so quickly and thoughtlessly points a finger in without checking the veracity of the events but takes gossip from someone as a true statement.

        THANK YOU!

        • December 3, 2014 at 1:46 pm

          I want to be corrected. The fact that someone is a fascist and as individual used biodynamics, some people without thinking will think that biodynamics is bad, if bad people used something good for health, knowlege, etc.

          Like the criminal who goes to church, that the church is bad. That is not true.

  6. Mario Plazio
    December 3, 2014 at 5:43 am

    Great article Becca. I am a wine professional and member of the wine association VinNatur in Italy. You can hav a look at our website. I shall read with more attention your article. I would say that every study trying to make clear about conventional Vs Bio or Biodynamic is very welcome. We are working with some scientists to analize the wines, the soils and the products used both in the vineyard and in the cellar. It is also our interest to understand what is really happening in the wine when you use non-conventional methods. The great problem in this study is that biodynamic growers adopt many different approaches to their wines, and this is making any comparison very difficult. Just think about the use of sulfites. You have people using no sulfites, other that use SO2 before fermentation and before bottling, other only before bottling. And the amount changes a lot. So we need to take every study into great consideration but the effect of biodynamic in wines is much more complex.
    Mario Plazio

  7. Toni Čegec
    December 3, 2014 at 10:20 am

    How post comment? Comment are nor reciving in this site. Thank in advanse

    • Becca
      December 3, 2014 at 10:29 am

      Comments go through an approval process, so when you comment there will often be a delay from when you enter the comment and when it is posted. Cheers!

  8. December 3, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Yes, the wine industry is a marketing machine, it is not interested in discovering that Rudolf Steiner comes from the same source as Elizabeth Claire Profit and her Universal and Triumphant Church. This is the true history that biodynamic farmers and sommoliers remain in denial and who I doubt are on the same page as The Great White Brotherhood that Steiner acknowledged. Biodynamics does not make sense if it is separated from the Steiner’s Etheric energy and the evolution of the supremacy of the white race which is the driving force behind the alleged efficacy of biodynamics. These are intellectual ruins of a past age.

    • Toni Ledinski
      December 3, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Excuse me where you got this nonsense, it seems to me you are very resented biodinamics. What do you usually do business John?

  9. Hiroshi Corpora
    December 4, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I have a feeling john may be pretty off base claiming that the nazis and ss are solely responsible for the ideas of biodynamic agriculture. Biodynamic ideals have been practiced long before the nazis and modern white supremecy. Think of the incas, Egyptians, native Americans who all used solar and lunar cycles to determine planting dates, racking dates, bottling dates, harvesting dates, etc. the logic has existed many years before Steiner it just was never put in a book and given a name. There is no doubt that doing certain things at the right time based on natural cycles of the world, a better result can be achieved. Are the ideas of burying fermented dung in horn of bull outrageous? Maybe , but it is not outrageous to ferment your compost with lime and calcium over the winter and apply it In spring with a better result than simply applying it and tilling it into the ground. My thought, and it is just a thought, is that biodynamics evolved out of the most ancient ideals of agriculture and modern scientists and farmers are discovering today that the effects of it are still relevant and that perhaps it is possible for us to work smarter with respect to biodynamics and therefore work less with harmful chemical inputs that we are taught by chemical companies that we need.

  10. December 4, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Hi Toni, thank you for asking about what I do. I have the only LEED Certified winery in Santa Barbara, and all of my vineyards have been certified sustainable by SIP since the inception of that certified sustainable farming system. I operate a static aerated compost facility making all of my compost from livestock living on my vineyard. I use bioremediation islands to remove heavy metals and excess nutrients from my irrigation reservoir. My vineyard and winery are solar powered. All of the lights in my winery are LED plus we use natural light through solar tubes to light our underground barrel room.

  11. December 4, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Dear Hiroshi,

    You are sadly mistaken if you believe these biodynamic magic potions have an ancient pedigree. They do not. I have searched for evidence of this for years. Steiner’s biodynamic ideas were created in 1924, during the same week that Steiner was conversing with General Moltke, the German general who led Germany into WW1. Interesting, Moltke was deceased during those 1924 conversations – you see – Steiner communicated with dead people when he wasn’t fabrication preparations or claiming Jesus lived on the Sun etcetera ad nauseum.The preparation 500-508 were fabricated by Steiner during one of his séances. It might interest you that one of Steiner’s Theosophy associates created the idea of the power of crystals ( Charles Leadbeatter) around 1900. These are recent ideas, not ancient. Note that many of Steiner’s followers and Anthroposophical leaders including Steiner’s wife were supporters of National Socialism, but Steiner’s mystical ideas of the evolution of white race supremacy laid philosophical foundation stones for the movement (and continues to do so) but Steiner was not a party member, remember he died in 1925. Yes, a biodynamic garden was planned for Adolph Hitler, and Hitler’s graced the cover of Demeter magazine, but no the SS were not solely responsible for the spread of biodynamics. Basically, the preparations were created out of thin air in 1924 by Steiner upon request of his followers. You see, Steiner was thought to have access to all knowledge past present and future. It’s humorous that you also seem to agree to Steiner’s infallibility.

