Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Biodynamic Plant Cultivation

This article on growing wine biodynamically explains one winemakers understanding and vision. A few highlights of the article are his analogy of fertilizer to salt; his opinion about plant cloning (don't think I agree with this one yet); and how the natural yeast growth on grapes is a sign of a healthy system.

These concepts would apply to any fruit, vegetable or ornamental plant.

Link is here.

10 comments:

Paul said...

A lot of what he says and does is absolutely correct. We have been trying some of this for years. A lot of our practices, grades, standards, type of pests, when and how we harvest, forced pruning practices because of government codes, etc, etc, don’t allow us to fully participate in such a program. We have found that a healthy mix of Old fashioned growing, organic growing, and biodynamics is the way for us. He is exactly right about healthy soil and when possible leaving predator insects alone. You do not build healthy soil with artificial chemicals. They will supplement the plant and give it a jump start but there is nothing better than building healthy well rounded soil naturally. It is the same as us eating food. Eat the right foods in the right portions at the right time and you don’t need vitamin supplements. Fertilizers (synthetics) is mostly mineral and has a lot of salt in it. It also causes the soluble salts already in the soil and the plant to build up in the plant. The plant has a very hard time purging it from its system. Organic fertilizer and most liquid fertilizers have very little salt and does not influence the plant to tie up more. It is easy to see when a plant has to much salt build up. The foliage will almost look burned in spots and it will get susceptible to disease. You can over spray chemicals and over fertilize. You get a condition in the plant called phyto toxicity. I could go on here and type a hundred pages. There is no 1 correct and perfect way to grow and I take great issue with anyone that says there is. It is a well balanced mixture of many varying styles by a person with an open mind taking into consideration what he is growing and where in the environment or climate he is growing it. That is what makes a great grower. That is my two cents!

Paul said...

One more thing in regards to his comments on plant cloning. I can not speak for wine or grapes but plant cloning has been around for about 20 years. We call it tissue culture and it has revolutionized our growing practices. Quality and uniformity have taken unprecedented leaps and bounds. I can not see where it would not have similar applications and benefits with grape vines. For him to dismiss it has absurd jeopardizes some of his credibility with me.

Sojka's Call said...

Regarding cloning, here is the excerpt from the article - "Other ideas that Joly expanded on included terroir and grape varieties. Different artists paint the same landscapes in different ways. It is the same with vines expressing terroir. This is why it is absurd to have created clones: the repetition of one specific vine a million times. Clones are a lie to the diversity that each specific vine expresses. Taking the best clone and producing millions of samples is absurd. This understanding of the best is absurd."

I can understand why he might say that cloning the same plant and then using it all over the country or world does not make sense. But, if you found a vine that worked perfectly with your specific micro-climate, why not clone it and use it there to maximize production, quality, and overall excellence? He does not elaborate on his "absurd" label and one is just left to conjecture that cloning is so against his cherished diversity that it seems absurd to him without giving it anymore thought. We could have an interesting discussion with Mr Joly on that subject.

Keith said...

I know you are the expert here Paul, but with regards to cloning I am not sure where long term cloning of the same vine can have a beneficial longterm effect. The problems with cloning of any organism are two fold: First cloning produces a large population of the same organism with all the positive aspects and characteristics, as well as the weaker aspects of that genetic recipe and a statistically greater likelihood that if those organisms reproduce a particular weakness is continued. Number two, you have effectively interupted the process of evolution and natural selection. Organisms potentially detrimental that cloned species don't stop their evolution and adaptation towards finding ways to exploit the plant. Eventually, they will find a way to break through the defense mechanisms since the clone is effectively frozen in evolutionary time. Then man has to intervene once again and update the genetic makeup of the clone to rebuild the defense. Viruses are very effective at this modification technique, which is why flu vaccines don't work from one flu season to the next. Bacteria modify at a slower rate, and natural antibodies typically pace or respond to keep up with the bacteria, provided the host survives. Question: do plants develop antigens to disease similar to animal organisms? Or do they strictly rely on statistical variation to achieve that result where the weak die out and only the disease resistant strains survive, ie barring any outside influence from man through chemicals etc.which certainly perpetuates the weak and makes that strain totally dependent on human intervention for success?

Paul said...

I think the traits you say could develop or more geared towards selective breeding. Like thoroughbreds or even in-breeding. Eventually they get weaker and the immune system breaks down. Cloning is supposed to only pass on the stronger or more desirable traits. You clone the stronger or more disease resistant. Selective breeding losses the edge that cloning could provide. I think?

Paul said...

One last thing on this. Cloning has not been around long enough to see if the same weaknesses that come from selective breeding will happen with clones. I am sure it’s possible. Nothing in nature is forever. All species with or with out mans intervention will eventually become extinct for one reason or another. Will cloning postpone that or accelerate it? The concept of cloning is to postpone it. Will it is the question. I have no hard answer here.

Sojka's Call said...

In response to Keith's question on whether plants develop an antigen, I think the answer is no. However, they do have a method for devloping immunity to invading bacteria. The full article can be found here http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091105143720.htm

To paraphrase, "A receptor molecule in the plant pairs with a specific molecule of the invading bacteria and the immune system defends against the invading disease-causing microbe."

Apparently, this research is very recent and scientists are just starting to understand plant immunity systems.

Mike R said...

Plant cloning has no apparent negative effects unless genetic information is left out for plants to fight certain diseases or pests. As far as that goes, new information can be intoduced to actually add defenses that weren't previously there. It is all a very complex issue.



As far as the issue of fertilizing and salt accumulation in the soil. There are other factors that affect these things discussed. Soil pH is one. pH directly influences the availability of some compounds to the plants such as Iron. pH adjustment in itself can cause salt buildup in soils. If you add a chemical base to an acid soil, you produce a salt. If you add an acid to a basic soil, salts are produced. The most effective way of adjusting soil pH is by using organic substances such as peat or shredded bark to lower the pH of a soil. A porous soil has the capability of allowing the flushing of salts by increased watering, but then you also leach out the nutrients you are trying to maintain in the soil. Therefore, it is a calculated process that is needed to maintain an ideal soil medium and there are many ways of do this. I have these issues with my bonsai collection and the different types of soils that I use.



Its an interesting road to travel to find the ultimate mix of organic/inorganic components to make the supreme bedding for the various plant types. I find it challenging and fun.

Mike R said...

Mutations are one of the evolutionary tools. A plant that is so called perfected by man's cloning may mutate into something completely different either better or worse. In the worse senerio, extinction could be the end result.

Paul said...

And what I was originally saying here that most clones are from when a species has a mutation that is desirable we clone it. Remember our golf course days Mike? 419 Bermuda grass on the fairways was a mutation of common Bermuda. 328 Bermuda used on the tees and some greens was a mutation of 419. Tiff Dwarf which is used exclusively on the greens was a mutation of 328. 419 and 328 held it’s culture or clone well. We found that Tiff Dwarf was unstable and prone to bizarre mutations and very susceptible to all sorts of turf fungus. That was one that was taken too far. Some get better some get worse. That is why Agriculture is so interesting. It is ever changing.