1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wheat

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

EB1911 Wheat - Spikelet and Flowers.jpg
Fig. 1.—Spikelet and Flowers of Wheat.
A Spikelet magnified.
B, Glumes, from side.
C, Glumes, from back.
D, Flowering glume or lower palea.
E, Palea.
F, Lodicules at base of J, the ovary, surmounted by styles.
G and H,
Seed from front and back respectively.
I, Rachis, or central stalk of ear, spikelets removed.

WHEAT (Triticum), the most important and the most generally diffused of cereal grasses. It is an annual plant, with hollow, erect, knotted stems, and produces, in addition to the direct developments from the seedling plant, secondary roots and secondary shoots (tillers) from the base. Its leaves have each a long sheath encircling the stem, and at the junction of the blade or “flag” with the sheath a small whitish outgrowth or “ligula.” The inflorescence or ear consists of a central stalk bent zigzag, forming a series of notches (see fig. 1), and bearing a number of flattened spikelets, one of which grows out of each notch and has its inner or upper face pressed up against it. At the base of each spikelet are two empty boat-shaped glumes or “chaff-scales,” one to the right, the other to the left, and then a series of flowers, 2 to 8 in number, closely crowded together; the uppermost are abortive or sterile,—indeed, in some varieties only one or two of the flowers are fertile. Each flower consists of an outer or lower glume, called the flowering glume, of the same shape as the empty glume and terminating in a long, or it may be in a short, awn or “beard.” On the other side of the flower and at a slightly higher level is the “palea,” of thinner texture than the other glumes, with infolded margins and with two ribs or veins. These several glumes are closely applied one to the other so as to conceal and protect the ovary, and they only separate for a short time when flowering takes place; after fertilization they close again. Within the pale are two minute, ovate, pointed, white membranous scales called “lodicules.” These contain three stamens with thread-like filaments and oblong, two-lobed anthers. The stamens are placed round the base of the ovary, which is rounded or oblong, much smaller than the glumes, covered with down, and surmounted by two short styles, extending into feathery brush-like stigmas. The ripe fruit or grain, sometimes called the “berry,” the matured state of the ovary and its contents, is oblong or ovoid, with a longitudinal furrow on one side. The ovary adheres firmly to the seed in the interior, so that on examining a longitudinal section of the grain by the microscope the outer layer is seen to consist of epidermal cells, of which the uppermost are prolonged into short hairs to cover the apex of the grain. EB1911 Wheat - Beardless, Polish and Spelt wheat.jpg Fig. 2.—I. Beardless wheat. II. Polish wheat, with seed. III. Spelt wheat. All much reduced. Two or three layers of cells inside the epidermis constitute the tissue of the ovary, and overlie somewhat similar layers which form the coats of the seed. Within these is the albumen or endosperm, constituting the flowery part of the seed. The outermost layer of the endosperm consists of square cells larger and more regular in form than those on each side; these contain aleuron grains—small particles of gluten or nitrogenous matter. The remaining central mass of the seed is composed of numerous cells of irregular form and size containing many starch grains as well as gluten granules. The several layers of cells above referred to become more or less dry and inseparable one from another, forming the substance known as “bran.” At the lower end of the albumen, and placed obliquely, is the minute embryo-plant, which derives its nourishment in the first instance from the albumen; this is destined to form the future plant.

The wheat plant is nowhere found in a wild condition. Some of the species of the genus Aegilops (now generally referred to Origin and species. Triticum by Bentham and Hooker and by Haeckel) may possibly have been the sources of our cultivated forms, as they cross freely with wheats. Haeckel considers that there are three species. (1) Triticum monococcum, which undoubtedly grows wild in Greece and Mesopotamia, is cultivated in Spain and elsewhere, and was also cultivated by the aboriginal Swiss lake-dwellers, as well as at Hissarlik, as is shown by the grain[1] found in those localities. (2) T. sativum is the ordinary cultivated wheat, of which Haeckel recognizes three principal races, spelta, dicoccum and tenax. Spelt wheats (see fig. 2) were cultivated by the aboriginal Swiss, by the ancient Egyptians, and throughout the Roman empire. The variety dicoccum was also cultivated in prehistoric times, and is still grown in Southern Europe as a summer wheat and one suitable for starch-making. The variety tenax includes four sub-races, vulgare (common wheat), compactum, turgidum and durum (see below). (3) The third species, T. polonicum, or Polish wheat, is a very distinct-looking form, with long leafy glumes; its origin is not known. As these varieties inter cross with each other, the presumption is that they, like the species of Aegilops, which also intercross with wheat, may have all originated from one common stock.

Basing his conclusions upon philological data, such as the names of wheat in the oldest known languages, the writings Home and distribution. of the most ancient historians, and the observations of botanical travellers, De Candolle infers that the original home of the wheat plant was in Mesopotamia, and that from there its cultivation extended in very early times to the Canaries on the west and to China on the east. In the western hemisphere wheat was not known till the 16th century. Humboldt mentions that it was accidentally introduced into Mexico with rice brought from Spain by a negro slave belonging to Cortes, and the same writer saw at Quito the earthen vase in which a Flemish monk had introduced from Ghent the first wheat grown in South America.

