Pourquoi et comment la biodynamie performe-t-elle vraiment ?

Why and how does biodynamics really work?

Why and how does biodynamics really work? Many debates, many so-called “scientific” works in support have sought to systematically demonstrate the superiority of the biodynamic system vis-à-vis the biological and of course the conventional. The vast majority, if not all, of the demonstrations of these performances by biodynamic tenors are generally based only on famous (smoky) observations. These observations are generally not accompanied (not to say systematically) by objective measurements within the framework of experimental protocols worthy of the name. Indeed, without wanting to launch into a detailed commentary on R. Steiner's Farmers' Course at the epistemic level, we are immediately struck by the strange mixture of genres that reigns there in terms of knowledge. There we first find numerous references to knowledge that could be described as peasant knowledge in the sense that they seem to refer to a tradition and a wisdom supposedly specific to this universe and linked to direct experience of the earth. Expressed in sayings or almanacs, this knowledge, for example that which concerns the taking into account of lunar cycles, is revalued by Steiner for their relevance and their direct relationship to the experience of nature, where science refers them in the sphere of superstitions. Steiner seems to constantly seek a direct relationship to “structures of nature” and reference is made on various occasions to an instinctive wisdom, to intuition, even to clairvoyance which would offer this much more direct relationship than science does. or books. A quote clearly illustrates this dichotomy between sensitive knowledge and intellectual knowledge: “Yes, the educated man says that the peasant is stupid but in reality, this is not true […] for the good reason that the peasant is in truth a man who meditates […]. The only thing he still lacks is being able to formulate this knowledge. It's suddenly there. We walk in the fields and suddenly we know. First you know, then you try. […] Ultimately, life and activity in nature are of such a subtle essence that they pass through the coarse mesh of intellectual concepts. This is the mistake that modern science has made. » The criticism of science in the “Farmers’ Course” is therefore recurrent and profound. But it essentially concerns specific elements of the scientific framework, reductionism, the relationship too far from the empirical but above all, extreme materialism. It cannot mean a wholesale rejection by Steiner who, on the contrary, claims a certain scientificity. Even if he mainly studied philosophy, a discipline on which he based his reflections on the nature of knowledge and the relationship to science, Steiner also seems to have a deep scientific culture at the time. However, he graduated from one of the oldest and most prestigious Austrian engineering schools, the Vienna Technical School, and was passionate about contemporary natural sciences, in particular the work of Ernst Haeckel, one of the fathers of scientific ecology, and Darwin. This state of affairs is the origin of the frequent mistrust towards the biodynamic approach. What if “hard and materialist science” could explain certain performances of biodynamics? Various works have of course been carried out to compare the agronomic performances of biodynamics (https://www.bio-dynamie.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/L%E2%80%99agriculture-biodynamic-une- synth%C3%A8se-scientifique.pdf), but unfortunately the vast majority of protocols vary many parameters simultaneously which often prevents them from being seriously conclusive... There are numerous observations and feedback on better resistance of biodynamic vineyards to parasites such as downy mildew (Plasmopara viticola), powdery mildew (Unicinula necator) and gray rot (Botrytis cinerea), the most common fungi. common vine parasites. Likewise, resistance to abiotic stress (thermal and water), an important element of the resilience of the vineyard and the quality of its production, is considered more important in biodynamics. Besides the various non-proof of effectiveness of biodynamic preparations associated with copper and sulfur, there are various scientific works comparing the performances of classical viticulture using chemical pharmacopoeia compared to biological (copper and sulfur exclusively) or biodynamic (preparation 500 and 501 required, herbal teas and associated decoctions to reduce cumulative copper doses). Several of these works (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-35305-7; https://oeno-one.eu/article/view/2470). have recently made it possible to demonstrate and quantify the impact of biodynamic management on the levels of natural defenses of the vine by showing that it could significantly and notably increase the level of these defenses and therefore the quality of its resistance to biotic stress or