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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/787

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763
THE WHEAT PROBLEM AGAIN.

I have expressed my distrust of great averages in respect to agriculture and farm products.

In illustration of this fallacy, the figures presented by Mr. Hyde will now be dealt with. It is held that in 1930, which is the year when Sir William Crookes predicts starvation among the breadeating people of the world for lack of wheat (as if good bread could only be made from wheat), the population of this country may be computed at 130,000,000. The requirements of that year for our own consumption Mr. Hyde estimates at 700,000,000 bushels of wheat, 1,250,000,000 bushels of oats, 3,450,000,000 bushels of corn (maize), and 100,000,000 tons of hay; and, although other products are not named by him, we may assume a corresponding increase.

Subsequently Mr. Hyde gives the present delusive average yields per acre of the whole country, and then throws a doubt on the future progress of agricultural science, saying, "Whatever agricultural science may be able to do in the next thirty years, up to the present time it has only succeeded in arresting that decline in the rate of production with which we have been continually threatened." Without dealing at present with this want of and true consideration of or "speculation" upon the progress made in the last decade under the lead of the experiment stations and other beginnings in remedying the wasteful and squalid methods that have been so conspicuous in pioneer farming, let us take Mr. Hyde's averages and see what demand upon land the requirements of 1930 will make, even at the present meager average product per acre.

Mr. Hyde apparently computes this prospective product as one that will be required for the domestic consumption of 130,000,000 people by ratio to our present product. He ignores the fact that our present product suffices for 75,000,000, with an excess of live stock, provisions, and dairy products exported nearly equal in value to all the grain exported, and in excess of the exports of wheat. If we can increase proportionally in one class of products, why not in another? Whichever pays best will be produced and exported.

1897 and 1930 compared.—Data of 1897

Products. Average per acre. Area required.
Maize 1,902,967,933 bushels 23.8 bushels 125,150 square miles
Wheat 530,149,168 " 13.4 " 611,660 ""
Oats 698,767,809 " 27.2 " 40,200 ""
Hay 60,664,770 tons 1.43 " 66,290 ""
Total in square square miles. 29,3000 square miles

All other farm crops carry the total to less than 400,000 square miles now under the plow, probably not exceeding 360,000.