Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/617

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AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATIONS.

intelligent farmer who is opposed to experiment stations, or who would have them limited in their operations to the analysis of fertilizers. There is a general if not always intelligent demand for scientific experiments on plant and animal production, and we may venture to predict that in future such investigations will form a more important part of the work of our experiment stations than has hitherto been the case.

It is not proposed in this article to consider the propriety of the founding of experiment stations on the part of the State. That the general welfare is sufficiently promoted thereby to justify the expense appears evident to the writer, but the question has been practically decided in so many States that any discussion of it at this late day would be quite superfluous. It seems almost certain that within a few years a great development of the business of agricultural experimentation in this country will take place. What the nature of this development shall be and how it can be guided to the best results are questions alike interesting to the agriculturist, who hopes for personal advantage from it, and the statesman, who desires the prosperity of this most important branch of industry. Nor is it material benefits alone that may be anticipated from a wise treatment of this question. The educational influence of such a center of information and research as a good station should be, the influence which it would have on the intelligence and methods of thought of its constituents, is not easily overestimated.

What, then, should an experimental station be? How should it be organized, and by whom conducted? What should the public expect from it in return for its support? By what standard judge whether it is fulfilling the purpose of its existence?

Three courses are open, any one or all of which an experiment station may pursue:

First, it may undertake police duties, and devote its energies to the prevention or detection of fraud in fertilizers, fodders, seeds, foods, etc. This species of work has of necessity occupied the larger share of the attention of the American stations thus far, and, unless other means are provided for its performance, must continue to form an important part of their duties until human nature becomes other than it is.

A second and broader field of activity, and one whose importance, we venture to think, will be more and more appreciated from year to year, provided it is wisely cultivated, consists in applying what is now known of agricultural science to the conditions prevailing where the station is located. Such work, for example, would be a physical and chemical study of the different varieties of soil in the State with regard to the kinds of fertilizers best adapted to them, the most appropriate methods of tillage, the most suitable crops, etc.—in short, an agricultural survey of the State, the benefits of which would doubt-