EXPERIMENT Station Results in Food Crop Improvement

Production of the highest yields of high-quality products appears essential to the financial success of the farmer.  The pioneer efforts in experimentation with crops aimed toward increased acre production and the cultivation of greater areas. The recent excess production of certain crops, with consequent reduction in profits, has given impetus to development or search for better crops or those possessing particular outstanding qualities. The plant-breeding sections of the agricultural colleges and experiment stations have been constantly engaged in endeavors to develop better varieties of cereals, root crops, and vegetables, and to make them available to the farmers.

The numerous varieties obtained either as the results of definite attempts or as by-products of investigations have been variously characterized by their earliness, disease resistance, adaptation to specific environmental conditions, commercial value, or culinary qualities. Enhanced protein content of wheat, variation in the oil or protein content of corn and soy beans, better brewing quality in barley, increased sugar content of sugar beets, improvement of quality and length of fiber in the fiber crops, better seed quality of potatoes, and improved quality in tobacco have resulted from' the extensive efforts of the plant breeders.

Food grains have naturally received first attention in view of their prime importance in the home, on the farm, in manufactures, and in commerce. The principal aim in wheat improvement has been the production of high-yielding varieties, but milling and baking quality and resistance to drought and disease are important considerations.

New Varieties of Wheat

Among the noteworthy varieties of wheat is Kanred, a pure-line selection from Crimea (Turkey) contributed by the Kansas experiment station, which has proved more resistant to rust, somewhat more winter hardy, and slightly earlier than the more commonly grown Turkey ancf is now grown extensively. Denton, a pure-line selected from Mediterranean wheat by the Texas station, is rust resistant and outstanding in yield ang has a wide distribution in the wheat-growing region of northern Texas. Fulhio wheat, developed by the Ohio station as a pure-line selection from Fultz, has exhibited high yields, good tillering capacity, winter hardiness, fairly stiff straw, and a somewhat greater resistance to loose smut than Fultz. Redrock, an awned, soft, red, winter type selected by the Michigan station, is suitable to well-drained, fertile loams and heavy soils and is of excellent milling quality. Inbred, developed from Banat wheat by the Iowa station and the United States Department of Agriculture, has given excellent results, showing winter hardiness, excellent quality, stiffness of straw, and a good yield. Michikoff, developed from a hybrid by the Indiana station, is known for its winter hardiness and ‘a hard, glutinous kernel of high-test weight, producing flour of superior quality for bread.

Marquillo, a new awnless wheat originated at the Minnesota station by crossing Marquis and the rust-resistant durum Tumillo, has a stiff straw, matures somewhat earlier, yields slightly better than Marquis, and compares favorably with Marquis in baking quality.  Mindum, a bearded, white-kerneled durum wheat selected by the Minnesota station, has fair rust resistance, yields high under Minnesota conditions, and is of good quality for macaroni and other durum- wheat products. Minturki, a bearded, white-chaffed winter wheat with kernels of the Turkey type, resulted from attempts by the Minnesota station to produce a hardy winter wheat with other desirable qualities. Mosida, developed by the Idaho station, has given high yields, has a better than average resistance to bunt, good strength of straw, and is adapted to the cut-over sections of northern Idaho. Ridit wheat, developed by the Washington station from a hybrid, is an awnletted hard winter wheat and has resistance to bunt and to shattering and superior milling qualities as outstanding characters.

Corn Investigations

Investigations with corn have been so extensive and diverse that only significant current trends may be discussed. Practically every station has compared local and introduced varieties and has endeavored to produce better strains by selection, hybridization, or other breeding methods. The wide variation according to the type or variety of corn and also within the variety renders it possible to select for ear or plant characters, e. g., the high and low protein and the high and low oil strains produced by the Illinois station and the cold-resistant strain by the Wisconsin station, as well as the characteristic kernels and other features of certain types. The widespread use of improved varieties such as Leaming, Reid Yellow Dent, and Boone County White has greatly increased the value of the corn crop.

Considering that corn is highly cross pollinated, that the grower naturally tends to select certain of the several types in the variety, and that the several types may react differently to the environment, it is not surprising that the improved variety may be decidedly modified in relatively short periods. Systems of breeding depending on mass selection, i. e., ear-to-row or score card, generally have not been found advantageous, since these are based on ear or plant type and consider only the female parent.

The method of breeding known as selection in self-fertilized lines recently in vogue at many of the experiment stations controls the male parent by self-pollination. Inbred lines so derived are differently characterized by their vigor, weakness, tendency to lodging, and resistance to diseases. Chlorophyll variations, dwarfing, and other aberrant tendencies may appear during the several years of selfing and can be eliminated. The most vigorous and promising of such inbred strains may be combined in single, double, and multiple crosses, even to the extent of producing “synthetic” or “re-created” varieties. Current results suggest that the standard corn varieties may be decidedly improved by this means.

New Strains of Oats Profitable

Oats, a cereal ranking high in acreage and crop value and very important in American agriculture, has also received considerable attention from plant breeders. The claim has been made that the improved oats varieties developed and distributed by the Iowa station return to the State each year more than the total annual appropriation made by the State for the support of the State college and the experiment station combined. A survey indicated that over 46 per cent of the total oats acreage of Iowa in 1924 was planted to Albion, Richland, Iowar, and Iogren oats, varieties developed cooperatively by the Iowa station and this department. The total production gained by growing station varieties that year was about 11,000,000 bushels.

