Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/587

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583
THE IMPROVEMENT OF PLANTS

provement of any kind, has in a few years won a permanent place in southern agriculture.

It may he argued that the improvement of our native plants would be too slow to justify attempts in this direction. I should answer that nothing is too slow that will pay. Nations bond themselves for hundreds of millions of dollars to carry on a war of the present, which bonds their children must pay sometime in the future, and for no compensation except to maintain the pledged honor of the nation. While breeding is slow when judged from the "get-rich-quick" standpoint of modern Chicago, it is not slow when compared with the life of a nation and from the standpoint of permanent welfare. Within the memory of man the tomato has been introduced into cultivation and advanced in size from a fruit of 3/4 of an inch in diameter to our fine modern fruits, some of which grow as large as 4 inches in diameter.

A striking illustration of this nature is furnished by the experiments that the writer has conducted in the improvement of timothy. Timothy was introduced into cultivation about 1720, nearly two centuries ago. For many years it has been extensively grown, but, until recently, no attempts have been made to develop improved races. In experiments conducted by the Cornell Experiment Station, timothy seed was obtained from a large number of places in this and foreign countries, from which about 18,000 individual plants were grown and the different types studied and isolated. As a result of 9 years of work, some 200 different races have been secured that show a very wide range of characters, and vary from dwarfs to giants in size. A test of the yields of 17 of these new varieties in comparison with the best timothy seed that could be purchased in the market was made in 1910, and also in 1911. In 1910 the average yield of the 17 new sorts was 7,451 pounds per acre and that of the 7 check plats of ordinary timothy was 6,600 pounds per acre; an average increase of 851 pounds per acre in favor of the new varieties. In 1911 the average yield of the 17 new sorts was 7,153 pounds per acre and that of the 7 check plats was 4,091 pounds per acre; an average increase of 3,062 pounds per acre in favor of the new varieties. Four of the high yielding sorts in 1911 gave an increased yield of over 2 tons per acre, or practically double the average yield of the checks, which is an astonishing figure and can be explained only by the fact that timothy has never been improved by breeding and still consists, as generally cultivated, of a motley array of many different types.

Hay is one of the largest agricultural crops of the United States, outranking all other crops, except corn, in total value of production. In 1910, according to the statements issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, there were grown in the United States 45,691,000 acres of hay, which yielded a crop having a farm valuation of $747,769,000. No statistics are available from which we can determine