Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/619

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AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATIONS.

Our State and national governments have recognized the importance of agricultural education by founding the agricultural colleges, and in so doing they have done well; but, unless we are prepared to maintain that we know already all that we can or all that we need of the science of agriculture, the system needs, to complete it, such provision for increasing our knowledge in this direction as well-equipped experiment stations can furnish. Despite the great advances of agricultural science in the last thirty years, there is still a vast region to be explored; there are many errors to be corrected and partial views to be extended; and, unless the professors in our agricultural colleges have and impart to their students a sense of the extent of their ignorance and a thirst for more and fuller knowledge, their instruction will be largely fruitless. We must provide for teaching the teachers. As the colleges are now situated, it is in most cases practically impossible for the professors to undertake any extended experimental work. Agricultural experimentation, especially, demands both time and money, and usually no large amount of either is available for it. It is not a work that can be taken up at odd minutes, in the intervals of other occupations, with any hope of success. It must be followed as a business, and this it can be only in an institution maintained for this purposeā€”i. e., in an experiment station.

It would appear, then, that agricultural experiment stations are important agents in promoting the welfare of the agricultural classes, and through them that of the whole community. They may do this by repressing fraud or adulteration, and thus preventing pecuniary loss; or, by developing practical applications of scientific principles, and thus leading to pecuniary gain; or, last, but by no means least, by promoting the advancement of agricultural science and of sound agricultural education, and so contributing both to the physical and mental well-being of important classes in the community.

We emphasize this latter function of experiment stations, not with a desire to depreciate their other uses, which are highly important, but which are also sure of general appreciation, but because it is the one most likely to be overlooked, and because it seems to us the most important of all. Our experiment stations will doubtless continue to test fertilizers, seeds, etc., as they have done, and they will, in all likelihood, extend the scope and number of their field and feeding experiments. How far they will enter upon purely scientific work it is not so easy to foretell. Many, doubtless, will take it up to a small extent, if at all, finding their time and means fully occupied with other things. It must also depend largely on the public sentiment, particularly in the case of stations supported by the State, and it is perhaps questionable whether much but "practical" work can be expected from them. Private stations, of course, would be free from any limitations arising from lack of public appreciation, and, provided their means were adequate, might very appropriately devote them-