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Sections of Smutted Wheat Straw .
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THE BOOK OF WHEAT
WHEAT GRAIN AND PLANT
The Word Wheat can be traced back through the Middle English whete to Old English hwaete, which is allied to hwit, white. The German Weizen is related to weisz, which also means white. The French blé suggests blêmir, to grow pale. Perhaps wheat was called white, to distinguish it from rye and other dark colored grains. Triticum, the botanical and classical name, doubtless comes from tritus, which is a participle from the Latin terere, to grind. The Italian frumento, and the similar French froment, are descended from the Latin word for corn or grain, frumentum, which originated in frux, fruit. The Spanish trigo has evolved through French and Latin from the Greek trigonon, which has for its roots tri, three, and gonia, a corner or angle. Thus the most widely used names of the wheat plant were determined by the characteristics of the seed, as color, shape, the property of having to be ground for food, and the natural relation of the seed to the plant.
The Geographical Origin of wheat has never been certainly determined. Such evidence as exists seems to point to Mesopotamia, but this is largely a matter of opinion. While wheat has been found growing apparently wild, the doubt always seems to remain that it may have simply escaped from cultivation. However, the belief that wheat once grew wild in the Euphrates and Tigris valleys, and spread from these to the rest of the world, has wider acceptance than any other. De Candolle's conviction rests largely on the evidence of Berosus and Strabo, while Lippert, in addition to the former, also cites Olivier and Andre Michaux. Darwin appears to have favored the same theory. From this center wheat is supposed to have spread to Phænicia and Egypt. The Chinese considered it a gift from heaven. Homer and Diodorus Siculus say that it grew wild in Sicily. Humboldt denies
the claim of Hermandez that a wheat native to Chili was found. The Egyptian historian, Manetho, attributed its discovery to Isis.
The Historical Origin of wheat is unknown. The most ancient languages mention it, and under different names. Whether we assume that these names, with the languages in which they are found, became differentiated from a common parent, or whether we assume that wheat evolved and spread over the Old World so independently of man that its name did not accompany its progress, in either case a period of time long enough to antedate our oldest languages will be required. The fact that it has been found in the prehistoric habitations of man, notably in the earliest Swiss lake dwellings, is proof of its antiquity.
The Swiss of the neolithic period cultivated four distinct species of wheat. Wheat seems to have been cultivated in China 3,000 years B. C., and was a chief crop in ancient Egypt and Palestine. The Bible first mentions wheat in Genesis, Chap. 30, v. 14.
Biological Origin.—The botanist calls wheat a grass. The evolutionist has ascended the biological stream one stage farther, and calls it a degenerate and degraded lily, using these terms, of course, in an evolutionary sense.
He assumes great group of plants of a primitive type from which sprang first the brilliantly colored lilies, then the degraded rushes and sedges, and lastly the still more degenerate grasses. From these grasses man developed the cereals, and among them
CLASSIFICATION OF THE GRASS FAMILY."
Andropogoneæ: Sugar Cane-Sorghum
Oryzeæ: Indian Rice-Rice
Phalardiep: Canary and Sweet Vernal Grass
Agrostidee: Timothy-Red Top
Festuceæ: Blue Grass-Bromus-Orchard-Grass Fescues
Hordeæ: Wheat-Barley-Rye-English Rye-Grass
Bambuseæ: Bamboo 1 Minn. Bul. 62, p. 392.
wheat. This is the hypothesis that accounts for most of the facts involved. All of the grass family, Gramineæ, are easily distinguished by having only one seed leaf, and for this reason they are known as monocotyledons.
The wild animal grasses, Aegilops, found in such abundance in southern Europe, and resembling true wheat in every point except in size of grain, are considered as the nearest kin to wheat. Efforts have been made to develop wheat from ovata, the most typical species. Fabre of Agde, France, claimed that in 1838 he began to improve this plant by selection, and that by 1846 he had obtained a very fair sample of wheat. His results have not been supported by other conclusive experiments, and scientists generally have not accepted them. There was doubtless cross-fertilization.
The accompanying figure represents different stages in the evolution of wheat.'
The above sketch from a photograph shows: (1) #gilops ovata, a small dwarfed
specimen, but one grain of wheat in each head, found in Southern Europe; (2) The same species better grown and developed; (3) Triticum spelta, the cultivated spelt of Europe; °(4) Triticum Polonicum, Polish wheat or giant rye; (5) Head of Nebraska wheat. While this is an instructive comparison, it is very questionable whether 110.5 could be developed from No. 1 in a reasonable number of years. 1 Minn. Bul. 62, p. 81.