Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/193

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Scientific Literature.


The Yearbook of the United States Department of Agriculture has taken rank as one of the important annuals of this country, and in point of circulation is hardly equaled. This is due to the munificence of the Federal Government in appropriating $300,000 annually for its publication, in an edition of half a million copies, and to the care which is given by the Department of Agriculture to the preparation of timely and interesting articles and appropriate illustrations. The Yearbook takes the place of the annual report of the Secretary, which was naturally a more formal document and less likely to attract the average reader's attention. In its present form it presents an attractive appearance, and its many illustrations and long list of short articles on a variety of subjects invite attention. The volume for 1900 comprises nearly nine hundred pages, and is illustrated by eighty-seven plates, nine of them colored, and eighty-eight text figures. In addition to the executive reports, which occupy less than eighty pages, it contains thirty-one articles on various phases of the Department's work or other subjects of direct interest to agriculture. Only a part of these can be mentioned, but enough to indicate the range of subjects and that the volume is not alone of interest and value to the farmers of the country. In an article on Smyrna fig culture in the United States, Dr. Howard describes the successful introduction by the Department of the Blastophaga, the insect which fertilizes the fig and has enabled the production of Smyrna figs of good quality in this country; and one on the date palm tells what has been done for the promotion of that industry by the introduction of the best I varieties into Arizona, where it flourishes even in soils heavily impregnated with alkali. Wheat growing in the semi-arid districts has been rendered less uncertain, it is thought, by the introduction of macaroni and several other varieties of wheat, which have already given promise. Articles on the food of nestling birds and how birds affect the orchard illustrate the practical bearings of a phase of work which is concerned with the food habits of birds under different conditions, to ascertain what kinds are beneficial and what injurious to the farmer and fruit grower; while one on the food value of the potato gives some practical results of the work of the Department in another direction. There are two articles on practical forestry and forest extension, several on injurious insects and their repression, a helpful one on practical irrigation, two on road building, in which subject the Department is taking an active interest, and two on meteorology. One of the latter, on hot waves, the conditions which produce them and their effects on agriculture, is of special interest even though it does not suggest any relief. The free rural delivery of mails, although in no way connected with the Department of Agriculture, comes so close to its farmer constituents that an account of the working of that system does not seem out of place in its Yearbook. The four thousand routes now in operation provide for the daily delivery of mail at the scattered homes of about three and a half million of rural population. The work done in a long life devoted to agriculture, horticulture and kindred subjects by the late William Saunders, who had been connected with the Department since its establishment in 1862, is the subject of a short sketch,