As might be anticipated from the cultivation of the plant from time immemorial and from its wide diffusion throughout the eastern Principal variations. hemisphere, the varieties of wheat—that is, of T. sativum—are very numerous and of every grade of intensity. Those cases in which the variation is most extreme some botanists would prefer to consider as forming distinct species; but others, as De Vilmorin, having regard to the general facts of the case and to the numerous intermediate gradations, look upon all the forms as derivatives from one. In illustration of this latter point it may be mentioned that not only do the several varieties run one into the other, but their chemical composition varies likewise according to climate and season. According to Professor Church,[2] even in the produce of a single ear there may be 3 to 4% more of albuminoid matters in some grains than in others; but on the average the proportion of gluten to starch is as 9.11 to 100. From the point of view of agriculture it is generally of no great moment what rank be assigned to the various forms. It is only important to take cognizance of them for purposes of cultivation under varying circumstances. Hence we only allude to some of the principal variations and to those characteristics which are found to be unstable, (1) Setting aside differences of constitution, such as hardihood, size, and the like, there is relatively little variation in the form of the organs of vegetation. This indicates that less attention has been paid to the straw than to the grain, for it is certain that, were it desirable, a great range of variation might be induced in the foliage and straw. As it is, some varieties are hardier and taller than others, and the straw more solid, varying in colour and having less liability to be “laid”; but in the matter of “tillering,” or the production of side-shoots from the base of the stem, there is much difference. Spring wheats procured from northern latitudes mature more rapidly than those from temperate or hot climates, whilst the reverse is the case with autumn wheats from the same source. The difference is accounted for by the greater amount of light which the plants obtain in northern regions, and, especially, by its comparatively uninterrupted continuance during the growing period, when there are more working hours for the plants in the day than in more southern climes. Autumn wheats, on the other hand, are subjected to an enforced rest for a period of several months, and even when grown in milder climates remain quiescent for a longer period, and start into growth later in spring—much later than varieties of southern origin. These latter, accustomed to the mild winters of those latitudes, begin to grow early in spring, and are in consequence liable to injury from spring frosts. Wheats of dry countries and of those exposed to severe winds have, says De Vilmorin, narrow leaves, pliant straw, bearded ears, and velvety chaff—characteristics which enable them to resist wind and drought. Wheats of moist climates, on the other hand, have broader leaves, to admit of more rapid transpiration. No doubt careful microscopic scrutiny of the minute anatomy of the leaves of plants grown under various conditions would reveal further adaptations of structure to external conditions of climate. At any rate, it is certain that, as a general rule, the hard wheats are almost exclusively cultivated in hot, dry countries, the spelt wheats in mountainous districts and on poor soil, turgid (durum forms) and common wheats in plains or in valleys—the best races of wheat being found on rich alluvial plains and in fertile valleys. The wheat used in the neighbourhood of Florence for straw-plaiting is a variety with very slender stalks. The seed is sown very thickly at the beginning of winter and pulled, not cut, about the end of May, before the ear is ripe. In the United Kingdom ordinary wheat, such as old red Lammas and Chiddam white, is used for straw-plaiting, the straw being cut some time before the berry ripens. The propensity to “tiller” is of the greatest importance, as it multiplies the resources of the farmer. An instance of this is given in the Philosophical Transactions (1768), where it is stated that one seedling plant in the Cambridge botanic garden was divided into eighteen parts, each of which was replanted and subsequently again divided, till it produced sixty-seven plants in one season. In March and April of the following year these were again divided and produced 500 plants, which in due time yielded 21,109 ears. (2) The variations in root-development have not been much attended to, although it would be well to study them in order to ascertain the degree of adaptability to various depths and conditions of soil. (3) A most important difference is observable in the liability to attacks of rust (Puccinia), some varieties being almost invariably free from it, while others are in particular localities so subject to it as to be not worth cultivating. (4) The ears vary, not only in size, but also in form, this latter characteristic being dependent on the degree of closeness with which the spike lets are set on. In such varieties as Talavera the spike lets are loose, while in the club and square-headed varieties they are closely packed. The form of the ear depends on the relative width of the anterior and posterior surfaces as compared with that of the lateral surfaces. In the square-headed varieties the lateral surfaces are nearly as wide as the median ones, owing to the form and arrangement of the spikelets. The number of abortive or sterile spikelets at the top of the ear also varies: in some cases nearly all the spikelets are fertile, while in others several of the uppermost ones are barren.

EB1911 Wheat - Longitudinal Section of a Grain of Wheat.jpg
Fig. 3.—Longitudinal Section of a Grain of Wheat, highly magnified.
A,  Epidermal cells.
B, Cells containing aleuron or gluten grains.
C, Cells of endosperm or albumen, filled with starch.
D, Embryo cut through the middle, root-end pointing downwards.

The classification of the different varieties of cultivated wheat has occupied the attention of many botanists and agriculturists. Classification of cultivated wheats. The classification adopted by Henry de Vilmorin in his Les Blés meilleurs (Paris, 1881) is based, in the first instance, on the nature of the ear: when mature its axis or stem remains unbroken, as in the true wheats, or it breaks into a number of joints, as in the spelt wheats. In the first class the ripe grain readily detaches itself from the chaff-scales, while in the spelts it is more or less adherent to them, or not readily separable from them. The true wheats are further subdivided into common wheats (T. vulgare), turgid wheats (T. turgidum), hard wheats (T. durum) and Polish wheats (T. polonicum). In the common wheats the chaff-scales are boat-shaped, ovoid, of the consistence of parchment, and shorter than the spikelet; the seed is usually floury, opaque, white, and easily broken. In the turgid wheats the glumes have long awns, and the seed is turgid and floury, as in the common wheats. In the hard wheats the outer glumes are keeled, sharply pointed, awned, and the seed is elongated and of hard glassy texture, somewhat translucent, and difficult to break owing to its toughness. These seeds are richer in nitrogen than the common and turgid wheats, so that an approximate notion of the richness in albuminoids may be gained by simply inspecting the cut surface of the seed. The Polish wheat, rarely if ever cultivated in the United Kingdom, has very large lanceolate glumes, longer than the spikelet, and elongated glassy seeds. Further subdivisions are made, according to the presence or absence of awns (bearded and beardless wheats), the colour of the ears (white, fawn-coloured or red), the texture of the ears (glabrous—i.e. smooth—or downy) and the colour of the seed or “berry.” In the jointed or spelt wheats the distinctions lie in the presence of awns, the direction of the points of the glumes (straight, bent outwards, or turned inwards), the form of the ear as revealed on a cross-section, and the entire or cleft palea. As illustrating the fact of the occasional instability of these variations, Professor Church mentions that a single grain will be sometimes horny and partly opaque and floury, in which case its composition will correspond with its aspect. The division into spring wheat and winter wheat is an agricultural one solely. Any variety may be a spring or a winter wheat according to the time at which it is sown. In the summer wheats it may often be observed that the median florets do not fill out so fully as in the autumn wheats. Among the turgid wheats there is a frequent tendency in the spike to branch or become compound—a tendency which is manifested to a less degree in other forms. The Egyptian, or so-called “mummy” wheat is of this character, the lower part of the spike branching out into several subdivisions. This multiplication of the seed-bearing branches might at first sight be considered advantageous; but in practice the quality of the grain is found to be inferior, as if the force that should have been devoted to the maturation of the grain were, in a measure, diverted and expended in the production of additional branches to the spike.

