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SPECIAL REPORT OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY
SIR: In accordance with your request, I beg leave to submit the following review of the scientific work of the Department in its relations to practical agriculture, to form a part of the Annual Report of the Department.
Trusting that it may fully cover the object which you had in view, and that its publication may serve to emphasize in the minds of the readers the determined effort in every division of this Department under your
administration to conduct all the work in a manner subservient to the best interests of practical agriculture, I have the honor to remain, Very respectfully, yours,
Assistant Secretary. Hon. J. M. RUSK,
Secretary of Agriculture.
THE SCIENTIFIC WORK OF THE DEPARTMENT IN ITS RELA.
TIONS TO PRACTICAL AGRICULTURE
Agriculture to be permanently successful must be founded on, and conducted according to scientific principle. As all legislation not in accordance with fundamental economic laws will sooner or later fail in its beneficent purpose, so agriculture without an intelligent apprehension of its conditions and limitations, without a wise consideration of the laws to which it is subject, without a proper application of every means to enhance its productiveness, will ultimately fail to respond to expectations and will bring disaster to the farmer. Nature can not be cheated, and her implacable laws will surely find out their transgressors. There is a plague-stricken soil as well as a plague-stricken population. Sanitation and vegetation are not accidents: for both there are arts that promote and arts that prevent injury. Science is at the bottom of each.
Science is classified knowledge. This knowledge comes from experience and from investigation. It is as important to know what has been done as to know what it is possible to do. Science arranges the facts of the former in line and finds a law; or it investigates, projects itself into the unknown, and discovers other laws or amplifies those already known. Men who heed these laws avoid mistakes, conserve their energies, and double production.
The practical farmer too often forgets or ignores what he owes to science. He perhaps is sometimes not aware of the obligation. How many farmers, for instance in the temperate zone, would be moved to build a monument to the man or men who invented hay as adapted to modern use? Yet in a large sense hay is a modern discovery, based upon long experiments made in the importation, cultivation, and improvement of grasses till then unknown to the agriculturist. As recently as the sixteenth century the average weight of the bullocks bought for the English navy was less than 400 pounds. For want of hay the sheep were mostly killed in November, and such as were left were, with the oxen, starved through the winter, so that improvement was impossible. The grass experiments, scientific and practical, of the Duke of Bedford and others, made the 2,000 pound bullock possible, by furnishing food for continuous unstinted growth, winter and summer, from birth to maturity. It was by no accident that the few useful grasses upon which are based the live stock and dairy interests in the magnificent proportions of the present time were brought from diverse countries and made subservient to the interests of mankind.
How long it took the world to learn that proper rotation of crops “rests the land” as effectually as fallowing, thereby saving one crop and sometimes two a year; to learn that the increase of live stock on the farm within and under certain conditions increases its fertility; to learn that artificial drainage warms and lightens cold and heavy soils, advancing the harvest by weeks and bringing the subsoil to the relief of the impoverished surface, by which as some one has said we find a new farm under the old one, or as Emerson so graphically says, "by drainage we have gone to the subsoil, and we have a Concord under Concord, a Middlesex under Middlesex, and a basement story of Massachusetts more valuable than the superstructure.” These matters were all demonstrated by the application of scientific principles long before adoption by the world at large.
It is perhaps a waste of words to continue a further discussion of what agriculture owes to science. Illustrations multiply as the everwidening field is traversed. Suffice it to say that to the introduction of scientific methods and processes is due in large measure the elevation of those who till the soil to their present high estate. Science carries intelligence with it wherever it goes, and its wains are freighted with the burdens of increased harvests. In line with this sentiment and in furtherance of the demand of the farmers of the United States, was founded
THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.
As far back as 1822 a strong effort was made to transform the “Mall," some 200 acres, between the Capitol and Executive Mansion, then almost a barren waste, into an experiment farm, in which should be propagated for distribution new and rare seeds and plants. Nothing came of the agitation in that form, but in due time a division was established in the Patent Office to gather facts and disseminate information for the benefit of agriculture, and after a while to purchase new and rare seeds and plants in limited quantities for gratuitous distribution. The demand for better things grew till finally a separate and independent department was set up on 40 acres of the “Mall” which forty and more years before was sought for an experiment farm. With this transfer came enlarged powers and duties. In accord with enlightened progress, the means were given for original, scientific investigation. Several new divisions were created for that purpose, among which chemistry was chief. Since then, from time to time, other lines of inquiry have been added till there is hardly a topic of investigation relating to agriculture, suggested by modern thought, that is not in greater or less degree covered by the work of the Department. Its halls are instinct with science. The chiefs of the divisions and many of their subordinates are eminent in their special lines, and are recognized for their work and their ability the world over as the peers of any like body of investigators, seek where you may.
