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Planting by the Stars - Research

Across history and cultures planting by the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars has been the norm, with shadowy vestiges lurking in our modern Almanacs. The first calendar was probably written by Hesiod 800 years BC. There is much traditional lore, some still extant, and more recorded by the likes of Pliny the Elder in his massive History of Nature, Cato, and Bacon. Dr Rudolf Steiner inspired new work in 1924 via his lecture cycle called the 'Agriculture course'.

The most substantial work in the experimental tradition is the ongoing research begun by Maria Thun in 1952. It is her work which, though inspired by Dr Rudolf Steiner, departed from the few indications he gave, mainly based upon synodic cycles, to pursue her own empirical findings. She noticed the correspondence between the elemental assignment of the constellations (earth, water, air and warmth) and the four parts of the vegetable plants (root, leaf, flower and seed). Her publications can be found in the literature section of this site. This has been developed in many directions - such as the work of Hans Bruinsma in Holland, primarily with potatoes.

Before Maria Thun's research, other Steiner-inspired research was undertaken by Agnes Fyfe and Lili Kolisko. This concentrated on the phases of the moon (Synodic cycle) governed by the relative positions of the Sun, Moon and Earth.

Since Maria Thun's work was first published there have been supporters and detractors, 'popular' and more rigorously considered, who have made their own trials and evaluated her work. Several of these are available on the web.

Kollerstrom and Staudenmaier in 2001 reviewed both supportive and dismissive research and concluded their paper saying;

"In the 1990s, discussions in print of the biodynamic calendar in Europe, America and New Zealand, have alluded to the experiments conducted by Spiess as having tested the Thun-hypothesis and failed to replicate it (e.g., N.Z. Biodynamic Association 1989; Llewellyn, 1993). Enjoying widespread publicity, and published by the Forschungsring of the German biodynamic movement, the Spiess results have worked to discredit biodynamic calendars.

It appears, however, that although the experiments were well designed, this was not matched by a corresponding care in the data analysis. There were two other radish trials, which Spiess performed in 1979 and 1980, over 30-day periods, where in the first case yields increased by a factor of seven from start to finish of the experiment, and in the second case they more than doubled. But, in experiments conducted over only one month, containing such large seasonal trends within the data, it is unrealistic to expect low-amplitude sidereal rhythms to be detectable. The Dottenfelderhof farm near Frankfurt, where the trials were performed, is in a quite highly industrialized area of Germany, as could here be relevant.

While the Spiess sowing trials and methodology had commendable features, use of parabolic curves to model the seasonal trend was inappropriate, and the alternative here used of moving averages to model the seasonal trend gave Y2 element-means of considerably smaller standard deviations. Results published to-date suggest that the 'Thun-effect' is a testable and verifiable hypothesis. The current analyses endorse Spiess's general conclusion that 'lunar factors' may have a practical significance for agriculture."

Hartmut Spiess, mentioned in the conclusion quoted above, says in his paper, 'Lunar Rhythms and Plants':

Today it is known that there exist more than six hundred organisms which reveal a link to lunar rhythms either in their reproductive cycles or in their feeding habits. All scientifically proven cases show a dependency upon the rhythms of the synodic moon or the cycles of the tides, which are governed by the moon. The following plants, for example, respond in their metabolism to the lunar synodical rhythm and are mentioned in the literature: germination and water uptake in beans; root growth in beans and sunflowers; respiration in potatoes, carrots, and sunflowers; growth rate in cress and various wild plants; absorption of nutrients in Sudan grass and corn; DNA formation in potatoes and formation of cytokinin in seaweeds (literature survey: Spiess, 1994; Endres and Schad, 1997). Recent findings show an effect of lunar rhythms on the germination and rate of growth of tropical trees. The percentage of germination and successive rate of growth were highest when seeding took place two days before full moon (Zuercher, 1998). Furthermore, the magazine Nature published observations which showed that tree trunks expanded and contracted in conjunction with the cycles of the tides (Zuercher et al, 1998.) ....

.... Scientific Investigations of Moon Calendars

In the 1970s and 1980s several Ph.D. dissertations in Germany and Switzerland, as well as results of experiments made in Austria became available on the effects of the moon-zodiac trigons. In the majority of cases an influence upon plant growth could not be verified (see Spiess, 1994). The latest results addressing these issues come from the Institute for Biodynamic Research. (Ext link) Systematically controlled seeding experiments over several years were undertaken at the Demeter-certified Dottenfelder Hof in Bad Vilbel under varying experimental conditions, using five different plant varieties with the intent to study the effects of lunar rhythms on the growth and quality of the selected plants (see Spiess, 1994). The plants clearly responded to primary growth factors, such as changing warmth, moisture, and length of day during the course of the year. The effect of lunar rhythms in these comparisons, lasting over several years, could only be detected after a trend adjustment of the results by way of polynomial regressions. The findings in general could not confirm the advice given in the Thun calendar Working with the Stars. On the other hand, it was definitely shown that crop species responded to the moon rhythms in different ways."

One can also learn from related investigations; Laurence Edward's (ext. link) painstaking research (The Vortex of Life, Lawrence Edwards, Floris Press, Edinburgh 1993) emerged from an understanding of projective geometry (Projective Geometry by Lawrence Edwards, Rudolf Steiner Institute, Phoenixville 1985). Edwards wanted to see if Nature produces geometrically precise forms. An early finding was that Mother Nature certainly was not slapdash in her creation of, for example, eggs and buds. Pursuing this, Edwards found that certain parameters in the form of such 'path curves' varied over time whilst remaining faithful to the basic geometry. Plotting the variation of this parameter over time for individual buds produced a graph which revealed a statistically significant correspondence with the relative positions of Earth Moon and one other planet. (Which planet depended on the species being measured.) The phenomenon was a rhythmical elongation and relaxation of the buds during winter, like a dance with the heavens.

