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Problems of Wheat Growing

Nature volume 85, page 57 (10 November 1910) | Download Citation



THE October number of Science Progress contains an important article on “Wheat-growing and its Present-day Problems,” by Dr. E. J. Russell, of the Rothamsted Experimental Station. The article is based very largely upon a discussion which took place at the Winnipeg, meeting of the British Association, at a joint meeting of the Botanical, Chemical, and Agricultural Sections. The work of the Rothamsted station has long ago made familiar the main facts in reference to the fertilisation of wheat-fields under normal conditions, but the recent discovery of the use of phosphatic manures in order to secure earlier ripening may prove to be an important factor in extending the northern limit of the wheat-belt; in the same way, it is suggested, the use of late-ripening, varieties manured with potassium salts may be of value in extending the southern limit; phosphates have also, proved of value in securing rapid root development in the dry soils of Australia, where it is of great importance that the plant should secure access to the subsoil water as quickly as possible. Refetence is also made to the recent experiments of Dr. Saunders and others on the breeding of wheat in order to develop “strength,” heavy cropping power, early maturity, and resistance to rust and drought. The work to be done here is very extensive, as different localities demand widely different types, owing, both to economic and to physical differences. Even in a given locality the results obtained vary greatly according to the conditions, a “strong” wheat often giving a crop, of weak piebald wheat when grown on newly broken land, whilst on old land the crop may be superior in quality to that used as seed, a difference that is perhaps-due to the great decrease in the proportion of water in the older land during the period of growth of the crop. It is pointed out that continuous cropping with wheat appears to break down the fertility of the soil by bacterial changes, which result in disintegrating the nitrogen, rather than by chemical exhaustion; the soil recovers, however, when planted with clover and similar crops, which act as agents for the fixation of nitrogen; as this seems to fit in with the natural development of farming in a new country, the temporary loss of fertility is of less importance than might appear at first sight to be the case.

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