One of the gratifying features of this development in scientific research is that the practical character of the work has not one whit abated. Much more than one half of the money appropriated is used for the gathering of facts and statistics, for the purchase and distribution of seeds and plants, for the extirpation of contagious diseases of animals, for the introduction of and experiments with forage plants, for the inspection of meats and animals intended for export, and finally, for the dissemination of information. The most abstruse scientific inquiry is tempered by a practical impulse. The best scientific work has for its end the useful and the permanent good of agriculture. Here is exemplified what history again and again shows, that the best and highest scientific work has always been allied with the useful. Men need to be harnessed to facts, theories need to be in touch with realities to produce the best results; truths substantially verified in our experience. At the same time the publications issued by the Department constitute a mass of information the most extensive and varied among the nations of the earth. The annual report, of 400,000 copies, constitutes the largest single edition of any book published. In their practical character, in their scientific worth, and in the promptness of their issue, our publications are the admiration of all representatives of foreign governments accredited to the Department to study its workings and efficiency.
So much it is thought is due to make it clear that in this development the cardinal purpose and duty of the Department is not lost sight of. It remains now to consider in detail the
SCIENTIFIC WORK OF THE DEPARTMENT.
This work may be properly divided into three classes: (1) The experimental; (2) the remedial; and (3) general science.
As a matter of fact this classification is not made by divisions, but largely characterizes the work of all the divisions. The classification is generic, not divisional.
This may be subdivided for more clear definition into (1) the empirical, and (2) the economic.
The empirical.—This term empirical is used for the want of a better, though not strictly accurate. By the term is meant that class of experiments which are not popularly considered scientific, though in fact based upon a scientific principle. This work is more fully carried on by the Seed Division, the Horticultural Division, the Pomological Division, and the Botanical Division.
The distribution of improved and valuable seeds and plants is sound policy, because based upon natural law. In a wide sense nature has made her own distribution which all experiments must recognize, and it is the study of the laws of this distribution that constitutes the scientific element of the empirical work, and which renders our definition not strictly accurate. For instance, it was practically a useless waste of funds to distribute cotton seed to the State of Michigan, which was done for a while under the ironclad appropriation that each Congressman should receive his quota of all seeds-an anomaly subsequently rectified.' Climatic and other considerations (really scientific) should have their weight in the purchase and distribution. But, within comparatively certain lines, there is a wide field for improvement in quality and product, by the judicious introduction of new varieties and the transfer of valuable ones from one locality and condition to another.
While nature in the broad sense has placed her varieties of vegetable life in the regions to which they are best, and sometimes where they are exclusively adapted, there are some very marked. exceptions. For instance, the potato, corn (maize), and tobacco were indigenous only on this continent. Their transfer to Europe has been an untold benefit to its teeming population. The transfer to England, in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, of some of the grasses indigenous in Virginia and Maryland, rendered it in large measure possible to make the hay in abundance, which has been noted near the beginning of this article, and which was the prime cause of the modern development of the cattle industry. The planting of the Eucalyptus tree, indigenous in Australia, has been a boon to treeless Southern California. We need not to be reminded that nearly all our cereals as well as our domestic animals are of European or Eastern origin. These illustrations cover broad lines, but they are sufficient to establish the fact that the securing of new seeds and plants for distribution is a paying investment properly conducted. On the other hand, it is equally as susceptible of demonstration that the distribution of valuable seeds and plants, not new, but well known, from one locality to another, is promotive of a higher and better production. Taken from a locality where they succeed at their best estate, they carry with them to their new home some of the impulse and vitality they took on where they were grown. This is nature's secret at the bottom of the benefits in "change of seed.”
Recognizing these facts (based, as has been noted, on scientific reasons), Congress for nearly fifty years has appropriated funds for the purchase and distribution of new and valuable seeds and plants, and has committed the duty of carrying on the work to the Department of Agriculture. While it is conceded that many mistakes have been made and some notable failures have occurred, the fact remains indisputable that great benefits have been conferred upon the agriculture of the United States by the distribution. We can, out of many, give only a few illustrations. Take one from the Seed Division, that of the wheats sent out. Many kinds have been distributed. The most of them appear in the list of those now cultivated, but the number disseminated is of little importance compared with the prominence of some of them in the wheat growing of the present day. The variety which has the widest distribution is the “Fultz," a red winter wheat, which originated in Pennsylvania, and was distributed in 1871 and subsequent years. The area now occupied by it is four times as much as that devoted to any other wheat, and probably occupies one third of the area seeded in winter wheat, producing at least one fourth of the wheat harvest of the country. The next in extent is the “Mediterranean.” This was imported by the Department twenty-five years ago and for several subsequent seasons from Marseilles, France, and grown on the islands of the Mediterranean Sea. The next was the “Fife." It is almost as prominent among spring wheats in the proportion of its cultivation as is the Fultz in the domain of winter wheats. It is the great wheat of the Northwest, introduced by the Department. The next and fourth in importance is the “Clawson,” so well known in Michigan. Many more might be mentioned, taking a lower rank,