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Breeding The Cereals

( Originally Published 1915 )

How to Breed the Cereals.óWith seed from a good variety, the pupils should be encouraged to start a breeding patch. This may best be done as a home project, though there is much to be learned and enthusiasm to be gained from starting a breeding plot for the school. If the work is started in the fall, the pupils should visit the fields or stacks of the district and gather some of the best heads to be found. The grain from each head is to be planted in a row by itself. It was this method of dealing with individual plants that made Nilsson's work at Svalof bring such rich results. The pupils should make an effort to be competent judges of what is needed, and for this the score-card work given in the chapter under " Grain and Stock Judging " is needed. They need the help of the farm bureau man, the experiment station men and the brightest farmers of the district. " Hitch your wagon to a star," says Emerson. Get a clear idea of an ideal plant for the purpose intended ; then watch for variations toward your ideal. When threshing time comes, some interesting correlation work in history can be done. The crops being in small amounts will not justify threshing with modern machinery, and hence the pupils may be led to thresh their breeding crops as people did in the past. The first way is to thresh it in the hand. Then man invented the flail, the method of whipping it over the edge of a board stood on edge, etc. Let the child mind review the progress of the invention of improved threshing machinery and methods at the time he has threshing to do and he will remember his history and find history interesting.

For breeding corn or wheat, a patch in the school garden that is well fenced may be selected. But a patch, say one square rod, in a field next to the school yard is better in a number of ways. The square rod should be selected, say, two or three rods from the edge so as to insure a plot not enriched by dust from the road and a plot where the grain will not be injured by stray animals that may break in and devastate the crop near the fence. Let us use the diagram given in Fig. 14. Let F be the field, BP our breeding plot, and MP our multiplying plot. The first year, when the men do the seeding, they may throw the seeder out of gear as they come to our breeding plot (BP) which should be a square rod or so in area. The grain on our breeding plot is to be sown by hand in individual rows, each row or part of a row from one head. Good, well-marked stakes should be set at the ends of each row or part of a row planted from each head. At harvest time the grain is gathered in bundles, each bundle being from one row. The best heads may be selected for the breeding plot another year. The balance of the bundle may be used for school exhibits, but used carefully and then threshed for seed the following spring. The seed from the select heads is to go into the breeding plot the second year and the seed from the bundles is to go into the multiplying plot. The third year, the seed from the heads go again into the breeding plot, that from the bundles into the multiplying plot, and that from the multiplying plot into a part of the field. We prefer to have our seed from the multiplying plot planted side by side with the regular field crop to enable us to compare relative yielding tendencies.

Pupils who have cameras should be asked to take pictures of every step taken and especially of the bundle displays at school exhibits and county fairs. Some system of keeping accurate records of yields, parentage and descriptions should be adopted. The most approved system for the district should be in harmony with the records kept by the local breeders' associations or the State Experiment Station, hence the teacher should aim to learn how their ecords are kept.

Again I wish to caution teachers not to undertake too much. The work is accumulative. It is better to help to improve the most important crop, as the wheat or oats. It is very much better to do a little well than to do much poorly. After all, the improvement of the grain is not so important as the education of the child. It is the getting of the child interested in improving the grain, it is in making the child conscious of what must be done, it is in awakening a neighborhood to the possibilities of plant breeding, that the great benefit is found.

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