Organic vs biodynamic – the effect on soil & grape quality

by | Feb 29, 2020 | South Africa Wine Scan

In this study, researchers wanted to determine the impact of conventional/integrated, organic and biodynamic viticultural practices on soil and vine phenology.

Project layout:

The study was done on a Riesling vineyard in Geisenheim, Germany. To measure soil quality, earthworm numbers and the activity of certain enzymes were used as indicators. As for the grapevines, vegetative and reproductive development, susceptibility to fungal diseases, grape composition and yield were assessed.


These are results from the first four years of a long term study:

  • Organic and biodynamic treatments showed better soil quality while yield and vegetative growth was lower compared to the integrated farming approach.
  • Because of the lower vegetative growth, the organic and biodynamic treatments had lower incidence of rot because of better bunch exposure and less compact bunches.
  • The morphology of the vines in the biodynamic and organic treatments as well as the improved soil health were deemed favourable for quality grapes.
  • The effect of biodynamic farming was even more pronounced than that of organic practices – the reasons for this is not well understood, but researchers believe that the answers lie in the mode-of-action of the biodynamic preparations. More research to get a better understanding of this could be beneficial.
  • Researchers also noted that producers could benefit from research about the effect of cover crops on root growth and nitrogen and water uptake of vines.

Significance of the study:

There is a growing interest in organic and biodynamic farming along with increased pressure from consumers to reduce pesticide applications. Research in this field to improve our understanding of these practices can aid producers to make the right decisions if they decide to transition to a different practice.


Meissner, G., Athmann, M. E., Fritz, J., Kauer, R., Stoll, M., & Schultz, H. R. (2019). Conversion to organic and biodynamic viticultural practices: impact on soil, grapevine development and grape quality. OENO One53(4).

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