With regard to the chemical composition of the ripe grain, the Rothamsted experiments reveal a singular uniformity, even under very varied conditions of manuring, and even where much diversity was apparent in the constitution of the straw. A high or low percentage of nitrogen in the grain was also shown to depend more directly on the degree of ripening, as influenced by the character of the season, than on difference in manure; but it depends more upon the variety than upon soil or nutrition.

Apart from the botanical interest of these diversities, as indications of the faculty of variation in plants, and possibly as clues to Adaptability to soil and locality. the genealogy and origin of the cultivated plant, their practical importance is very great. Some varieties are suited to hot, others to cold countries; some will flourish on one description of soil, others on another. Hence the paramount importance of ascertaining by experiment, not only what are the best varieties, but which are the best adapted for particular localities and particular climatic conditions. Porion and Dehérain have shown[3] the “infinite superiority” in yield over the ordinary wheats of a particular square-headed variety grown on rich soil in the north of France. A good selection of seed, according to the nature of the soil, demands, says De Vilmorin, intelligence and accurate knowledge on the part of the farmer. If a good variety be grown in poor soil, the result will be unprofitable, while, if bad wheat be grown on good soil, the result may be nil. In botanical collections there exist, it is stated, herbarium specimens or other evidences of plants grown in Norway as far north as lat. 65° (Schubeler), in Switzerland at an elevation of 1200 ft. above the valley of Zermatt (or 6500 ft. above the sea), near the straits of Magellan, as well as in Teneriffe, the Cape of Good Hope, Abyssinia, Rodriguez, the Philippine Islands and the Malay Archipelago. These widely separated localities show the great area over which the culture is possible, and illustrate the powers of adaptation of the plant. The requirements of the consumer have also to be considered: for some purposes the soft floury wheats, with their large relative proportion of starch, are the best, for others the harder wheats, with their larger quantity of gluten. With the modern processes of milling, the harder wheats are preferred, for they make the best flour for bakers' use; and in North America the spring wheats are, as a rule, harder than the winter wheats. The bearded varieties are supposed to be hardier; at any rate they defy the ravages of predatory birds more completely than the unarmed varieties, and they are preferable in countries liable to storms of wind, as less likely to have their seeds detached. The durum wheats are specialty employed in Italy for the fabrication of macaroni. Polish wheat is used for similar purposes. Spelt wheats are grown in the colder mountainous districts of Europe; their flour is very fine, and is used especially for pastry-making; but, owing to the construction of the grain, it requires special machinery for grinding (see Flour).

Wheat begins to grow at a temperature of 5° C. (41° F.); and, when the aggregate temperature, as represented by the sum of the daily means, has mounted up to 185° F., the germ begins to escape from the husk, if the seed be not deeply buried; but if it is deeply buried, an amount of heat is required greater in proportion to the depth. If the seed lies at a depth lower than a foot from the surface, it rarely germinates. The seedling plant ceases to grow if the mean temperature of the day remains below 42° F. When the young plants have been influenced by an aggregate temperature amounting to 1896° F. from the period when sown, or 1715° from the period of germination, branching or “tellering” goes on freely, and the young ears are formed. Under the influence of a mean temperature of 55°, or a little above, the flowers are produced. A still higher daily mean is required for the full development and ripening of the grain. The figures here cited are given by Risler and are calculated for the climate of Paris; but, of course, the same principles apply in the case of other countries. The amount of light and of moisture has also to be taken into account. The fact that the wheat plant requires less water than other cereals, and therefore does not suffer so much from drought, is one of great importance to the cultivator, and furnishes one reason for the greater proportionate culture of wheat in the eastern than in the western counties of England.

The following figures, cited by De Vilmorin from Joulie, will give an idea of the nature and amount of the demands made upon the soil by a wheat crop: in order to yield a crop of 44½ bushels of wheat to the acre, the soil must supply to the crop during its growth in round numbers—202 ℔ of nitrogen, 81 ℔ of phosphoric acid, 55 ℔ of lime, 26 ℔ of magnesia, and 255 ℔ of potash.

