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Plant Seeding

Categories: THE PLANT

In propagating by seed, as in reproducing by buds, we select a portion

of the parent plant--for a seed is surely a part of the parent

plant--and place it in the ground. There is, however, one great

difference between a seed and a bud. The bud is really a piece of the

parent plant, but a piece of _one_ plant only, while a seed comes from

the parts of two plants.

You will understand this fully if you read c
refully Sections XIV-XVI.

Since the seed is made of two plants, the plant that springs from a seed

is much more likely to differ from its mother plant, that is, from the

plant that produces the seed, than is a plant produced merely by buds.

In some cases plants "come true to seed" very accurately. In others they

vary greatly. For example, when we plant the seed of wheat, turnips,

rye, onions, tomatoes, tobacco, or cotton, we get plants that are in

most respects like the parent plant. On the other hand the seed of a

Crawford peach or a Baldwin apple or a Bartlett pear will not produce

plants like its parent, but will rather resemble its wild forefathers.

These seedlings, thus taking after their ancestors, are always far

inferior to our present cultivated forms. In such cases seeding is not

practicable, and we must resort to bud propagation of one sort or


While in a few plants like those just mentioned the seed does not "come

true," most plants, for example, cotton, tobacco, and others, do "come

true." When we plant King cotton we may expect to raise King cotton.

There will be, however, as every one knows, some or even considerable

variation in the field. Some plants, even in exactly the same soil, will

be better than the average, and some will be poorer. Now we see this

variation in the plants of our field, and we believe that the plant will

be in the main like its parent. What should we learn from this? Surely

that if we wish to produce sturdy, healthy, productive plants we must go

into our fields and _pick out just such plants to secure seed from as we

wish to produce another year_. If we wait until the seed is separated

from the plant that produced it before we select our cotton seed, we

shall be planting seed from poor as well as from good plants, and must

be content with a crop of just such stock as we have planted. By

selecting seed from the most productive plants _in the field_ and by

repeating the selection each year, you can continually improve the breed

of the plant you are raising. In selecting seed for cotton you may

follow the plan suggested below for wheat.

The difference that you see between the wild and the cultivated

chrysanthemums and between the samples of asparagus shown in Figs. 49

and 50 was brought about by just such continuous seed-selection from the

kind of plant wanted.

By the careful selection of seed from the longest flax plants the

increase in length shown in the accompanying figure was gained. The

selection of seed from those plants bearing the most seed, regardless of

the height of the plant, has produced flax like that to the right in the

illustration. These two kinds of flax are from the same parent stock,

but slight differences have been emphasized by continued seed-selection,

until we now have really two varieties of flax, one a heavy seed-bearer,

the other producing a long fiber.

You can in a similar way improve your cotton or any other seed crop.

Sugar beets have been made by seed-selection to produce about double the

percentage of sugar that they did a few years ago. Preparing and

tilling land costs too much in money and work to allow the land to be

planted with poor seed. When you are trying by seed-selection to

increase the yield of cotton, there are two principles that should be

borne in mind: first, seed should be chosen only from plants that bear

many well-filled bolls of long-staple cotton; second, seed should be

taken from no plant that does not by its healthy condition show

hardihood in resisting disease and drouth.

The plan of choosing seeds from selected plants may be applied to wheat;

but it would of course be too time-consuming to select enough single

wheat plants to furnish all of the seed wheat for the next year. In this

case adopt the following plan: In Fig. 52 let _A_ represent the total

size of your wheat field and let _B_ represent a plat large enough to

furnish seed for the whole field. At harvest-time go into section _A_

and select the best plants you can find. Pick the heads of these and

thresh them by hand. The seed so obtained must be carefully saved for

your next sowing.

In the fall sow these selected seeds in area _B_. This area should

produce the best wheat. At the next harvest cull not from the whole

field but from the finest plants of plat _B_, and again save these as

seed for plat _B_. Use the unculled seed from plat _B_ to sow your crop.

By following this plan continuously you will every year have seed from

several generations of choice plants, and each year you will improve

your seed.

It is of course advisable to move your seed plat _B_ every year or two.

For the new plat select land that has recently been planted in legumes.

Always give this plat unwearying care.

In the selection of plants from which to get seed, you must know what

kind of plants are really the best seed plants. First, _you must not

regard single heads or grains, but must select seed from the most

perfect plant_, looking at the plant as a whole and not at any single

part of it. A first consideration is yield. Select the plants that yield

best and are at the same time resistant to drouth, resistant to rust and

to winter, early to ripen, plump of grain, and nonshattering. What a

fine thing it would be to find even one plant free from rust in the

midst of a rusted field! It would mean a _rust-resistant plant_. Its

offspring also would probably be rust-resistant. If you should ever find

such a plant, be sure to save its seed and plant it in a plat by itself.

The next year again save seed from those plants least rusted. Possibly

you can develop a rust-proof race of wheat! Keep your eyes open.

In England the average yield of wheat is thirty bushels an acre, in the

United States it is less than fifteen bushels! In some states the yield

is even less than nine bushels an acre. Let us select our seed with

care, as the English people do, and then we can increase our yield. By

careful seed-selection a plant-breeder in Minnesota increased the yield

of his wheat by one fourth. Think what it would mean if twenty-five per

cent were added to the world's supply of wheat at comparatively no cost;

that is, at the mere cost of careful seed-selection. This would mean an

addition to the world's income of about $500,000,000 each year. The

United States would get about one fifth of this profit.

It often happens that a single plant in a crop of corn, cotton, or wheat

will be far superior to all others in the field. Such a plant deserves

special care. Do not use it merely as a seed plant, but carefully plant

its seeds apart and tend carefully. The following season select the best

of its offspring as favorites again. Repeat this selection and culture

for several years until you fix the variety. This is the way new

varieties are originated from plants propagated by seed.

In 1862 Mr. Abraham Fultz of Pennsylvania, while passing through a field

of bearded wheat, found three heads of beardless, or bald, wheat. These

he sowed by themselves that year, and as they turned out specially

productive he continued to sow this new variety. Soon he had enough seed

to distribute over the country. It became known as the Fultz wheat and

is to-day one of the best varieties in the United States and in a number

of foreign countries. Think how many bushels of wheat have been added to

the world's annual supply by a few moments of intelligent observation

and action on the part of this one man! He saw his opportunity and used

it. How many similar opportunities do you think are lost? How much does

your state or country lose thereby?


Select one hundred seeds from a good, and one hundred from a poor,

plant of the same variety. Sow them in two plats far enough apart

to avoid cross-pollination, yet try to have soil conditions about

the same. Give each the same care and compare the yield. Try this

with corn, cotton, and wheat. Select seeds from the best plant in

your good plat and from the poorest in your poor plat and repeat

the experiment. This will require but a few feet of ground, and the

good plat will pay for itself in yield, while the poor plat will

more than pay in the lesson that it will teach you.

Write to the Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C., and to

your state experiment station for bulletins concerning

seed-selection and methods of plant-improvement.