So long as a train of inquiry continues to extend, and new knowledge, that most precious commodity, is coming in the enterprise will not be in vain and it will be usually worth while to pursue it.
The relative value of the different parts of knowledge in their application to industry is almost impossible to estimate, and a line of work should not be abandoned until it leads to a dead end, or is lost in a desert of detail.
We have, not only abroad, but also happily in this country, several private firms engaged in various industries—I may mention especially metallurgy, pharmacy and brewing—who have set an admirable example in this matter, instituting researches of a costly and elaborate nature, practically unlimited in scope, connected with the subjects of their several activities, conscious that it is only by men in close touch with the operations of the industry that the discoveries can be made, and well assured that they themselves will not go unrewarded.
Let us on our part beware of giving false hopes. We know no "of sovran use against all enchantments, mildew blast, or damp." Those who are wise among us do not even seek it yet. Why should we not take the farmer and gardener into our fullest confidence and tell them this? I read lately a newspaper interview with a fruit-farmer who was being questioned as to the success of his undertaking, and spoke of the pests and difficulties with which he had had to contend. He was asked whether the Board of Agriculture and the scientific authorities were not able to help him. He replied that they had done what they could, that they had recommended first one thing and then another, and he had formed the opinion that they were only in an experimental stage. He was perfectly right, and he would hardly have been wrong had he said that in these things science is only approaching the experimental stage. This should be notorious. There is nothing to extenuate. To affect otherwise would be unworthy of the dignity of science.
Those who have the means of informing the public mind on the state of agricultural science should make clear that though something can be done to help the practical man already, the chief realization of the hopes of that science is still very far away, and that it can only be reached by long and strenuous effort, expended in many various directions, most of which must seem to the uninitiated mere profitless wandering. So only will the confidence of the laity be permanently assured towards research.
Nowhere is the need for wide views of our problems more evident than in the study of plant-diseases. Hitherto this side of agriculture and of horticulture, though full of possibilities for the introduction of scientific method, has been examined only in the crudest and most empirical fashion. To name the disease, to burn the affected plants