  12. Hiroshi Corpora
    December 4, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Actually I agree with you regards to much of what you are saying regarding the “magic potions”. What I refer to with regard to biodynamics is the integration of what civilization knows about the cycles of the universe and farming. I will level with you and tell you I have read nothing written by Steiner nor researched him. All I am saying is biodynamic agriculture and oenology was relevant and practiced long before the strict guidliness and definitions set out by your apparently preferred race of Caucasian, the German. Much of what is described in biodynamics was practiced before we had access to the chemical laboratories we have today. No one called it biodynamics…they called it farming. Or perhaps I am just mistaken about how I define biodynamics. Apologies if I am.
    also congrats to you for having made such wonderful investments in your facility. We need to see more of that. Have you considered dry farming and doing away with that evil irrigation?

  13. December 4, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Hi Hiroshi, Biodynamics fundamentally consists of Steiner’s preparations 500 to 508 and they have no basis in science and these never existed prior to 1924. Rather Steiner preparations are addressing Etheric Energy, something like The Ether, both concepts have been proven false and have been discarded, just ask Professor Stephen Hawking the theoretical physicist if you doubt my word on this. For example, the horn and antlers on cows and deer exist as antenas collecting the imaginary Etheric Energy. It’s a ridiculous concept that is contrary to Darwinian Evolution. Not surprising since Steiner did not believe in Darwinian Evolution. (He also wrote Einstein was wrong about relativity and Copernicus was wrong about the planets circling the Sun). So the basis for the preparations, Etheric Energy, is absolutely false. For this Itallian study, you might question their motivation. Are they Anthroposophists? Or just naive? If any of these preparations actually worked then there is a world wide market of over 200 million farmers who would use them in order to save several trillion dollars a year in needless expenditures on pesticides and fertilizers and the preparations would be the most important agricultural and scientific news since the inception of agriculture. You might think the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists and Greenpeace would be pressing for more BD studies. Their silence is deafening.

  14. Terry S
    December 5, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    As a person trained in the physical sciences (physics, engineering, oceanography) and spending a career in observational science I’m often asked how I rectify that background with my farming methods(which as a few have pointed out are based on things outside of our present knowledge base). It’s easy, I was trained to observe , not predetermine what is or should be happening. I’m happy to get off the lofty box of ‘we can’t prove it with present methods’ so it can’t be true. I also believe intent is powerful, the medical field observed it but can’t explain it. Yup im a wizard hat wearing farmer I guess. Ya know we( the human race) haven’t figured everything out yet….

  15. January 12, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Enjoyed reading about this study and ,indeed many of your reviews , Becca.
    I’m a scientist and a medical doctor who now owns a small Pinot noir vineyard in Tasmania.
    I agree entirely with the ideas of organic practice and preserving the health of our soils.
    I also entirely agree ,as someone who researched biodynamic principles before planting our vineyard,
    that biodynamics is simply mysticism dreamt up by a philosopher with no scientific interest or training.
    None of his claims were ever tested by him before he died- they were and to some extent still are, taken as articles of faith.
    He never actually engaged in any horticulture or agriculture – let alone vineyard management.
    If , as seems likely to me, the accidental inoculation of soils with organisms is a result of the cow manure in the cow horn “tea”. – it is actually an inefficient and haphazardly mystical way of creating an organically enriched and balanced soil.
    Far better to actually inoculate the new vines with multiple good myccorhiza at the time of planting. Far better to apply animal manures during the growing season. Use earthworm castings and their “tea” in fertigation as a way of promoting balance in the soil.

    BUT PLEASE none of this needs a stag’s bladder hanging in a yew tree ( yes ,another of Steiner’s preparations) or a particular sex of cow horn or mixing the tea in a countercyclical fashion 7 times – all imperative in Steiner’s world view).

    • Becca
      January 13, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      Thank you for reading and for your excellent comments, Geoff! I’m so excited to learn the different takes on this topic, as it’s something I’m hoping to get to the bottom of eventually!

      Oh, and I had to laugh when I read your comment about the stag’s bladder hanging in a yew tree (not unlike the photo on this post). It just created a rather silly image in my head and I had to chuckle!


  16. January 13, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    Hi Geoff-nice to see someone else dug into Steiner and his occult ideas. There is a lack of intellectual curiosity concerning Steiner, and this applies to the Academic Wino who seems quite ready to pander poorly done studies. We need to speak up concerning Steiner and his mysticism. The world does not need to associate with Steiner’s anti Semetic and Arian race hate. And agriculture should discard the waste of applying preparations Steiner dreamed up in 1924 and which have no historical basis, unless one believes in pseudosciences such as astrology and homeopathy. Why college educated people want to believe in magic says something terrible about the human condition. Please visit if you are ever in Santa Barbara CA.

    • Becca
      January 13, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      Hi John,

      Thank you for your comments! I have to say before we get too off-topic here, that all the study I was presenting here was doing was comparing sensory differences between biodynamic and organically grown grapes. I don’t believe I am a “college educated person who wants to believe in magic”. All I did was read a study about sensory differences between two treatments, and present the results that were found.

      It wasn’t the best study, and if you read my comments on it in the post, you see that I acknowledge that and explain why. I believe that people should be aware of all studies that are published in peer-reviewed journals, because often times they are technically paying for these studies in one way or another.

      I also never said I was uninterested in digging around deeper into Steiner’s work. In fact, I believe my first reply to one of your earlier comments was that I wasn’t aware about his work and that I found it something that deserved to be studied some more. I have had a lot of things going on in my life so I haven’t been able to give this issue the attention it deserves. It is something that I am working on, and I ask for patience in that.

      This whole comment thread has been very educational and I’m glad to have learned a bit more about that topic. Thank you for your contributions, as well as everyone else who provided a rebuttal.

      This is why this blog is here, is to generate respectful scientific discussion. I love it!



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