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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/165

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153
UNITED STATES' WHEAT-GROWING CAPACITY.

ordinary supply might allay the fear of scarcity and high price of bread. It may here be observed that the low average crop per acre of the United States has been due to the inclusion of wheat grown on land partially exhausted by cropping or not well adapted to this grain. The all-wheat as well as the all-cotton and all-tobacco methods of ignorant farming or cropping year after year are now very rapidly giving place to varied crops coupled with an increase of product per acre. No agency has been of such service in this matter as the Agricultural Experiment Stations, now established in almost every State under the supervision of men of the highest capacity. Under this system wheat, which requires a few days of machine work in the spring and autumn, occupying very little time of the farmer himself, is rapidly becoming the surplus or money crop of farms otherwise maintained on the alternate products. Under such cultivation an average crop of twenty bushels to the acre would be assured, in many sections much more. One hundred and twenty-eight million bushels at twenty bushels per acre would require 6,400,000 acres, or ten thousand square miles. As an alternate with other crops in a rotation of four, this would call for only forty thousand square miles in varied farming. In order to satisfy the anxieties of Sir William Crookes lest land should be taken from other necessary work, this area might be divided among several States and Territories, say five thousand square miles among eight. Oklahoma (38,719 square miles) was opened to settlement only seven years since, and has yet a great deal of unoccupied land. It will this year raise 13,000,000 bushels of wheat from 850 square miles devoted to the crop. Give Oklahoma five thousand square miles, the unoccupied Indian Territory (30,272 square miles) would take all the rest as soon as open; but we may only assign five thousand square miles to that area. Five thousand more might be assigned to the limestone section of Virginia, in the valley of the Shenandoah and its tributaries; five thousand each to Kentucky (40,400 square miles) and Tennessee (42,050 square miles), while the great wheat-growing States—Kansas (82,080 square miles), Nebraska (77,510 square miles), Minnesota (83,365 square miles), and the two Dakotas (148,445 square miles)—would compete for the contract each to open a little patch of five thousand square miles, not yet adjacent to railways. We should thus have exhausted the area called for without regard to the instant competition which would come from California (158,360 square miles), Oregon (96,030 square miles), and Washington (69,180 square miles), and probably from Pennsylvania (45,215 square miles) and other Eastern or Southern States. At a dollar per bushel in London no difficulty would be found in placing this contract even without resort to Texas (265,780 square miles),