Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/588

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what proportion of this hay was timothy, but the writer believes that we may safely conclude that at least one third of the entire hay crop of the country is timothy. If this is true, the timothy crop of the United States in 1910 had a valuation of over $249,000,000. In the two years during which tests have been made, the 17 new sorts gave an average increased yield of slightly over 36| per cent, above ordinary timothy. A 36f per cent, increase in the valuation of the timothy crop as above estimated would give us over $90,000,000 as the estimated annual gain in the value of the crop which would be obtained if new sorts equally as good as these could be used throughout the country.

The rapid development of the science and art of breeding places us to-day in position to secure improvements much more rapidly than has been done in the past. It would not be astonishing if from 25 to 50 years of careful, intelligent breeding would accomplish with a wild plant what has required many centuries under the crude methods of our ancestors.

It may be asked why we should be in haste to take up the improvement of our native plants. In answer to this it may be stated that profound changes, such as we desire and must have, require time for their accomplishment. The potato and the tomato did not reach their present perfection at one bound. A number of intermediate stages or improvements were first necessary. The strawberry and the gooseberry did not reach their present size by one mutation, but several intermediate sizes were first necessary. Improvements apparently come by sudden leaps or mutations, and each of these paves the way for further development that might never be possible without the first improvement.

In breeding, the time element is the limiting factor of importance. No permanent improvement of value can be obtained in a day, and no time should be lost in beginning, on a scale commensurate with its importance, the improvement of our native plants of promise. We must conserve time and fulfill our duty to the succeeding generations. Why is it that such a small proportion of our lands are cultivated? According to the 1900 census, of the 1,900,000,000 acres of land in continental United States only 838 millions of acres were in farms, and of this area over 50.6 per cent, was unimproved land. The sterile sandy lands, and the low, wet lands, the stony lands and the hill lands, the mountain lands of high altitude and the barren lands of deserts lacking water, and the like, all uncultivatable and largely worthless for crops at present grown, make up far the larger part of our vast domain.

Travel through the high, hilly and mountainous regions of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia, and you find vast areas covered mainly with a low growth of young trees and bushes, the main forests having been removed. The same is true of many extended areas in the central and western states.