SCIENCE CHATS

The Crime of Wheat Growing

December 1 1927
SCIENCE CHATS

The Crime of Wheat Growing

December 1 1927

The Crime of Wheat Growing

Editor’s Note—‘The Crime of Wheat Growing,’ an article by J. K. MacKenzie, published in MacLean's September 15 issue, has provoked considerable discussion throughout Canada. A number of farmers and cattle breeders have taken exception to some of the statements made by Mr. MacKenzie, who is a Dominion Experimental Farm official. The following reply from F. W. Crawford, secretary of the Canadian Aberdeen Angus Association, is ‘in opposition.’ MacLean's is glad to allow the platform to the other side.

IN YOUR issue of September 15, J. K. MacKenzie, under the arresting title, ‘The Crime of Wheat Growing’ has undertaken to espouse the cause of the wheat grower in Western Canada in open opposition to those who are or have been favorable to other forms of agriculture. His argument is apparently a challenge by a champion of the ‘all-grain’ farm to those who have advocated a system of diversification, where forage crops and livestock would have a place in our agricultural policy as well as the growing of wheat. It is a vigorous challenge, written in an attractive and entertaining manner, but to one who is familiar with the Western Prairie country it does not carry conviction. Sweet clover is his pet aversion and he infers that all forage crops have been unprofitable in the West, which, of course, means that livestock production has also been unprofitable, because without forage crops you cannot have livestock in any considerable quantity. Having derided ‘the self appointed’ spokesmen for the West he straightway undertakes to be spokesman himself, and applies to Western Canada in general some conditions that may or may not be applicable to a small area in the Swift Current country.

No doubt he makes a good point when he rebukes those who, although unfamiliar with conditions, are continually

telling the farmer how to run his business but almost immediately he shows himself to be on unfamiliar ground when he attempts to apply his knowledge of agriculture to general agricultural conditions throughout Western Canada. Let the farmers of Manitoba and Saskatchewan answer his assertion that there is no apparent increase in soil fertility following the growing of sweet clover. In 1915 there was a total of 6,453 acres of all clovers, exclusive of alfalfa grown in Manitoba and in the year 1927 there was 162,352 acres of sweet clover alone, and about 15,000 acres of alfalfa and other clovers grown in the province, according to figures provided by the Manitoba Department of Agriculture. In Saskatchewan, records in connection with the growing of sweet clover do not go back so far, but we find that in 1923 there were only 5,303 acres of that legume grown in the banner wheat province, while in 1927 the total was 134,710 acres. Not a very large acreage, it is admitted, but a proportionate increase greater than the increase in the wheat acreage of Saskatchewan as given by Mr. MacKenzie. Further, the writer of this article has witnessed the rehabilitatien cf much of Southern and South Western Manitoba by the growing of sweet clover during the past seven years. Lands and districts that were abcut to be abandoned have been made over into seme of the most productive territory in the West. The general endorsation of this legume by Manitoba and Saskatchewan farmers is surely proof of its merit.

What About Livestock?

THE statistics dealing with the increase in wheat acreage in the province of Saskatchewan between 1911 and 1921 indicate that in those ten years the area given to the growing of that grain was doubled, but what about livestock in the

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same province? In the year 1911 there were 574,972 horses, 777,502 cattle, 125,072 sheep and 333,218 head of swine in Saskatchewan, while in the year 1921 there were 1,179,389 horses, 1,563,332 cattle, 188,021 sheep and 432,776 head of swine in that province. Figures make tiresome reading, but those quoted indicate that the livestock production of Saskatchewan has kept pace with the increase in wheat acreage in the greatest wheat growing province of the Dominion. During those ten years the number of head of livestock sold on our commercial markets, from the province of Saskatchewan, has doubled and trebled, further supporting the view that livestock production does not lag behind in that province.

Let us glance briefly at the increase in production of some of our livestock products. We will deal with two only to save time and space. In 1901 the wool clip of Saskatchewan was valued at $36,180 and the total value of the poultry and egg products was $278,234, while in 1926 the wool clip was worth $135,000 and the total value of the poultry and egg products had risen to $10,352,000. The producers of these important items of Western Agriculture are not endeavoring to eject wheat from the province of Saskatchewan, but rather to ensure the continued success of our main cash crop in this area in the years to come.