abiotic. The interpretation of this better performance is often directly associated with a different expression of vigor and more limited production, often debilitating factors in conventional viticulture, but not always. Thus, we cannot yet conclude on the origin of the stimulation of the vine response. It could simply be due to permanent stress and quite simply more intense in biodynamics, a situation naturally inducing a greater synthesis of stress resistance factors...Nevertheless, we can say that it works; at least when pathogen pressure is not excessively high. But are these the dynamism and preparations that are really at work? In any case, it must be recognized that the combination of biodynamic preparations has the advantage over simple organic farming of being able to more easily reduce the cumulative doses of copper without using more undesirable synthetic organic molecules. Among the various biodynamic preparations known to activate the metabolism of the plant, silicon is involved in several of them: in horn silica (501) firstly, but also in horsetail or dandelion herbal teas. If we stick to the anthroposophical interpretation, the influences of solar and cosmic energies are diffused by silica in their respective qualities directly or indirectly in the plant. Silica connects the plant with the cosmos by associating with light and heat and transmits the activity of the forming forces of the fixed stars and the supra-solar planets (Mars, Jupiter and Saturn). Materialist science shows that silicon is an important element for plants, particularly in their growth, their mechanical solidity, their mineral nutrition and their resistance in a difficult environment and in the face of diseases and parasites (https://soin-de-la- terre.org/wp-content/uploads/Silicium-l%c3%a9l%c3%a9ment-longtemps-oubli%c3%a9-des-plantes-terrestres-_Jean-Georges-Barth.pdf; https://www. researchgate.net/publication/5924551_Silica_in_Plants_Biological_Biochemical_and_Chemical_Studies; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC42876/pdf/pnas01532-0027.pdf). Indeed, at high concentrations in the culture medium, silicon favorably influences the growth of a plant. In addition, through its accumulation in plant walls, silica increases their stability and structural robustness, making it possible to maintain an erect habit and a leaf arrangement favorable to light capture and therefore photosynthesis. Root metabolism activity is also improved by sufficient silica content. From a nutritional point of view, silica helps reduce imbalances and modify the absorption of nutrients from the environment and the transport by plants of certain essential elements (Ca, P, K, Mg). Then, silicon intervenes in the health state of the plants. The accumulation of silicon in plant walls, greater in an enriched environment, acts against the penetration of insect and fungal pathogens. This positive role regarding resistance to pathogens, particularly for grapes, is also observed during foliar application of silica. The natural defenses triggered or stimulated by silicon thus make it possible to mitigate the effects of abiotic stress (heavy metal toxicity, drought, excess water, wind, extreme temperatures and salinity) and biotic stress (insects, herbivores, nematodes, fungi, bacteria and viruses). Apart from a more erect habit and a higher content of chlorophyll (and simultaneously in flavone markers of reaction to stress) of vines treated with 501, hard science does not explain what biodynamicists clamor for, namely " the light effect” of silica…What if they were right? Quartz corresponds to crystallized silicon dioxide which, in an extremely divided state and placed on the surface of the foliage, could have the properties of photonic crystals. Photonic crystals are nanoscopic structures that modify the propagation of electromagnetic waves. These structures, analogous to semiconductors in solid-state physics, present frequency bands prohibited to the propagation of light. They are called photonics because they interact with the visible light scales (400 nm to 700 nm). We are talking here about “physical color”, in the sense that there is not a pigment responsible for the coloring but a color which results from a phenomenon of light interference. Thus a photonic crystal changes color depending on the index of the environment in which it is observed. Opal is the best known of the natural mineral photonic crystals. Hydrous silicon dioxide (or silica gel), opal is distinguished from the minerals of other quartz groups by a crystalline structure that is always amorphous. There are also purely biological structures with the same properties. In tropical regions, plants living under the canopy are subject to particularly unfavorable light conditions. The plants on the upper floors having captured most of the solar light, mainly in the red and blue radiations, the undergrowth plants only have a small quantity of light left, mainly in the green wavelengths. How can