The numerous varieties of wheat now in cultivation have been obtained either by selection or by cross-breeding. In any wheat-field Production of varieties. there may be observed on close inspection plants differing in character from the majority. If seeds of these “sporting” plants be taken and grown in another season, they may (or may not) reproduce the particular variation. If they do, and the same process of selection be continued, the variation becomes in time “fixed,” though it is always more or less liable to revert to its original condition. By continuously and systematically selecting the best grains from the best ears. Major Hallett succeeded in introducing “pedigree wheats” of fine quality. But even greater results may be expected from cross-breeding, or the fertilization of the flowers of one description of wheat by the pollen of another. This has been attempted by Shireff, Le Couteur, Maund and others in the past, and more recently by H. de Vilmorin and Messrs Carter. Under natural circumstances wheat is self-fertilized: that is to say, the pollen of any given flower impregnates the stigma and ovule of the same flower; the glumes and coverings of the flower being tightly pressed round the stamens and stigmas in such a way as to prevent the access of insects and to ensure the deposit of the pollen upon the stigmas of the same flower. This process of self-fertilization is the usual method, and no doubt keeps the variety true or unmixed; but the occasional presence of varieties in a wheat-field shows that cross-fertilization is sometimes secured. The stamens of the wheat plant may frequently be seen protruding beyond the glumes, and their position might lead to the inference that cross-fertilization was the rule; but on closer examination it will be found that the anthers are empty or nearly so, and that they are not protruded till after they have deposited the pollen upon the stigma. The separation of the glumes, which occurs at the time of fertilization, and which permits the egress of the useless stamens after that operation, occurs only under certain conditions of temperature, when the heat, in fact, is sufficient to cause the lodicules of the flower to become turgid and thus to press apart the glumes. A temperature of about 75° F. is found by Messrs Carter to be the most favourable. From what has been said it will be evident that the artificial fertilization of wheat is a very delicate operation. The glumes have to be separated and the anthers cut away before the pollen is fully formed, care being taken at the same time not to injure the stigma, and specially not to introduce, on the scissors or otherwise, any pollen except that of the variety desired. De Vilmorin's experiments have shown that all the varieties will intercross, and that even such a distinct form as the Polish is no exception. From this he concludes that all the forms have originated from one stock and are to be comprised within one species. In the progeny of these crossed wheats, especially in the second generation, much variation and difference of character is observable—a phenomenon commonly noticed in the descendants from crosses and hybrids, and styled by Naudin “irregular variation.” Sometimes characteristics appear in the crossed wheats which are not found in the parent varieties, although they occur in other wheats. Thus, De Vilmorin records the presence of turgid wheats among seedlings raised from a common wheat fertilized with the pollen of a hard variety, and spelt wheats among the descendants of a common crossed with a turgid wheat.

The production of wheat, with the use of wheat bread, has increased enormously since the extension of railways has made possible the transportation of grain for great distances (see Grain Trade). Of late years the increase of production has been most notable in southern Russia, Argentina, Australia, India and North America.

American Wheat-Farming.[4]—That wonderful agricultural region, extending from the international line on the north to the 37th parallel, and from the Atlantic Ocean to the 100th meridian, and comprising 26 states, produces 76% of the American wheat crop. This region, which contains only 30% of the land surface of the country, but embraces 60% of its total farm area and 70% of its improved farm acreage, is the greatest cereal-producing region of the world. Besides wheat, it produces 82% of the total corn crop, 91% of the total oat crop and 83% of the total hay crop of the United States. The methods pursued in the eastern portion of this region are similar to those used in other parts of the world; but in the north-western portion wheat-growing is carried on on a gigantic scale, and by methods almost unknown anywhere else. The best illustration of the great or “bonanza” wheat farms, as they are called, are found along the Red river (of the North), where it flows between the states of North Dakota and Minnesota.

The wheat grown in the United States is of two distinct kinds. One is the large-kernel winter wheat of the Eastern states, the other is the hard spring wheat. The “blue stem” or the “Scotch-Fife” are native varieties of the latter kind grown in Minnesota and the two Dakotas. For flour-making this wheat is considered the best in the world. During the season of 1899 the product of hard spring wheat amounted to nearly 250,000,000 bushels, or two-fifths of the entire wheat product of the United States. Of this, Minnesota and the two Dakotas alone produced 200,000,000 bushels. Minnesota is the greatest wheat-producing state in the Union. Her fields in 1899 covered 5,000,000 acres, and she produced nearly 80,000,000 bushels, which is twice the entire production of all Australia, and more than that of Great Britain and Ireland put together. In Minnesota and the Dakotas the farms are devoted almost exclusively to wheat growing. Many of them contain from 3000 to 10,000 acres. The country is a very level one, making it possible to use all kinds of machinery with great success. As there are no mountains or swamps, there is here very little waste land, and every square foot of the vast wheat fields can be made productive.

The first characteristic of a “bonanza” wheat farm is the machinery. The smallest agricultural implement used upon Bonanza farms. them is a plough, and the largest is the elevator. A hoe or a spade is almost unknown. Between these two there are machines of all sizes adapted to the needs of the particular work. Let us assume the conditions prevailing upon a bonanza farm of 5000 acres, and briefly describe the process of wheat production from the ploughing of the land to the delivery of the grain in the final market. These great wheat farms were established upon new lands sold directly to capitalists by the railroads. The lands became the property of the railroads largely through government grants, and they attracted capitalists, who bought them in large bodies and at low prices. The improvements made upon them consist of the cheap wooden dwellings for the managers, dormitories and dining-halls for the men, stables for the horses, and sheds and workshops for repairing machinery. Very little of the land is under fence. Since the desirable lands of the country have been occupied, the prices of these lands have advanced slowly, with the result that the big farms are being divided up into small holdings. After a generation or two, if land continues to rise in the market as it has recently, the bonanza farms will become a thing of the past. At present the best of these lands in the valley of the Red river (of the North) are worth from $25 to $30 an acre. The improvements upon them add about $5 an acre more. A farm is not considered a big one unless it contains from 2000 to 10,000 acres at least. There are, of course, many small farmers owning from two to five sections (640 acres in each section), but their methods are more like those of the small farmers in the eastern United States or on the continent of Europe. It is necessary to own a large body of land in order to be able to use the machinery and methods here described. It is hard to convey a just notion of the size of these farms. They stretch away as far as the eye can reach in every direction, making it difficult even for the visitor to conceive their size. The distances across wheat fields are so great that even horseback communication is too slow. The farms are separated into divisions, and lodging-houses and dining-halls and barns are scattered over them, so as to keep the workmen and teams near the scene of their labour. The men living at one end of the farm may not see those at the other for months at a time. Even then it is necessary to take the meals to the men in the fields rather than allow them to walk or ride to the dining-halls. It is not an unusual thing for a working crew to find themselves at the dinner hour 2 m. from their hall.

