Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/616

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that the principal cause leading to the establishment of such stations was the great and steadily increasing extent to which commercial fertilizers are used in American agriculture, and to the absolute necessity which was felt for some means of protecting consumers against fraud in these articles, which are of such a nature that even the grossest frauds can in most cases be detected only by chemical analysis. Consequently, most of these stations were and are, first and foremost, fertilizer control stations. They put at the service of every consumer of fertilizers in their respective States the skill of professional chemists by whose aid he may test the genuineness and value of the goods he proposes to purchase. A method has also been worked out (the principle being adopted from the German stations) by which the money value of a fertilizer may be calculated approximately from the results of analysis and the market pi-ices of a few standard materials. Most or all of the stations follow the custom of frequently publishing analyses and valuations of the fertilizers brought to their notice, or in some cases of all brands sold in the State, and the publicity thus insured proves an efficient and sufficient check to fraudulent practices. Of late, a growing interest has manifested itself in the chemical examination of cattle-foods and their rational use, and numerous analyses of fodders have been made, accompanied in a few cases by practical feeding-trials. Other work has also been done to a less extent, but it is safe to say that, after deducting the fertilizer and fodder analyses from the work of our stations, the residue would be comparatively inconsiderable.

It was quite natural that the activity of the stations should at first take this direction. The fertilizer question was an important one, involving large money interests, and, moreover, it offered a field in which quick and tangible returns were yielded for the money invested in a station. The most short-sighted could not fail to see that the suppression of fraud in articles whose aggregate sales amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars in single States annually was well worth the expenditure of a few thousand dollars for an experiment station. But the fertilizer question brought others in its train. Indeed, no small part of the benefit which our agriculture has derived from the introduction of commercial fertilizers has been entirely aside from the pecuniary advantage attending their use. They have aided in introducing definite ideas of what constitutes a fertilizer, and why. The habitual use of chemical analyses of fertilizers is rendering nitrogen, potash, and phosphoric acid almost as familiar terms as air, soil, and water, and thus is contributing in no small degree to the education of farmers. A knowledge of what fertilizers are has led to a demand for information as to how they act, and the most suitable method of using them, and the successes of science in this field have led to the inquiry whether the feeding of animals may not derive as much benefit from it as the feeding of plants. It would be difficult to-day to find an