photosynthesis be carried out under these conditions? Certain members of the Begonia genus have original structures for this: iridoplasts. Begonias are plants typical of the dimly lit undergrowth of tropical forests. Iridoplasts, located in the epidermis of Begonia leaves, are modified chloroplasts where the granums have a regular spacing of 170 ± 20 nm. The granums of an iridoplast are made up of a constant number of thylakoids, three on average. This periodic arrangement of granums gives iridoplasts the properties of a photonic crystal (https://planet-vie.ens.fr/thematiques/cellules-et-molecules/biophysique/les-iridoplastes-ces-chloroplastes-iridescents). At the macroscopic level, this results in the iridescence of Begonia leaves, which have a variable blue color depending on the angle of observation. At the microscopic level, iridescence is due to interference phenomena. These interferences are responsible for a decrease in the absorption of blue wavelengths (destructive interference) but an increase in the absorption of green and red wavelengths (constructive interference) by the plant. The particular structure of iridoplasts thus makes it possible to promote photosynthesis by increasing the capture of light at green wavelengths available in shaded environments on the one hand and by increasing the quantum yield of photosynthesis by 5 to 10% in low light conditions. brightness on the other hand. Even if other studies remain to be carried out to demonstrate it, iridoplasts could therefore constitute a selective advantage for plants which have them by boosting their metabolism. The modified characteristics of the foliage of vineyards treated with preparation 501, in their appearance first (iridescent) and then in their performance (chorophyll content, photosynthetic activity), could therefore perhaps be explained by the electromagnetic interactions of the pulverized silica rather than by the “ethereal spirit” of anthroposophic “elemental beings”? In any case, this is a promising avenue to explore. Another very interesting characteristic in biodynamics concerns the biodiversity and functionalities of the vineyard microbiota. Agroecosystems are natural systems managed by humans but remain subject to general ecological rules. The microbiota of the soil and the rhizosphere significantly influences the relationships between the vine and its environment. Modern genome sequencing techniques (metagenetics and metageomics) now provide access to knowledge of this complex microbiota in an unprecedented way (https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.12.983650). Thus, microbial communities were observed to range from random arrangements to highly integrated networks with different levels of functional specialization in each niche. Low-intervention farming practices, that is to say from organic to biodynamic approaches and above all non-tillage, thus promote densely grouped microbiological networks (bacteria and fungi). This describes a state of equilibrium based on mixed (generalist-collaborative) communities. In contrast, in conventionally managed vineyards, we observe highly modular, niche-specialized communities with a higher degree of selection and co-exclusion that are more sensitive to the stresses of their environment. Geographical differences in the nature and taxonomic complexity of these microbial networks exist and are notably influenced by the abiotic characteristics of the sites, in particular their degree of drought, but the organizational differences between management systems described remain the same regardless of the location. . Thus, more densely grouped and collaborative networks such as those classically observed in organic and even more biodynamic viticulture, are deemed more resilient and likely to confer better resistance to abiotic and potentially biotic stresses. These observations can be extended to ecto or endophytic mycorrhizae, which are particularly important in the phosphate diet and the restriction to water stress of the plant, notably negatively affected by the intensification of agriculture (https://doi.org/ 10.1038/s41396-019-0383-2). At this stage we still do not know the reason for these results. Is this mainly the result of preparations and dynamized composts or their combination often with not working the soil, or the combination of all this under the influence of the stars? There is still a lot of work to be done if we seek to fully understand these results in order to better reproduce them and adapt them to various situations. The fact remains that what has just been shown here is particularly exciting; the infamous reductionist and materialist science could bring a little more grist to the mill of biodynamics than the dogmatic principles of Steiner which provide no real explanatory mechanism and only call for the faith of those who want to believe. Once again, a good idea does not need bad arguments to be defended.
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