Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/872

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Lawes and Gilbert has been forty years in getting under way, and its most important results are still matters of hope and belong to the future. This is in accordance with the spirit and requirements of true scientific agriculture.

We have been led to these remarks by an examination of the pamphlet before us, which reports the initial steps of a new American attempt at scientific agriculture. Six hundred acres of Orange County land, named Houghton Farm, and owned by a wealthy manufacturer, Mr. Lawson Valentine, have been devoted by him to "a long cherished plan for doing something toward the progress of American agriculture." The proprietor resolved that to attain this object he would constitute "a scientific department devoted to agricultural investigation and experiment, and that such department be of the highest order"; and that "the farm operations be carried on in accordance with the best-known methods and under the best possible organization and management, with a view of educating and enlightening others by furnishing valuable examples and results in practical agriculture." A good deal of hard thinking and difficult work was here laid out for somebody, and very naturally Mr. Valentine, a business man, cast about for able help in carrying on his enterprise. He had the good fortune to secure the services of Dr. Manly Miles, of the Michigan Agricultural College, a man well prepared for original agricultural investigations, to take the direction of the farm experiments. It was proposed to attempt for Indian corn in this country what had been done for wheat by Lawes and Gilbert in England—that is, to carry its cultivation through a course of years on assigned plots of ground, for the purpose of determining the quality and quantity of the product with different fertilizers, different modes of treatment, etc. The pamphlet before us contains Dr. Miles's report on the work of 1880-'81. This report lays down the method to be pursued, and embodies the first results. It indicates the plans of drainage adopted, gives the previous history of the plots of ground, describes the selection of seed, and gives the carefully tabulated results from unmanured plots, plots treated with farm-yard manure, and a considerable number of the most important artificial fertilizers. The mechanical operations of culture arc carefully described, the peculiarities of the season recorded, and there is a minute description of the precautions taken to determine accurately the quantitative results of the matured crops. The main results, of course, assume a tabular numerical form, but Dr. Miles has also introduced very successfully the graphic method of conveying generalizations and comparisons to the eye by means of diagrams. There are all the indications in this report of intelligent, conscientious, painstaking, and persevering work. The document is undoubtedly valuable for the positive information it contains, although from the nature of the case the first results of such a trial-scries of experiments must have the lowest value of any terms of the series. Single experiments in agriculture are worth but little, and only become valuable as they are verified. Time and continued research are indispensable for the elimination of error.

No one can carefully examine this report without recognizing that the experiments were intelligently planned and thoroughly executed as far as they went, giving promise that by rigorously carrying out the system adopted still more valuable results will be attained. We have been informed that, when Dr. Miles undertook the work, he did so under the explicit condition that he should have charge of the experiments for at least a period of ten years, that time being indispensable to achieve anything worthy the name of a contribution to agricultural science. Yet, after a year of preparation, and two seasons of systematic work, presto, the director of experiments at Houghton Farm is found installed as professor in the Agricultural College at Amherst, Massachusetts. What there was about these initiative experiments on Indian corn which Mr. Valentine found unsatisfactory does not appear in the document before us; but we have heard that the director of experiments was complained of as "slow." This is probably because striking results did not come out fast enough to suit the enterprising proprietor; but, if so, it docs not augur well for the usefulness of Houghton Farm. That highest order of