Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/733

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POPULAR MISCELLANY.

removed from another fowl, great numbers of small, white, opaque specks were seen in the cellular tissue, and by means of the microscope mites were found, of the species Laminosloptes gallniorum (Mégnin). The opaque specks were of a calcareous substance, and many contained the remains of one or more of these mites. In the same fowl Dr. Taylor found thousands of encysted nematoids, resembling, under a microscope of low power, Trichina spiralis, but under a power of about 500 diameters they seemed to be of an undescribed species. A third fowl also contained mites of the species gallinorum. Dr. Taylor deems it probable that a considerable amount of disease prevailing among American domestic fowls, and not referable to any known type, may be due to such parasites. He suggests that carbolic acid, or other disinfectants, sprinkled about henneries, might prove useful as an antidote to these, and to external parasites.

 

The Ferment-Organism in Plant-Growth.—Professor Storer, of the Bussey Institution, in reporting upon his experiments with vegetable mold as a fertilizer, suggests that the activity of the development of the organism or ferment of nitrification is a very important factor in the action of manures, which deserves careful study. Indeed, he says, one of the first things now to be done in seeking to explain the agricultural value of the nitrogen in vegetable mold is to determine precisely what the ferment-organism is, and to study its habits and the history of its development. When this knowledge has been gained, "it will doubtless be practicable for the farmer to employ the soil-nitrogen in a much more intelligent way than has been customary hitherto. He will then be able to count definitely upon the soil-nitrogen as a resource in a sense that was hardly to be thought of by his predecessors. Many methods of tillage and of manuring, and some modes of mulching—the conduct of which is now purely empirical—and the whole subject of composts made with peat and loam, will undoubtedly then be brought into the domain of reasonable practice. For example, the question is now open whether the power of clover and root-crops to supply themselves with nitrogen may not depend upon the comfort and shelter these crops offer to the nitrifying ferment. It is not unlikely that the ferment-organism may prosper exceedingly beneath the dense shade of clover and other large-leaved plants, in the comparatively moist surface-soil which is peculiar to such fields. Perhaps even the manner in which the roots of those plants act upon the soil may have a favorable influence upon the life of the ferment. . . . So, too, in the case of Indian corn, a plant which grows vigorously in hot weather, it is probable that its observed power of utilizing the soil nitrogen to better advantage than the small grains can will be found in some peculiarity of the crop which promotes the growth of the nitric ferment in the soil beneath it, and so makes the nitrogen of the vegetable mold available as plant-food." On this point, Jared Eliot, writing in 1747 on the importance of tilling Indian corn thoroughly, observed: "What is still more remarkable, if the Indian corn be well tilled, the next crop, whether it be oats or flax, so much the bigger and better will that succeeding crop be, so that the land must have gained strength and riches; if it were not so, why did not the Indian corn exhaust and spend the strength of the land, especially when we consider how large corn is made to grow by the good tillage?" Professor Storer predicts that the making of composts may, if his hypothesis Is true, soon cease to be regarded as a subject of technical chemistry, and the consideration of the theory of composting may pass from the chemist's hands into those of the botanist or biologist.

 

Importance of cultivating the Eye-sight.—Dr. R. Brudenell Carter has published a paper urging that the culture and improvement of the eye-sight should receive a share of the attention that is given to physical development in other directions. He believes that it is not school-life alone, but the general conditions of civilization that have diminished our capacity of vision, and cites instances of sharp sight and long sight in savages, that were not regarded as at all unusual, where white men were exceedingly dull of vision. "Is there any reason," he asks, "why perfection of sight should not