Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/589

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585
THE IMPROVEMENT OF PLANTS

The utilization of these waste lands forms one of our great national problems, and the beginning of the solution of the problem rests in finding the crops best adapted to such areas or in all probability in breeding crops that will be adapted to them. The necessity of using these waste lands in the near future is evident. Shall we plant them to forest? Certainly much of this land should be in forest, or in tree crops of some sort, but we want tree crops, at least in many cases, that will return food as well as shelter. The Italian yield of chestnuts is said to average 12 bushels per acre, and J. Russell Smith states that "the value of European mountain-side chestnut orchards equals acre for acre the Illinois corn belt." The kinds of trees to plant in such areas for wood, fruit, sugar, starch, camphor or forage require careful study and the proper breeding in order to secure the best sorts possible.

But this is not all of the problem. Grain, forage and special fruit crops, not necessarily forest trees, require to be as carefully considered, and here again breeding to secure good races adapted to the conditions will be the key note of success. All this requires time, and the generations to follow will not have the time and certainly not the money if they do not repudiate our war debts. The work should be started immediately in order to obtain the results by the time conditions demand them. When I urge this as one of the important national problems of conservation, I speak not without some authority. My life has been given to agricultural work in various parts of the United States. My boyhood on an Iowa farm gave me a knowledge of the rich prairie regions of the west. My education in the University of Nebraska and Washington University, Missouri, extended that knowledge. My sixteen years of service in the National Department of Agriculture, working with cotton and oranges in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas, taught me southern conditions and demands, and now my experience of the last five years in Cornell University, associated with that master agriculturist. Dean L. H. Bailey, has broadened my horizon to at least some conception of the field of agricultural education.

As to the possibilities of producing the suggested improvements in plants, it again may be granted that I can speak with some degree of authority in view of the fact that the great cotton, corn, timothy, orange and pineapple industries have, at least in certain places, felt the influence of new varieties that have gone out from my laboratory. I say this not to extol myself, as any man in my place with my opportunity could have accomplished the same results and many would have done very much more. I say it simply to lend weight to my statements.

I can by no words of mine present this problem in its importance as I see it. In no way, probably, can my efforts stir the nation to a recognition of the necessities of this case, so that action will not be too long delayed. Recognizing the urgency of the problem as I do, how