Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/328

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do not take place. It is likely that in so far as the increased productivity of a domesticated form as compared with its wild original depends on more frequent division, the increase is due to loss of inhibiting factors. How far may this reasoning be extended? Again we know that in several plants—peas, sweet peas, Antirrhinum and certain wheats—a tall variety differs in that respect from a dwarf in possessing one more factor. It would be an extraordinarily valuable addition to knowledge if we could ascertain exactly how this factor operates, how much of its action is due to linear repetition, and how much to actual extension of individual parts. The analysis of the plants of intermediate size has never been property attempted, but would be full of interest and have innumerable bearings on other cases in animals and plants, some of much economic importance.

That in all such examples the objective phenomena we see are primarily the consequence of the interaction of genetic factors is almost certain. The lay mind is at first disposed, as always, to attribute such distinctions to anything rather than to a specific cause which is invisible. An appeal to differences in conditions—which a moment's reflection shows to be either imaginary or altogether independent—or to those vague influences invoked under the name of selection, silently postponing any laborious analysis of the nature of the material selected, repels curiosity for a time, and is lifted as a veil before the actual phenomena; and so even critical intelligences may for an indefinite time be satisfied that there is no specific problem to be investigated, in the same facile way that, till a few years ago, we were all content with the belief that malarial fevers could be referred to any damp exhalations in the atmosphere, or that in suppuration the body was discharging its natural humors. In the economics of breeding, a thousand such phenomena are similarly waiting for analysis and reference to their specific causes. What, for instance, is self-sterility? The phenomenon is very widely spread among plants, and is far commoner than most people suppose who have not specially looked for it. Why is it that the pollen of an individual in these plants fails to fertilize the ova of the same individual? Asexual multiplication seems in no way to affect the case. The American experimenters are doubtless right in attributing the failure of large plantations of a single variety of apples or of pears in a high degree to this cause. Sometimes, as Mr. W. O. Backhouse has found in his work on plums at the John Innes Horticultural Institution, the behavior of the varieties is most definite and specific. He carefully self-fertilized a number of varieties, excluding casual pollination, and found that while some sorts, for example, Victoria, Czar and Early Transparent set practically every fruit self-pollinated, others including several (perhaps all) Greengages, Early Orleans and Sultan do not set a single fruit without pollination from some other variety.