Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/368

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

SELECTION IN GRAIN-GROWING.
By JAMES CHEESMAN.

THE principle of selection has long been appreciated by stock-breeders, and they have largely profited by the application of its teachings. As applied to the growth of cereals it has not found a very wide acceptance, not having had time to force itself on the attention of the average farmer. The founder of the practice of selecting grain for seed is Major Hallett, F. L. S., Brighton, England. In 1861 he planted ten grains of wheat, from a variety known there as Bellevue Talavera wheat, which up to that time had been sown as a spring wheat, and was declared to be quite incapable of withstanding the frost of winter. Nine of the ten plants from these grains were killed by the severe frost, but the other plant, although from the same ear, remained as healthy and vigorous as any of the winter varieties of wheat by their side. From this surviving plant seed has been selected and grown year after year as a winter wheat. Close observation shows that in the cereals, as throughout nature, no two plants or grains are exactly alike in productive power, and hence that of any two or greater number of grains or plants one is always superior to all the others, although the superiority can only be ascertained by actual field tests. It may consist in several particular characteristics, as power to with-stand frost; prolificness; size and character of ear; size, form, quality and weight of grain; length and stiffness of straw; powers of tillering; rapidity of growth; and many others.

Throughout continued observations and experiments, extending over twenty years, the grower has found only three instances recorded in which there were two ears on a plant containing an equal number of grains, and one of these related to the Bellevue Talavera wheat, which must be considered quite exceptional as to variation. In both the other instances there was only a low stage of development, the equally finest two ears of each plant containing but 59 and 49 respectively. In every case where the plant presented an ear containing GO grains and upward the next best ear was of less contents than the finest one. In twenty such instances taken consecutively and without omission, and referring to seven varieties of wheat, the average difference between the contents of the first and second ears was seven and a half grains. The difference in four of these instances was only one grain, but in other four it amounted to from seventeen to nine-teen grains. The superior productive power of a grain over that of another may consist in a greater number of ears upon the plants it produces, or in their individually containing a greater number of grains.