Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/549

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539
RELATION OF BIOLOGY TO AGRICULTURE

THE RELATION OF BIOLOGY TO AGRICULTURE
By Professor F. R. MARSHALL

OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY

UNTIL a few months ago Americans were inclined to express surprise at the paternalistic measures for fostering agriculture as adopted by other countries. Now, the necessity of ensuring adequate food supplies has made us willing to assume the same encouraging attitude toward agriculture as we have always held toward our manufacturing enterprises.

Last year we seemed broad-minded and liberal in what we were doing for the promotion of agriculture, and our motives were really largely philanthropic. We knew that the bulk of our population fared more sumptuously, if not more wisely, than the inhabitants of other nations, but it was maintained that the American laborer was the superior of the European, and his standard of living was, and must continue to be, a higher one. Now we would foster agriculture because we see our dependence upon that industry. The disposition to foster agriculture is evidenced by such actions as the legislatures' requesting the agricultural colleges to establish correspondence courses.

Although the meat boycott was heard of only in its organization, even that move showed plainly that either the standard of living or our agriculture must change. Doubtless both will be greatly modified.

It is not necessary to argue the urgent and immediate need of a more intelligent and scientific agriculture. Present prices are already inciting greater study, as well as adding to the numbers of farmers. The apparently diseased condition over which we have temporarily disturbed ourselves really exhibits nothing that can be readily treated except our tastes, and for those the treatment must be mainly psychological. That remedy is already at work, and the same conditions have also set at work the other remedy, of a more studied production.

It may be philanthropy, but it is also good economic policy, to do everything possible to distribute and add to our knowledge of scientific agricultural principles. The problem is to secure the intelligent application of what we have, but no less to increase our knowledge of principles and of their possible economic value.

The further we are removed from the unsettled times of 1862, the more clearly can we appreciate the wisdom of Justin Morrill in framing the law that founded our present agricultural teaching. The Hatch Act of 1887, by which our experiment stations were brought into exist-