Dennis Klocek (Ext link) has found that he can anticipate long-term weather patterns, particularly indicative of droughts and floods. The meridional flow of troughs and ridges of pressure, which bring equatorial weather towards the poles and polar weather towards the tropics, correspond to planetary alignments, and are principally related to a terrestrial projection of the lunar nodes. From these points Klocek uses Kepler's work on harmonics (45 degree and 72 degree) to plot intersecting 'jet curves' which reveal the crucial sites. He is predicting a serious drought in the USA in summer 2007. Let's see!

The following (and, indeed, much of the hard work of finding the research on this subject) I have taken, with permission and gratefully, from the Planting by the Moon 2000, calendar by Nick Kollerstrom;

  • Sir Jagadis Chandra Bose (1858-1937) studied the sensitivity of plants to minute levels of energy amassing much evidence of responses to subtle stimuli.
  • Bradley et al and Addreley et al reported the results of 50 years of rain fall analysis in the same 1962 issue of Science. in contrast to the tides which peak a day after new and full moons, rain fall peaks 2-3 days later.
  • The Earth's magnetic field, protecting us from the Solar winds, pulsates to the monthly rhythm. It is strongest in the days following New Moon. Bose showed the attunement of animals to these fields as demonstrated by their growth and direction of flight. Birds use magnetic field lines and star constellations for their migration.
  • Thunderstorms peaked two days after full moon, and sharply decreased after new Moon. (Analysis of 23 years of US weather stations records.)
  • In contrast hurricanes and typhoons were 20% more likely to occur after both new and full moons.
  • The former editor of the New Scientist, Dr Bernard Dixon concluded that,'There seems little doubt that the lunar cycle influences the life processes of plants.'
  • Padua university demonstrated that growth as well as germination reflects the synodic cycle. Giogio Abrami measured stem lengths of various species, and applied corrections for daily temperature differences.
  • North-western University in Illinois demonstrated 35% higher water absorption in beans just before full Moon compared to new Moon. Confirmation of this was attested by Dr Jane Panzer of Tulane University. Interestingly these remained in a diminished form if the pinto beans were sterilised, and further diminished by pasteurisation. Germination also showed this monthly rhythm in her studies .
  • Dr Harry Rounds at Wichita State University noted sharp falls in stress hormones in men and mice (!) at full and new Moon. Potency changes in similar cardio accelerator plant extracts were found at the same periods.
  • DNA structures were found using X ray analysis at the University of Paris to change over the synodic cycle. A carbohydrate storage structure was more developed at new moon and a flowering and growth structure was emphasised at full moon.
  • Over a million hours of potato oxygen-absorption (proportional to metabolism) was monitored by Professor Frank Brown. Potatoes and carrots were kept in the dark in controlled temperature, moisture and pressure. The daily maxima were at the Moons rising and culmination, and waxed and waned with the synodic cycle.
  • T.M Lai observed potassium and phosphorus absorption by corn seedlings. Phosphorus (root nourishing and acidic) was absorbed maximally at full Moon and minimally at new Moon. Potassium (flowers mainly and alkali) were absorbed minimally at full Moon and maximally at new Moon.
  • Harold Burr at Yale University School of Medicine recorded the electrical potential in tree trunks. He found that fluctuations were the same for all trees in a large area, and these were unrelated to changes in the atmospheric pressure, humidity or weather. For 9 years he then monitored a single Beech and showed the synodic rhythm peaking at full and new Moons. This rhythm was complemented by a weaker sunspot response.
  • M Oehmke in Frankfurt installed counters on beehives. Traffic increased 100% at new Moon compared to full Moon.
  • At Lyons University, DR E Graviou showed that even apparently dormant tomato seeds use some respiratory oxygen in controlled light and temperature. the Maxima were at new and full Moon.
  • The average length of the female human menstrual cycle in 29.5 days. The most common is around but 27 days but, overall, the mean is indistinguishable from the synodic month. The average human gestation from conception to birth is 266 days, exactly 9 synodic months.
  • Pliny told his audience to geld hogs, steers, rams, and kids with Moon is waning.
  • US studies of 1000 operations in one hospital. For all those which had bleeding complications he noted the Moon's phase. Full Moon complications were 400% more than new Moon ones. Doctors in one German hospital will not perform elective surgery at full Moon!
  • Kollerstrom (Ext link) analysed 14 years of race horse first 'coverings' (aka synods or matings). Success clearly peaks at full Moon, around 10% higher than new Moon.
  • Kollerstom reports the anecdotal experience of an Australian company's tomato harvest which peaks two or three days before and after full Moon. These tomatoes are fuller in colour irrespective of the weather in the preceding periods.
  • South American timber is given a moon stamp with the phase of the moon at which the timber was felled. Waning Moon timber preserves better and cuts more easily than waxing Moon timber. French law from 1669 until the Revolution required timber only be felled in a waning Moon.
  • Podolinski considers the hay to benefit from the same phase.
  • Even Aquarium trout reach peak weight just before Full and New Moon. Zoologists at the University of California noted that Salmon swim down river at new Moon to avoid predation - apart presumably from those informed by the University.
  • There is much more - see the literature if this is not enough.

If any of you have related work we would like to compare notes.


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