Manitoba is the older province and conditions are not just the same, although your contributor very generously took the entire prairie country within the scope of his remarks. In 1915 there were 3,664,281 acres under wheat in Manitoba, but in 1926 the wheat acreage had been reduced by 1,378,443 acres, leaving a total of only 2,285,838 acres sown to that crop. During the last ten years in particular the tendency in Manitoba has been to reduce the acreage of wheat and increase that of barley and sweet clover. To-day most of the farmers who have been through a long, hard struggle since 1916 will admit the main reason for their difficulties has been too long an adherence to the doctrine so eloquently expounded by Mr. MacKenzie. Diversification is now an accomplished fact in many parts of Manitoba, and will be more and more apparent as the years go by. Farmers of that province do not resent, but they do not require so-called ‘experts’ to advise them to grow forage crops and diversify their farming operations. Thousands of them have learned in the practical school of experience of the value of sweet clover in soil recuperation and the security that a few head of livestock gives to their general farming operations.

Model Farms

TPHE author of this entertaining article 4 infers that those farmers who have grown forage crops and livestock extensively have met financial reverses that the wheat grower has a voided. Those who have failed can be found among the growers of livestock and the growers of grain, but I would delight in the opportunity to take your contributor visiting, and in three days I would take him into many of the finest homes on the prairies, homes in which mortgage companies are not interested and homes that have been built upon the products of diversified farming. We would visit a farm where a thirty-five bushel crop of wheat was grown this year, on a field that has only been once summer fallowed since 1892. During that time this field has grown several crops of corn, and the livestock that has been raised has provided two or three dressings of farmyard manure. Mr. John R. Hume of Souris, Manitoba, who owns the farm in question, has not made any attempt to eject wheat from his own farming operations, but by the growing of Aberdeen-Angus cattle, Shropshire sheep, Barred Rock fowl, sweet clover and corn he has ensured successful production during the coming years. This case is but

one example of hundreds that I could mention if time and space would permit.

The place that livestock and livestock products, the direct result of forage crop production, have occupied in the agricultural production of the three prairie provinces has been more or less completely ignored by this radical champion of the all grain farm. Figures obtained from reliable government sources indicate that the total agricultural wealth produced in those three provinces in 1926 was approximately $475,589,000 of which $95,038,000 or about twenty-one per cent was represented by livestock and livestock products. The production was distributed Approximately as follows: Alberta’s total production was $120,762,-

000 of which $37,982,000 or over thirty per cent was livestock or livestock products. Saskatchewan’s total production was $258,265,000 of which $32,630,000 or about thirteen per cent was livestock and livestock products, and in Manitoba the total production was $96,562,000 of which $24,426 or about twenty-five per cent was made up of livestock and their products. Those figures alone should be an effective answer to the contention that mixed or diversified farming is unsound practice in Western Canada. It cannot be seriously contended that over one-fifth of the agricultural wealth produced annually in this portion of the Dominion can be lightly dismissed as of no particular importance.

When Mr. MacKenzie says that he ‘has failed to discover one single authentic instance wherein prairie soils have benefited in the slightest degree by legumes/ in my opinion, he merely exposes his own lack of knowledge or the dullness of his perception. If it be a fact that he has not encountered one such instance and we must take his own word for it, there can only be one of two explanations: Either he did not look or he was unable to recognize the condition when it was encountered. During all the years that I have lived in Western Canada he is the first and only man, who should be in a position to know, whom I have known to take that position in regard to the growing of legumes. All the very best evidence, both scientific and practical, is against him.

I agree that the yield of wheat following a leguminous crop is the decisive factor as to the merit of that crop as a soil builder, but I do not agree when he says that wheat grown after summer fallow yields a higher return than wheat grown after legumes. In some cases it does and in some it does not. The weakness of the statement is its sweeping nature. This year, in Manitoba, conditions were directly opposed to the opinion expressed by Mr. MacKenzie. Nearly all summer fallow crops were heavy enough in appearance, but they almost invariably yielded a poor return. Crops following sweet clover were in almost every case stronger in the straw, the wheat was better filled, was a better sample and returned a higher yield. Conditions are not the same in every district or in every province or yet in every year, but speaking generally it can be said that so far as Manitoba is concerned faimers are generally agreed that growing wheat on a successful basis can only be assured by the introduction of more forage crops and more livestock into the annual farm production.

The dash and vigor of the article in question will gain the attention of many people and with the reputation of MacLean’s behind it will give, what I believe to be, an erroneous impression of agriculture in Western Canada. It is because

1 believe the case was incompletely stated by Mr. MacKenzie, and because I further believe that MacLean’s is just as anxious to provide its readers with accurate information as it is to provide them with entertaining reading that I have taken the time to write this very brief reply to The Crime of Wheat Growing, by J. K. MacKenzie.—F. W. Crawford, Secretary-Treasurer, Canao’ian Aberdeen-Angus Association.