Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/375

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SELECTION IN GRAIN-GROWING.

it must be hereditary, and on this fact the whole argument for selected seed-grain rests.

Let it not be supposed, from what has been stated, that the use of artificial fertilizers is sought to be prejudiced. On the contrary, if improvement can be secured without them, it will be immensely greater when aided by them. But while the purchase of good seed of pedigree stock in small quantity, though the farmer bought it at six dollars (Major Hallett frequently obtains five), would be a very economical proceeding if he does not use more than two gallons, the cost of which would only be one dollar and a half per acre, whereas buying common seed at one dollar, and using two to three bushels, involves a greater outlay. Therefore, in proposing this reform, it will be seen that it does not mean spending more, but less, on seed. The weeding, if done properly, may cost two dollars per acre; and if, after this, the grower has any money to spend on fertilizers, let him invest by all means. As a general rule, it may be confidently asserted that what would be saved in the outlay for seed would pay the cost of horse-hoeing.

Considering how rapid is the improvement of the process of selection during the first five years, its effect on the wheat-crop of the country would be enormous. If we take 500,000,000 bushels of wheat as the present product (which is much less than it is), then doubling the crop and adding at the very least fifty per cent improvement in quality to the grain, we should obtain an increase of about $750,000,000, without bringing an additional acre into cultivation. I have not said much of the effect on the corn-crop, but on a crop of 1,750,000,000 bushels, at an average value of 38 cents, would, if but fifty per cent increase, in five years could be realized on 27·5, be astounding. Today, the area in corn is not less than 65,000,000 acres; 12·50 bushels increase, at 40 cents per bushel, would be five dollars an acre, or $325,000,000: $1,075,000,000 of additional food in the short space of five years would give a new impetus to the milling trade in this country, and the hog-business would grow with a rapidity out of all proportion to its past career. Neither steel nor electricity can promise anything so great in so short a time, and no reform accomplished in this century will be able to measure this one.

Who will be the first to carry out such a scheme? In the Washington Department of Agriculture and in several other parts of the country, pedigree cereals have been used, but the results have not been taken much advantage of. The experimentalists of the State College farming-stations are especially qualified to lead in so important a work. The time is not far distant when intensive rather than extensive culture must be the rule of American farming. Already, in the East and in the South, men are finding it pays better to cultivate 100 acres well than 300 acres carelessly. When the hunger for large areas abates, we may hope to see attention paid to better cultivation.