First, after burning the old straw of the previous year—which is real labour in itself, so enormous is its bulk—comes the ploughing. Ploughing. This begins in October. The plough used has a 16-in. share, turns two furrows, and is drawn by five horses. Each plough covers about 250 acres in a season, travelling an average of 20 m. a day. The ploughing begins in October, and continues a month or six weeks, according to the season. The ploughs are driven in “gangs” under the eye of a superintendent, who rides with them. From eight to ten of these ploughs follow each other around the vast section. If one stands a few rods ahead of them they seem to be following one another in a line; but, if one stands to the right of the “gang,” one sees that the line is broken, and that the second plough is a width farther in the field than the leader, and so on for the entire number. Experience shows that it costs about 70 cents an acre to plough the land in this way. About forty men are employed upon a farm of 5000 acres during the ploughing season. The men are paid by the month, and receive about $25, including their board. They breakfast at five o'clock, take an hour for their dinner at noon—usually in the field—and have their supper at seven. At the end of the ploughing season these particular men are usually discharged. Only eight or ten are kept on a farm of this size throughout the year. The other men go back to their homes or to the factories in the cities, where they await the harvesting and threshing season. The eight or ten who remain upon the farm are employed in doing odd jobs, such as overhauling machinery, or helping the carpenter and blacksmith, or looking after the horses. The wheat region is a country of heavy snows, and of severe, dry cold; but when March comes the snows begin to melt away, and by April the ploughed land is dry enough for the harrow. The harrowing is done with 25-ft. harrows, drawn by four horses, and operated by a single man. One man can harrow 60 to 73 acres a day.

The seeding follows immediately with four-horse press drills that cover 12 ft. The harrows and drills are worked in “gangs” as the Seeding. ploughs were. Each drill will go from 20 to 25 m. a day. When the weather is good the seeding upon a 5000-acre farm will be done in twenty or twenty-five days. It is usual to seed a bushel and a peck of wheat to the acre. The wheat used for this purpose is carefully selected after the harvest of the previous year, and is thoroughly cleaned of foreign seeds. Through years of cultivation, varieties of wheat have been produced which are particularly well adapted to the soil and climate of this region. It has been found more profitable to use the native “blue stem” or “Scotch-Fife” wheat than the seed from any other country, or even from the neighbouring states. Counting the seed, wheat and the labour, it costs about $1 an acre to harrow the ground and plant the wheat.

When the planting is done the extra labourers are discharged again, and the regular ones are put to work on the corn, oats and millet, Labour. which are grown to feed the horses. The men who do the most important work are all temporary labourers. They come from the cities of the east or the farms of the south. They begin with the early harvest in Oklahoma, and work northwards up the Missouri and the Red river until the season closes in Manitoba. They are not tramps, but steady, industrious men, with few bad habits and few ambitions. On well-managed farms drinking and gambling are strictly forbidden. The work is hard, and, as there are few amusements on the farm, the men spend their resting periods in sleep. Their dormitories are usually comfortably furnished, their dining-halls clean. The bonanza farmers find it good policy to feed their men well. Many a strike has occurred in the midst of the harvest because the quality or quantity of the food served was not what it ought to have been. The largest part of this food is brought from the eastern states. Some potatoes, turnips and beans are grown upon the farms; but the corned beef, bacon and groceries come from the cities. It is estimated that it costs 35 cents a day to feed each labourer. Farmers say that a good name in these respects enables them to get the choice of workmen, and that no money brings such sure returns as that expended in the bedrooms and upon the food.

The harvest labourers begin to arrive from the south about the middle of July, and by the end of this month the harvest is at its The harvest. height. A farm of 5000 acres will use 75 or 100 extra men. With the men comes the new machinery in train loads. It is estimated that at least $5,000,000 worth of agricultural machines is annually sold in this region. The wheat farmers say that it does not pay to take undue care of old machinery, that more money is lost in repairing and tinkering an old machine than would pay for a new one. The result is that new machinery is bought in very large quantities, used until it is worn out or cannot be repaired without considerable work, and then left in the fields to rust. Heaps of cast-iron can be seen already upon many of the large farms. Of course a great many extra parts are bought to take the place of those which break most frequently, and some men are always kept at work repairing machines in the field. One of the big 10,000-acre farms will use up two car-loads of twine in a single hardest, enough to lay a line around the whole coast of England, Ireland and Scotland. The harvesters vary in size according to the character of the land. Upon the rougher ground and small farms the ordinary binders are used; upon the great plains, like those of California, a great harvester is used, which has a cutting line 52 ft. wide. These machines cut, thresh and stack the grain at the rate of 1600 sacks a day, and cover an area in that time of 100 acres. These machines can only be used where the wheat ripens thoroughly standing in the field. The harvest labourer earns $10 a week everywhere in America. The bonanza farmer expects one machine to cut at least 250 acres, and three men are required for each of them. The harvest lasts from ten days to three weeks, according to the weather. Including the labour and the wear and tear, it costs about 60 cents an acre to harvest wheat.

The wheat is not stacked as in the Eastern states and in England, but stands upright in shocks in the field. The grain cures very Threshing. rapidly in the dry climate, so that by the time the wheat is all cut and shocked on one end of the division, it is ready for the thresher at the other. The shocks of wheat are hauled directly to the thresher and fed into the self-feeder. It usually takes a day and a quarter to thresh the wheat which it took a day to cut. The farmer estimates that a threshing-machine can thresh all the wheat ordinarily grown upon 2500 acres, so that a 5000-acre farmer would have at least two machines running at the same time. Time is a very important thing in threshing, since a rainfall might spoil enough grain in one night to buy several machines. The threshing season is thus a time of great pressure and of extensively active work. The wheat straw is worse than a waste product—it is a great nuisance upon the bonanza farm. A little of it is used for fuel for the engines and for bedding the stock; but the bulk of it is dragged away from the threshing machine by machinery, and left lying in great heaps until an opportunity is afforded for burning it up. This is usually done immediately before the ploughing in the autumn. The grain falls from the spout of the thresher into the box-wagon, which carries it to the elevator. The elevator is placed at the railway station, and is usually owned by the bonanza farmer.

