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The results of recent investigations have shown that improvement by selection is relatively a slow process
Longitudinal.—The migration of wheat has necessarily been closely connected with the migration of peoples, and especially with those of Europe. Consequently its general direction of spreading has been westward, though it is claimed that it spread eastward to China at a very early date.
In the United States, the meridian bisecting the wheat acreage passed through eastern Ohio in 1850, and was about 81 degrees. In 1860 it was 85 degrees 24 minutes, in 1870 88 degrees, and in 1880 it had reached middle Illinois, 88 degrees 45 minutes. The center of wheat production at the time of the census in 1900 was near the east central border of Iowa, the meridian of 95 degrees. This shows that the westward march of wheat proceeded at a much more rapid pace from 1880 to 1900 than from 1860 to 1880. During the last half of the nineteenth century, the center of wheat production moved west about 680 miles and north about 99 miles.
Latitudinal.—As European peoples and their descendants are meeting the demands of increasing population by continually subjecting to cultivation land of colder and of warmer latitudes, the domain of wheat is being extended on both sides of the temperate zones. In 1887 Sering published a map of North America in which he gave as the northern boundary of wheat growing territory a line beginning south of Lake Ontario running fully half way around it, a little north of the northern boundary of the other Great Lakes, through Lake of the Woods, through the southeast end of Winnipeg lake, northwest to the Athabasca river, following this to the Rockies, and beginning again in northeastern Washington.
In 1894 the editor of the Social Economist denied that wheat could be raised in Canada or Siberia north of the 55th parallel. This widespread notion that wheat could not be raised in the far north was gradually dissipated as wheat crept closer and closer to the Arctic circle. Wheat has frequently been matured at Sitka, Alaska, 56 degrees north latitude. At the Sitka station, winter rye, spring wheat, barley, oats and buckwheat matured both in 1900 and 1901. In the Peace river valley, extending 700 miles north of the Canada border, 58 degrees north latitude, enough wheat, barley and oats have been grown to bring about the erection of a 100barrel roller mill at Vermilion, on the Peace river. Spring wheat of the Romanow variety matured at the Kenai station in Alaska in 1899, 60 degrees north. Experiments have shown that winter wheat will ripen here in ordinary seasons. On the Mackenzie river wheat has been grown farther north than 62 degrees. Spring wheat and winter rye have matured perfectly 65 degrees 30 minutes north latitude at Rampart, about 200 miles from the Arctic circle, and at Dawson, equally as far north, over 1000 miles north of the United States. While wheat can be grown this far north, the chances of failure are, of course, much greater than in a climate more temperate. Barley, oats and rye will grow farther north than wheat.
Towards the equator the limits of wheat generally vary between 20 and 25 degrees north and south latitude. It thrives in southern Brazil, in Cuba, and in southern Rhodesia in South Africa at these latitudes.
Altitudinal.—Another very important factor in determining where wheat can be raised is the altitude, which may be considered as the complement of latitude. On the mountain plains of Colombia and Ecuador it grows on the equator. Thus wheat is raised in America from the equator, 10,000 feet above sea level, to Dawson and the Klondike river, 2,000 feet above sea level, and at least 65 degrees 30 minutes north latitude. In the United States the census shows that in 1880, over 80 per cent of the grain was grown at an elevation between 500 and 1,500 feet above sea level. In 1890 the altitudes at which wheat was raised varied from 100 feet below sea level to over 10,000 feet above sea level, and about 70 per cent was raised between 500 and 1,500 feet elevation. It cannot be raised successfully at great elevations in England. The plains and mountain slopes of Sicily produce wheat, the upper limit of its growth having been given in 1863 as 2,500 feet in altitude.
A member of the Manitoba legislature, Mr. Burrows, has claimed that fifteen years of history show that altitudes have very much to do with summer frosts, and that 800 to 1,300 feet above sea level is the best altitude for No. 1 hard wheat in Manitoba. Perhaps the greatest elevation at which wheat has been raised is in Asia on the Himalaya mountains, 11,000 feet above sea level. The four counties of Kansas occupying the center of its famous wheat region have an average elevation of about 1600 feet. The Colorado station has developed a type of wheat adapted to the higher altitudes of the mountain regions, those of 6,000 to 9,000 feet elevation.
