We recently visited the wonderful Albury Vineyard (well known for their organic farming methods) to join in with the process of burying cow horns filled with manure. Sounds odd, right? Well, it’s very normal if you happen to follow biodynamic processes and has been used by vineyard owners since it was first popularised in the 1920’s.
The process of making biodynamic manure was the first of the organic agriculture movements and treats soil fertility, plant growth and livestock care as ecologically interrelated tasks. The process draws influence from spiritual and mystical practices harnessing the power of the moon and nature.
In short, following a biodynamic process involves using natural and organic alternatives to artificial chemicals on soil and plants. In addition to using manure and compost instead of chemicals, the biodynamic process is said to harvest cosmic forces in the soil, and Nick Wenman, owner of Albury Vineyard, explained to us the importance of using cow horns from female cows only. They also ideally need to be from cows who have given birth as the horn then grow rings, (signifying a previous pregnancy) as the horns carry biodynamic qualities necessary in this ritual.
These slight but important factors are well documented in biodynamics for their mystical qualities. Take a look at the Biodynamic Association website to gain a better insight into the mystic qualities of biodynamic farming.
“Biodynamics has metaphysical and spiritual roots that organics does not. Biodynamics thus embraces the mystery of all life processes, including the subtle and energetic realities that are not necessarily easy to measure or justify using current scientific methods.” – Biodynamic Association
At current, biodynamic techniques have been used on over 160,000 hectares globally, including Albury Vineyard, however in the UK Albury vineyard are just 1 of 7 currently harnessing the power of nature. We were invited to join Nick and his team to partake in preparing a substance used in next year’s field spraying. The substance is known as 500 and is made from the manure of pregnant cows. The manure is stuffed into cow horns and buried approximately 40-60 cm below the surface. It is important to bury it in the autumn to decompose over the winter months so the mystical powers of the moon can take effect on the substance.
During a long-term experiment, it was found that organic and biodynamic farming practices resulted in more enriched soil properties than conventional farming. The crop yields however are lower, but what is more important? The quantity of grapes produced, or working hand in hand with nature to ensure a product that is as natural and free from artificial chemicals as possible?
Nick and his team are committed to producing organic fruit without the use of chemicals such as herbicides and fungicides, and although copper and sulphur are permitted in organic vineyards, they minimise its use to ensure a premium fruit and great wine.
We are proud to serve such fantastic local produce and encourage you to take a visit to meet Nick and the Albury team. For more information on Albury vineyard, visit their website.