Gopher, an early maturing oats with white grain, selected by the Minnesota station, is characterized by a stiff straw, high yielding ability, and heavy weight per bushel. Kanota oats, distributed by the Kansas station, excels the commonly grown Red Rustproof (Red Texas) in yield, test weight, and earliness, and can endure heavy spring frosts better than Red Rustproof. The New York (Cornell) station cooperating with this department has brought forth six pure-line selections of oats—Cornellian, Ithacan, Comewell, Empire, Standwell, and Upright. Wolverine, a very productive oats for the lighter loams and upland soils, and Worthy, a stiff-strawed variety adapted to very heavy soils, resulted from breeding work by the Michigan station. The superior characters of Markton oats, developed Tay the Oregon station and this_department, include early maturity, high yield, immunity from covered smut, thin hull, and excellent milling quality. Tech oats, originated by the Virginia station, combines high yield, early maturity, and winter resistance.  The Wisconsin station {as produced several high-yielding oats, including State Pride, characterized by earliness and adaptation to fertile soil; White Cross, identified by earliness, tall straw, and adaptation to light soil; Forward, having plump kernels and relative freedom from rust; and Wisconsin Wonder, known for its stiff straw.

Other Cereals

Among the cereals used to a lesser extent for food may be mentioned Tennessee Winter a six-rowed awned hulled barley developed by the Tennessee station, and Colsess, a six-rowed hulled barley derived by the Colorado station, which stands up under irrigation, does not shatter much, is early, high yielding, and adapted to. mountain agriculture. Michigan Black Barbless is a short, stiff-strawed, smooth-awned barley brought forward by the Michigan station and indicated for heavy fertile soils. Minsturdi, a six-rowed barley produced by the Minnesota station cooperating with this department, has a stiff straw, yields well, and is particularly adapted to rich or heavy soils where other varieties often lodge badly. In similar cooperation, resistance to spot blotch and the smooth-awned character were combined in Velvet, a six-rowed high yielding barley.  This department cooperating with the Idaho station developed Trebi, a six-rowed awned, stiff-strawed barley for irrigated land, and with the New York (Cornell) station produced Alpha, a two-rowed hybrid yielding well in New York.

Grain sorghums improved by the Texas station include Spur feterita, a variety apparently well suited for growing under irrigation and surpassing the original feterita for both grain and forage; Dwarf feterita, selected from common feterita, being very early and drought resistant and valuable for extreme western Texas where rainfall averages below 20 inches; and high-yielding strains of Blackhull kafir. Resulting from crosses between kafir and feterita in cooperation with this department, Primo excels the common sorghums in both grain and forage qualities, and Chiltex, considerably earlier than Primo, is better adapted to the dry regions of western Texas.

Several new varieties of rice, Fortuna, Acadia, Delitus, Tokalon, Evangeline, Vintula, and Salvo, characterized by their agronomic and culinary qualities, were developed cooperatively by the Louisiana station and this department. Texas Fortuna rice, developed by the Texas station, resembles the Fortuna selected in Louisiana.

Vegetable Breeding

Vegetables make up a considerable and important portion of the diet of the family, and, naturally, have been the subject of extensive breeding work at the experiment stations. The Robust white navy bean, a vigorous, disease-resistant, and productive variety has been selected by the Michigan station. Iowa 5 cabbage, developed at the Iowa station, proved resistant to yellows and growers reported it a very good type. Several types of cabbage resistant to yellows have been developed by the Wisconsin station cooperating with this department. Penn State Ballhead, a late cabbage notable for uniformity in size, shape, and weight, and high yields, was brought forth by the Pennsylvania station. Sunshine sweet corn, a yellow sort considerably earlier and with much larger ears than Golden Bantam, resulted from breeding work at the North Dakota station.  A high quality and evenly maturing type of Country Gentleman sweet corn, developed at the Indiana station, outyielded its nearest competitor by from one-half to three-fourths ton per acre. Selection in self-fertilized lines has given rise to superior sweet corn at the Maine station.

The Everbearing pea, developed by the Idaho station, is a good market garden pea, combining high yield with exceptional flavor.  The V. P. I. Green Mountain potato, a hill selection outyielding the ordinary Green Mountain, has excellent cooking qualities and is in great demand and widely grown in western Virginia. Kitchenette Hubbard, & small Hubbard squash developed at the Minnesota station, averages about 5 pounds per squash but yields as heavy a tonnage as any of the Hubbards and is considered the ideal squash for the family. The Virginia Truck station originated a variety of spinach, Virginia Savoy, resistant to the mosaic disease and possessing good quality. The Red River tomato, an extra early red variety which is rounder, smoother, and more solid than Earliana, and the Agassiz, a medium early purple tomato of good size and heavy yielding ability, were developed at the North Dakota station. Tomato strains selected at the Missouri station for resistance to wilt (Fusarium lycopersici) gave acre yields as much as 8 tons in excess of those by nonresistant commercial sorts.

Examples like the above, showing how the experiment stations have contributed to the improvement in yield and quality of food crops and: thereby increased the potential food producing capacity of the country, might readily be multiplied.