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15. Fiber Plants. The principal fiber plants of the United States are cotton, flax and hemp. In this country, however, flax is mostly grown for its seeds. The cotton plant is by far the most important fiber plant in the United States and is becoming increasingly the most important source of fiber either vegetable or animal in the world. Ramie, jute and sisal are also sources of fiber.
16. Stimulants.—Tobacco is of American origin and has been during the whole history of the United States an important industry and has constituted an important article of commerce. The tea plant is now being grown in a small way in South Carolina and, perhaps, elsewhere. Except in Porto Rico, Hawaii and other outlying possessions coffee has not been raised with commercial success.
17. Medicinal and Aromatic Plants.—Have not been cultivated largely. The following include the more important ones : mustard, mint (three species), tansy, pyrethrum (buhach), wormwood, valerian and ginseng.
18. Miscellaneous Crops.—Among the cultivated plants which are not included in the foregoing classification are broom corn, castor bean, hops, onions, teasel, taro, sunflower seeds, willows and pampa plumes.
19. The Staple Crops of the United States.-Are grass, including certain legumes, maize, wheat, oats and cotton. There has been a rapid increase in the cultivated acreage of the country and some changes in the proportion given to different crops, but there is little reason to believe that the time will soon come when these will not be the leading crops, at least so far as acre. age is concerned. Almost every crop now grown on the farms of the United States had been grown to some extent before the Revolutionary War. Improvements in methods of culture, harvesting or in machinery for utilizing the crop have brought some crops into greater relative importance. This has been noticeably true of cotton and it is much to be hoped it may be true of sugar beets and alfalfa.
20. Character of Field Crops. Prior to the discovery of America the field crops of Europe were almost all sown broadcast. In the United States at the present time, more than half the field crops are raised by intercultural tillage. Maize, the white potato and the sweet potato are of American origin, while cotton was not largely raised until the beginning of the nineteenth century. The method of harvesting is also quite different. What are usually known as the small grains have been harvested with the sickle, cradle, reaper and self-binding harvester in successive years and afterwards flailed or threshed, while the crops grown by intercultural tillage have been in the past mostly gathered by hand. Root crops, the sugar beet and potatoes have been added to European agriculture within com paratively recent times.
21. The Beginnings of Plant Culture.— The six great cereals of the world have been cultivated so long that the wild type of each can with difficulty be recognized. Of these, wheat, barley and rice have been cultivated for more than four thousand years, while the cultivation of maize, oats and rye has not been traced much more than two thousand years.
22. The Possibility of Crop Production.—Depends mainly on climate and soil. Of these the climate is the more important, especially when large areas are considered. Manuring, culture or drainage may greatly modify the soil and make it fit for crops for which it was illy prepared. There is, however, a marked variation in the adaptability of different soils under the same climatic conditions. Certain soils are much better adapted to wheat and grass than for maize and potatoes, while other soils are much better adapted to maize and potatoes. Tobacco is a crop that is readily affected by the character of the soil. Plants, like animals, have great adaptability: they may become acclimated and do fairly well when neither soil nor climate is like their native land. Many wild plants show great vitality outside their original habitat. Many of our worst weeds are plants which have been removed from their original environment. Usually, however, it is unwise to attempt the growth of any crop which experience has shown to be illy adapted to the climate and soil of a given region: at least as a leading crop.
23. The Profitableness of a Given Crop.—Depends not only on the climate and soil, but very largely on the market facilities, and, so far as the individual farmer is concerned, largely on his tastes, experience and capital. The farming in many parts of this country has greatly changed not because of soil exhaustion or changes of climate, but because of changes in the market demands. Usually, in regions recently settled, where land is low-priced and transportation facilities are poor, farmers devote themselves to grazing cattle or sheep, or to the production of crops like maize and wheat or cotton, which can be readily transported long distances. Where the soil and climate are favorable wheat has been a favorite crop with new settlers, because a considerable acreage can be grown with comparatively little expenditure of money or labor, and a money return can be secured more quickly than if stock raising be selected as the chief business. As the land advances in value, especially near large cities, the production of crops which give a larger money return for the acreage and of such as cannot be carried great distances without injury becomes more common.
24. The Choice of Crops.—The general practice is usually the safest guide. There are many exceptions to this, but no safer rule can be given to one about commencing farming in a region with which he has little acquaintance than to follow the practice of the most successful farmers in the vicinity, at least in the beginning of his work. On the other hand, it not infre. quently happens that the most profitable farming in a community is that by some one who has introduced a new industry or sought to give a home supply of some article which has been brought from a distance. A man of special skill and intelligence may sometimes wisely work against peculiarities of climate and soil. It often happens that those who are first to see the probable value of a crop new to the region, or first to adapt their farming to changing conditions, are much more successful than their neighbors.
25. Specialties. — A wisely selected specialty often gives much larger profits than come to the farmer who divides his efforts among several branches of farming. The specialty farmer ought to learn more about producing and disposing of his one crop than if he looked after several. He has a better opportunity of making a good reputation and of getting somewhat higher prices. He may be able to produce more cheaply by better use of machinery. Specialties which require most of intelligence and skill may give largest profits, with possibilities of large losses.
26. General Farming.–For most farmers the production of several crops is safer and wiser than giving nearly exclusive attention to one crop. It usually enables the farmer to distribute his labor and that of his employes and teams to better advantage throughout the year. It gives the advantages of a rotation of crops and, if stock feeding is a part of the system, of retaining much of the manurial value of the crops on the farm. It is something of a safeguard against poor yields and poor prices. It rarely happens that all the crops give poor yields, and also bring low prices. The attempt to produce a little of each of a large variety of crops on any farm is almost always unwise. The safe rule is to give the chief attention to one or two or three crops, but not limit the crops to these.
Practicum. 27. RELATIVE IMPORTANCE OF Field CROPS.—Give each student an outline map of the United States such as prepared by the U. S. Weather Bureau. Require each to indicate by suitable legend the percentage of area in cereals, hay and forage, and fiber crops to total farm area in each State. The data may be obtained from census reports or the reports of the U. S. Department of Agriculture.
28. COLLATERAL READING.-Corn Plants. Their Uses and Ways of Life By F. L. Sargent. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1902.
Twelfth Census of the United States. Vol. VI.
Origin of Cultivated Plants. By Alphonse De Candolle. pp. 447-46e. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1902.