From the time the sheaves of wheat are tumbled into the wagon until the flour reaches the hands of the cook, no hand touches the The returns. wheat that passes through the great Minneapolis mills. When the box-wagons reach the elevator the loosing of a bolt dumps the grain into the bin, where it remains until the pulling of a lever lets it into the cars. Every pound of it is weighed and accounted for, and entered upon the books, so as to show the exact product of each division of the farm. After the rush of the threshing is over the farmer studies these books carefully to see what his land is doing, and makes his plans for the next year, so as to rest or strengthen those divisions which are failing. It costs about $1.50 an acre to thresh the grain and put it into the elevator. This sum, added to the estimated cost of the other processes mentioned above, makes the total cost of growing an acre of grain about $3.80. This includes the cost of labour, seed and wear and tear of machinery, but does not include the interest on land or plant. The taxes on land will average 25 cents an acre. The farmers estimate that the other improvements, the waterworks, elevators, insurance, horse feed, &c., will make this up to $6 an acre. The best of these farms will yield 20 bushels to the acre. This makes the wheat cost 30 cents a bushel. During the last five years the average farm-selling price of wheat in the North-West has been 58 cents. An acre thus produces $11.60, making a gross profit of $5.60. Still to be provided for is the interest on the operating expenses for eighteen months, which will, at 8%, be 48 cents per acre. Interest on the capital in land, improvements and machinery, at $30 per acre, make $1.80 more, or a total interest charge of $2.28. When this is deducted from the gross profits of $5.60 prices found above, we have a net profit of $3.32 an acre, not an exorbitant one by any means. This is about 8% on the capital invested in the land, plant and operating expenses. But we have described the conditions on one of the best bonanza farms. The average yield per acre in this region is not over 18 bushels, and the average expenses would be higher than those given.

Every bonanza farmer's office is connected by wire with the markets at Minneapolis, Chicago and Buffalo. Quotations arrive Marketing. hourly in the selling season, and the superintendent keeps in close touch with his agents in the wheat-pits of these and other cities. When the instrument tells him of a good price, his agent is instructed to sell immediately. The farmer on the upper waters of the Red river (of the North) is kept fully informed as to the drought in India, the hot winds in the Argentine and the floods of the Danube. Any occurrences in these distant parts of the world are known to him in a surprisingly short time. The world's great wheat fields almost lie within his sight, so well does he know the conditions that prevail in them. Ten days are allowed for delivery, so that he can usually ship the wheat after it is sold. In the early days of wheat-farming the bonanza farmer often speculated, but experience has taught him that he had better leave this to the men in the cities, and content himself with the profit from the business under his eye. The great elevator centres are in Duluth, St Paul, Minneapolis, Chicago and Buffalo. These elevators have a storage capacity of from 100,000 to 2,500,000 bushels. The new ones are built of steel, operated by steam or electricity, protected from fire by pneumatic water-pipes, and have complete machinery for drying and scouring the wheat whenever it is necessary. The elevators are provided with long spouts containing movable buckets, which can be lowered into the hold of a grain-laden vessel. The wheat is shovelled into the pathway of the huge steam shovels, which draw it up to the ends of these spouts, where the buckets seize it, and carry it upwards into the elevator, and distribute it among the various bins according to grade. A cargo of 200,000 bushels can thus be unloaded in two hours, while spouts on the other side of the elevator reload it into cars, five to ten at a time, filling a car in from five to ten minutes, or the largest canal boat in an hour. The entire work of unloading, storing and reloading adds only one cent to the price of a bushel of wheat.

The great wheat-growing states like Minnesota have established systems of inspecting and grading wheat under state Inspecting and grading. supervision. In Minnesota the system is carried out by the Railroad and Warehouse Commission (1885), which fixes and defines the different grades of wheat and directs the work. At present there are 18 grades recognized in this state. The first is described as “No. 1, hard spring wheat, sound, bright and well cleaned, composed mainly of hard ‘Scotch-Fife,’ weighing not less than 58℔ to the measured bushel.” The second grade is known as “No. 1, northern spring wheat, sound, and well cleaned, composed of the hard and soft varieties of spring wheat.” So the varieties run—“No.2, northern”; “No. 3, northern,” &c.—down to the 18th, which is “no grade.” The official inspectors examine, grade and sample the wheat in the cars in which it is received at the great markets or elevators. The cars are sealed at the point of original shipment. The first thing, therefore, is to examine the seals to see that they are unbroken. The inspector then samples and examines the wheat, and enters the grade upon a blank opposite the number and letters of the car. His tag and sample go to the wheat exchange or chamber of commerce, where they are exposed in small tin pans, and form the basis of the trading. A few years ago the wheat received from the north-west was very clean indeed, but since the new land has all been cultivated the fields are growing more weedy, with the result that the wheat brought in is becoming mixed with oats and seeds of weeds, requiring more careful separating and inspection. After the inspector has finished his work the cars are resealed with the state seal, and await orders of the purchaser. The delay will not ordinarily be more than one day. The commission keeps complete records and samples of each car until the wheat has passed entirely out of the market. When disputes occur as to the grade they can thus be instantly settled. If the grade is changed after a second examination the state pays the expense of the inspection; if not, it is paid by the agent who raises the objection. Only about 5% of the samples are ever reinspected, and in less than 2% of these is the grade changed. The commission collects the small fee of 20 cents a car for its services as inspector, and later weighs all the wheat as it is distributed into the elevators. This small charge pays all the expenses.