Historical and Geographical.—In the western half of Asia, in Europe, and in northern Africa, wheat has since time immemorial occupied the first rank of cereals. It was one of the main crops of the Israelites in Canaan. None was grown in the New World before the sixteenth century. Humboldt says that a negro slave of Cortez found three or four grains of wheat in the rice which served to maintain the Spanish army. This was apparently sown before 1530, about the date when the Spaniards introduced wheat culture into Mexico. In 1547 wheat bread was hardly known in Cuzco, Peru. The first wheat sown in the United States was by Gosnold in 1602 on the Elizabeth Islands off the southern coast of Massachusetts. It was first cultivated in Virginia in 1611, and in New Netherlands before 1622. By 1648 there were several hundred acres in the Virginia colony. Missionaries first introduced it into California in 1769. Cuba saw its cultivation at least as early as 1808. It must have been early introduced into Canada, at least by the close of the eighteenth century, for in 1827 Canada raised over twenty million bushels. The first wheat successfully grown and harvested in the Red river valley was in 1820. Victoria wheat, which had been acclimated by growing 200 years in the tropics, was successfully grown in experiments on Jamaica and the Bahama Islands, 1834 to 1836. There was a prejudice against it, however, and Indian corn was grown in preference. Minnesota's first settlements date back to about 1845. Wheat raising became a regular branch of farming in Argentina in 1882. Such were the historical beginnings of the wheat industry in the western hemisphere. It has now become a more or less important industry over practically all of America lying outside of frigid zone climates.
Quantitative.—Both in the quantity produced and in its value, wheat is the world's king of cereals. Recent statistics show, however, that 800,000,000 persons, or 54 per cent of the inhabitants of the globe, derive their sustenance mainly from rice. The most important cereal produced in the United States, measured in bushels or dollars, is corn, and wheat stands second. From the census we find that the United States produced in 1899, including farm animals and their products, an aggregate value of nearly five billion dollars. Of this, animals brought 900 millions, corn 828, and wheat 370, over 7.4 per cent. In 1906 the corresponding figures for corn and wheat were 1,100 and 450. For at least several decades, corn has formed over 50 per cent of the total acreage of cereals in the United States. Wheat formed 29.8 per cent in 1880, 23.9 per cent in 1890, 28.4 per cent in 1900, and 27 per cent in 1905. In value, corn formed 55.8 per cent in 1900, and wheat 24.9 per cent. Cereals form 51 per cent of the value of all crops, which gives the value of wheat as nearly 13 per cent of that of all crops. Out of a total of over 5.5 million farms in the United States, over two million raise wheat. The world's annual production and consumption of wheat is nearly 3.5 billion bushels.
Qualitative.—Taking the civilized world as a whole, wheat forms the principal food of man. It is much more widely distributed than either its commercial rival, corn, or its rival food cereal, rice. It is a prime necessity of civilized life. The quantity of wheat milled is larger than that of all other cereals combined. Sixty-two per cent of all cereal products milled in the United States during 1900 were from wheat. It is essentially a bread cereal. Bananas, rice, potatoes, and other soil products will sustain a greater population on a given unit of land than wheat will, but they are not so well adapted to a high standard of living. Herein lies the present and increasingly great importance of wheat, for it seems to be the tendency of the civilized world to raise its standard of living. As the standard of living rises, wheat becomes a relatively more important part of human food. Rye and oats furnished the bread of the great body of people in Europe during the middle ages. Wheat was high-priced and not extensively grown. England early became a wheat eating nation. France and the other Latin countries followed later. Rye is still extensively used in Germany, but is gradually being superseded by wheat. Even Russia is using more wheat flour than she did twenty years ago.
The great intrinsic food value of wheat; its ease of cultivation and preparation for use; its wide adaptation to different climates and soils; its quick and bountiful return; and the fact of its being paniferous and yielding such a vast number and variety of products are all factors that enhance the value of the wheat grain. Its combined qualitative and quantitative importance gives to wheat a great superiority over any other cereal, and causes it to be dealt in more extensively upon the speculative markets than any other agricultural product. As an essential part of the food of civilized man it becomes of an importance so vital as to be dominating.
The Classification of wheat seems always to have been in a more or less chaotic state. This is especially true of the nomenclature of varieties. Nor is the fault to be laid particularly at the door of science. We have seen that wheat has been continually migrating for many centuries. It is a plant that is easily influenced by environment and therefore particularly unstable in type. Since it has always been migrating to new environments, a complete change in type often resulted, though it was still known by the old name. This is further complicated by the fact that the modern art of breeding wheat has originated many new varieties. Add to this the fact that wheat has been shipped all over the world, not only for commercial purposes, but also for seed experiments, and it is not surprising that the nomenclature of varieties is somewhat tangled, that several varieties are known by the same name, or that one variety may have several names, and may pass for several varieties. It is among the most common wheats that the difficulty has been most perplexing.
Classes and Distribution.—There are several kinds of the less common wheats, such as Polish wheat, spelt and durum wheat, which have very marked characteristics, and which have perhaps not migrated so widely. In spite of some confusion in names, it is generally possible to determine to which