Traditional cultures have always planted by the moon.
Since the earliest civilizations, farmers have meticulously observed the influence of the sun, moon, and planets on plants, animals, and humans. Traditionally, lunar rhythms were used in farming operations like tilling land, planting, and harvesting.
The science of astrology and astronomy was well known in the Indian subcontinent a few thousand years ago, much before the subject was understood in the Western world. The Romans were also intrigued by cosmic rhythms. Pliny (23-79 AD), a renowned naturalist, advised Roman farmers to harvest fruits for the market during the full moon so they would weigh more, and to pick fruits for storage on new moon days so they would last longer.
Similarly, in the traditional medical practices of India and China, medicinal plants are harvested only at specific times of the day or month.
In the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, astrology plays a very important role. The local newspapers have a section for astrology (zakar) listing auspicious days for activities such as home construction, marriage, and starting a business. Farmers adopting traditional farming practices follow the lunar rhythms, too.
Several research studies have shown changes in the photochemistry of plants due to variations in seasons, harvesting period, and circadian effect. In one study, renowned physicist and Nobel laureate Gerard Dorda used the concept of quantum Hall effect (QHE) to compute the effects of the moon’s gravity on the water in living organisms. He found a regular, reversible, rhythmic pattern of water in the cells that varied most during the new moon.
Investigations by Ernst Zürcher reported finding rhythmic variations in the umbrella tree in accordance with moon phases. He found significant differences in germination rates when seeds were sown during the full moon and new moon. The study also revealed that the speed of germination, rate of germination, and average height and growth rate of seedlings showed better results and larger seedlings if the seeds were sown before the full moon.
Several species of fish and insects synchronize their egg-laying period during the full moon. Many wild animals give birth to their young ones on a full moon day. These cannot be mere coincidences. The present scientific world may not accept the influence of cosmic rhythms on animal and plant life. However, they are instantly influenced by the sidereal and synodic relationships of the sun, earth, moon, and other planets.
For farmers, taking lunar cycles into account is a zero-cost input that can measurably increase the quantity and quality of produce and reduce pest attacks. Had these practices not shown results over time, they would have vanished long ago.
Traditional knowledge is not about turning the clock back. Rather, it contains practices and systems that have been replicated for millennia. In this sense, traditional knowledge exactly fits into the definition of scientific experimentation and points to the need to blend this ancient wisdom with modern science.
Dr. Thimmaiah is a new faculty member in the Sustainable Living Department of Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa. He has worked on projects in India, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Italy, and Costa Rica on low-cost sustainable agriculture. He will present a workshop on Biodynamic Agriculture on April 12, 2014..