The transportation of the wheat from the fields of the north-west to the seaport is a business of tremendous magnitude. Transportation. Most of this wheat goes by way of the lakes through the Sault Sainte Marie canal to Buffalo, where it is shipped by rail or inland canal to New York, Philadelphia or Baltimore. Duluth, on Lake Superior, is, surprising to say, the second port in the United States in point of tonnage. The Sault Sainte Marie canal passes two and a half times as much tonnage during the eight months it is open as the Suez canal passes in the entire year. The cheapest transportation in the world is found upon these lakes, the rate being only three-fourths of a mill per ton of wheat per mile. The greater lake vessels, called “Whalebacks,” carry cargoes up to 250,000 bushels, a bulk difficult to conceive. 700 bushels is a car-load. At that rate the cargo of 250,000 bushels will fill 360 American cars, or 9 trains of 40 cars each. At 20 bushels to the acre, this single cargo would represent the yield of two and a half farms of 5000 acres each, like that described above, with every acre in cultivation. The railways of the north-west have a monopoly of the business of hauling wheat, with the result that it costs 20 cents to ship a bushel of wheat from the Dakota field to Duluth, which is as much as it costs to forward it from Duluth to Liverpool. The bushel of wheat, or an equivalent amount of flour, can be shipped from Minneapolis or Duluth to almost any point in western Europe for from 20 to 25 cents.

What are the prospects of wheat production in the United States? In his presidential address before the British Association for the Prospect of wheat production. Advancement of Science (1900), Sir William Crookes painted a rather dark picture of the future of the world's wheat production. Among other things he said, “It is almost certain that within a generation the ever-increasing population of the United States will consume all the wheat grown within its borders, and will be driven to import like ourselves.” Americans think that this statement is altogether too pessimistic. Not sufficient account had been taken of the uncultivated land in farms, and of the possibilities of improving the yield, and still further cheapening the product. It is probable that the United States will by 1933 have a population of 133,000,000. This population would require a wheat crop of 700,000,000 bushels for its own use alone. Limiting attention to the great cereal-producing region described above, let us see what the prospects are for increasing the acreage and the yield. The fact that these States contain, according to the last census, over 100,000,000 acres of unimproved land, already enclosed in farms, suggests at once the great possibilities in wheat. But all this land is not immediately available for cultivation. The availableness of the unimproved land in these states is chiefly a question of population and physical features. In states like New York and Pennsylvania, which are much broken up by hills and mountains, and have already a large population, it is probable that the land available for wheat cultivation is now nearly all taken up, although they still have 30% of unimproved land in farms. In the great states of Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas there is still 40 to 50% of unimproved land in farms. There are few mountains and hills in these States, and there is still room in them for a large population. It is evident that in states like these wheat culture is destined to increase greatly. Twelve states, in this vast cereal-growing region—Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota—still have from 20 to 40% of unimproved land in farms. The total area of these states is nearly four times that of France. Their soil is primarily as fertile as hers. If we put the population of France at 40,000,000, the states in question could, at the same ratio, support a population of 140,000,000. France produced during the five years ending 1897 eight bushels of wheat per caput. At eight bushels per caput, the people in these twelve states alone could produce 1,120,000,000 bushels, or 420,000,000 bushels more than will be required by the population of 133,000,000 expected by 1933. This is a great manufacturing as well as a great agricultural region, and it is here, therefore, that a large part of this increase in population will be found.

It is evident that there is great room for improvement also in the matter of yield per acre. The average yield of wheat per acre has increased slowly in recent years. So long as there was so much virgin land to be brought under cultivation, it is surprising that it has increased at all, since the tendency everj'where is to “skin” the rich, new lands first. Mr B. W. Snow, formerly one of the statisticians of the United States Department of Agriculture, has shown (The Forum, vol. xxviii. p. 94) that the producing capacity of the wheat lands, under favourable weather, increased steadily during the period 1880-1899. He distinguishes between the actual yield and the producing capacity, and bases his comparison upon the latter. He takes the average for each year of five years between 1880 and 1899, and shows that the producing capacity per acre increased 0.5 bushel between the first and the second period, 1.3 bushels between the second and the third, and 1.4 bushels between the third and the fourth. In the period 1880-1884, inclusive, the maximum capacity was a little less than 14 bushels, while in the period 1895-1899 the maximum capacity exceeded slightly 17 bushels—an increase of 3.2 bushels per acre, or 23%, in less than twenty years. He says, “To account for this increase in the potential yield in our wheat-fields many factors must be taken into consideration. Among these may be mentioned improved methods of ploughing, tile drainage, use of the press drill, which results in greater immunity against winter killing, crop rotation, and, to a very small extent, fertilization. An important factor to be mentioned in this connexion is the change in the distribution of the acreage under wheat, consequent upon falling prices. A decline in the price of wheat rendered its production unprofitable where the rate of yield was small. Gradually these lands were passed over to crops better suited to them; while at the same time the wheat acreage was increased in districts having a better rate of yield.” He predicts that “the increase in the acre yields in this country has only begun. All that has been accomplished during the period under review may be attributed to improvements in implements for preparing the soil and planting the seed. Wheat is grown year after year without rotation—except in a few cases—on a third or more of our wheat acreage; not one acre in fifty is directly fertilized for the crop, and only a minimum amount of attention is given to the betterment of seed stock. If, in the face of what cannot be considered less than careless and inefficient agricultural practice, we have increased the wheat capacity of our land by 3.2 bushels per acre in so short a time, what may we not expect in the way of large acre yields before we experience the hardships of a true wheat famine?”

