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Agricultural Development in the West Indies

    Naturevolume 105page344 (1920) | Download Citation

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    THOSE interested in tropical agriculture will find much worthy of attention in a paper on "Tropical Departments of Agriculture, with Special Reference to the West Indies,"written by Sir Francis "Watts, Imperial Commissioner of Agriculture for the West Indies, and published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Arts (February 20). The paper contains avery interesting account of the evolution of tropical Departments of Agriculture, pointing out that these Departments had their origin in the botanical gardens which were started in the larger islands in the eighteenth century, and also in the mission gardens which the early missionaries cultivated around their stations., The author traces the decline of the British West Indian sugar industry, and the efforts to revive it and to stimulate agriculture by the formation of botanical departments in the smaller islands. Economic conditions, however, became worse, and in 1896 the West Indian Royal Commission was appointed, and its report marks a period in West Indian history. As an outcome of this report the Imperial Department of Agriculture was constituted, the expense of which was met by Imperial funds. The policy of the Department was to revive, extend, and improve the already existing botanic gardens. This action so fostered agricultural development that, at the end of ten years, the Colonial finances had so improved that it was decided to diminish progressively the Imperial grants to the various stations, until in 1912-13 these grants ceased. Sugar production is still a highly important industry; it has been very much improved; the pests and diseases of the sugar-cane are understood, and, what is more important, the growers know how to control the pests; also, the sugar produced by the factories is now a much more valuable product than the old muscovado sugar. The cacao and lime industries have been studied and improved; some minor industries, e.g. onion-growing, have also been studied to the advantage of the growers; while encouragement has been given to the production of such crops as maize for home consumption. The latter activity is especially important at the present time, when a wheat shortage is threatened.

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    https://doi.org/10.1038/105344a0

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