Diseases.—Wheat, like other cereals, is liable to epidemic diseases caused by parasitic organisms which prey on the plant tissues. Of these the rust, smut and bunt fungi are by far the most common and the most destructive. Rust alone is said to cause an annual loss of wheat in India amounting to from 4,000,000 to 20,000,000 rupees. We have no similar calculation of loss for Great Britain, where wheat is not so much grown, but it is well known that there is a continual, serious depreciation of value in the crops due to parasitic fungi.

The rust fungus, Puccinia graminis, is a Uredine belonging to the heteroecious group, that is, one that passes from one host to another at different stages of its life-history. In spring, while the wheat plants are still green and immature, the rust makes its appearance as orange-red spots or streaks on the stalks and leaves. These coloured spots are due to the presence of a sorus or layer of countless numbers of minute brown spores, the uredospores of the summer fruiting form. The fine thread-like filaments composing the mycelium of the fungus are embedded in the tissue underneath and around the uredo-sorus, and draw from the host the nourishment required. The spores, when mature, are easily detached, and are carried by insects or by the wind to other wheat-plants. If infection takes place, other son are formed in ten days or a fortnight under favourable conditions of moisture and warmth.

Towards the end of the summer the uredospores are replaced by the winter resting-spores, called teleutospores, which are larger, thicker-walled and darker in colour. These teleutospores remain inactive on the straw until spring, when they germinate in manure heaps or on moist ground and produce minute sporidia, which are conveyed by air currents to the alternate host, in this case a barberry. In due time the fungus, known as Aecidnim Berberidis, appears on the barberry leaves in the form of small cluster-cups on aecidia, each of which is filled with chains of orange-coloured aecidospores. Infection of the leaves of the young wheat plants follows on the scattering of the aecidiospores: a sorus of the rusty uredospores is produced, and the life-cycle is complete.

EB1911 Wheat - Puccinia graminis.jpg
Fig. 4.—Puccinia graminis.
A, Mass of teleutospores (t) on a leaf of couch-grass.
e, Epidermis ruptured.
b, Sub-epidermal fibres. (After De Bary.)
B, Part of vertical section through leaf of Berberis vulgaris, with a, aecidium fruits, p, peridium, and sp, spermogonia (After Sachs.)
C, Mass of uredospores (ur) with one teleutospore (t).
sh Sub-hymenialhyphae (After De Bary.)

Though this is the normal and complete development of Puccinia graminis, it is not invariably followed. In Australia, for instance, the berberry is an imported plant and of rare occurrence, yet rust is very abundant. Teleutospores of heteroecious rusts never reinfect the host on which they are produced, so that in many cases the uredospores probably survive the winter in Europe as well as in Australia and give rise to the rust of the following year. Wind dispersal of the spores would account for mysterious appearances of the disease, in some years almost every straw in a wheat-field being affected, while in other years scarcely one is attacked. Rust disease does not directly affect the grains, but both quantity and quality are impaired by the exhausted condition of the wheat plants. No cure is possible, but as winter wheat suffers less than spring wheat, early sowing is recommended. Fungus spores will not germinate without moisture, and attention to drainage helps to keep down this and other fungus pests. It has also been observed that too heavy nitrogenous manuring stimulates and prolongs the growing period of the wheat; flowering is retarded, and thus there is a greater opportunity for infection to take place. Wheat growing on an old manure heap is nearly always badly diseased. Much attention has been paid recently to the cultivation of varieties of wheat that are immune to rust attacks, and care should be taken to select strains that have been proved able to resist the disease.

EB1911 Wheat - Germinating Resting-Gonidia.jpg

From Vine's Students' Text-Book of Botany, by permission of Swan, Sonnenschein & Co.

Fig. 5.—Germinating Resting-Gonidia: A of Ustilago receptaculorum; B of Tilletia Caries (× 460).

sp, The gonidium.
pm The promycelium.
d, The sporidia: in B the sporidia have coalesced in pairs at v.

The other two parasites, smut and bunt, affect principally the grain. Smut of wheat, Ustilago Tritici, infects the host at the time of flowering. The fungus-spores, from some diseased plant, alight on the stigma of the flower, and germinate there along with the pollen-grains. The developing seed thus encloses fungal hyphae, which remain dormant within the seed and in spring develop symbiotically with the growth of the wheat plant, doing no apparent injury until the time of fruiting is reached, when the fungus takes complete possession and fills the new seed with a mass of dark-coloured spores. These are scattered over the field and alight on other flowering wheat plants. It is impossible to detect the first infection or to cleanse the seed; the only remedy is to procure seed from a smut-free source, and to prevent further spread of the disease by gathering all smutted heads before the spores have matured or dispersed.

Tilletia Tritici, bunt or stinking smut of wheat, is so-called because the bunted grain has a disagreeable odour of stale herrings. Bread made from bunted flour is dark in colour, and both unpalatable and unwholesome. The spores of the fungus remain in the soil or in manure-heaps until spring, when they germinate and attack the first green leaves of the host plant. The after development is similar to that of smut, and the seed grain becomes a mere mass of fungus spores. Much can be done in this case to clean the seed before sowing by immersing it in hot water or in some solution that will kill the spores without injuring the grain.

Other parasitic fungi of less economic importance occasionally do considerable damage. Erysiple graminis, a mildew of grasses, has caused great loss in various countries; Dilophia graminis sometimes causes deformities of the leaves and inflorescence, another somewhat similar fungus, Ophiobolus graminis, attacks the leaves and stalks near the ground, completely destroying the plants.

Helminthosporium gramineum, a disease of barley, has also been recorded as growing on wheat; it forms long narrow dark-brown streaks on the leaves, which wither and die. The lower leaves are usually the only ones attacked, and the yield of grain has not been seriously affected.

  1. See drawings made to scale by Mr Worthington Smith in the Gardener's Chronicle (25th December 1886).
  2. Food Grains of India, p. 94.
  3. Ann. agronom. (January 1888), p. 33.
  4. For Canadian Wheat see Canada § Agriculture.