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still larger result the present season; this fact, in combination with financial causes, has depressed the price to a lower point than has been reached since 1860. The continuous planting of the new lands of the West with wheat is removing westward, year by year, the center of wheat production, and increasing the distance of transportation, while the railroads, by their combination and advance of tolls to secure dividends upon watered stock, are increasing in equal ratio the cost of freights. Thus are wheat-growers reaping the fruits of their own improvident husbandry, and suffering extortion and loss from the accident of location. A diversification of industry, both agricultural and manufacturing, will render them masters of the situation, and release them from subservience to the railroads and European wheat markets. The pioneer or “skinning” system of culture must be abandoned, at least in the settled States, and capital be used in farm improvements. A judicious investment in draining often pays one hundred per cent. the first year; a single horse-hoeing of growing wheat, as reported to this Department, has doubled the yield, and paid a thousand per cent. upon its cost; and improvement in breeds of farm stock yields large dividends upon the investment.
HOLDING NON-PRODUCTIVE LANDS UNPROFITABLE.
The greed for the acquisition of land is a serious bar to progress in farm improvement. The aim of the pioneer has been, not to become a good farmer, but a holder of broad acres—to grow more wheat, to buy more land. The result is a sparse settlement, poor roads, straw stables, few farm improvements, and a slow advance in prices of real estate after the first sudden rise in values. It is a dangerous fallacy that nonproductive farm lands are profitable. Excepting only a brief period of frontier development and proximity to rising cities, the causes which influence the advance of prices of such lands can never swell the coffers of capital like the wonderful accumulating power of compound interest.
The following table, showing the increase of the assessed valuation of farms between 1850 and 1860, a period of great agricultural activity and almost unexampled advance in prices of farm lands, points to the folly of expecting to realize wealth from the soil except by its judicious cultivation:
Table showing the increase of the assessed valuation of farms, &c.—Continued.
The Boehmeria tenacissima—the name under which the new botanical classification for what was formerly designated Urtica nivea—known in commerce as China grass, and locally as ramie, and by many other synonyms, has been disseminated throughout the South, and is beginning to be cultivated in extensive plantations. I have given much attention to the propagation and dissemination of this plant, with a full appreciation of its capabilities, and an earnest endeavor to aid in overcoming the mechanical difficulties which at present limit its use in textile productions, and I have witnessed with regret the unenlightened enthusiasm and unreliable statements by which interested propagators have discredited an enterprise which should have a fair and successful trial. The value of the fiber is unquestioned; its use could be largely extended if it were properly prepared for market; and its ultimate success will depend, not upon the facility of its culture or the suitableness of climate, but upon the economy of its manufacture. A prominent manufacturer in Bradford, England, expresses the opinion that it will become a staple fiber, and in some degree supply the place of cotton or wool, if it can be procured for £45 to £50 per ton, or ten cents per pound. There is a present limited demand for it at £70 per ton. He states that American planters are injuring their interests by their manner of preparing the fiber, declaring all samples received, from which attempts have been made at discharging the gum, to have been tender, nearly decayed, of bad color, and entirely without luster. No reliable machine for stripping the fiber and taking off the outer bark has yet been put in operation. Such an invention may do much toward deciding the practicability of placing this among the valuable and permanent products of our agricultural industry.
The system of international exchanges recently adopted by the Department has been continued during the past year with gratifying success, and arrangements have been completed, in addition to those announced in my last report, with the governments of Brazil, Bavaria, Russia, Switzerland, and Honduras; the Horticultural Union Society of Berlin, Prussia ; the Royal Society of Brussels, Belgium; the Royal Gardens of Madrid, Spain; the Horticultural Society of Bremen, Germany; the governor-general of Vilayet, Turkey; the Royal Meteorologi. cal Society, London; the Scottish Meteorological Society, Edinburgh ; and the Agricultural Society of Sydney, New South Wales.
Relations of exchange are now existing with nearly three hundred learned agricultural and industrial societies, chiefly European, but some of them in Asia, Africa, and South America. In nearly every case in which the proposition for exchange has been made the response has been prompt and favorable. In many cases the societies, in addition to their own publications, have presented to the Department valuable works published by private parties. Several governments have also presented their publications upon agriculture and kindred subjects.
During the year one hundred and three varieties of American tree seeds have been sent to the Botanical Garden, Melbourne, Australia; similar assortments to the royal Minister of Agriculture, Australia ; to the Botanical Garden near London, England; and to the Botanical Garden, Madrid, Spain. To the Agricultural Society of Good Hope thirty-two packages of cereals have been sent; fifty pounds of American cotton seed to the Chinese government; one hundred and thirty pack
ages of vegetable seeds to the Japanese government; and one hundred and thirty-four papers of American tobacco seed and eighty-six packages of cereals to the republic of Liberia, Africa. Donations of a simi. lar character, for experimental purposes, have been received from the principal countries of Europe, from colonies of Great Britain, from Central and South America, from the Chinese and the Japanese government, and from the West Indies.
During the year nearly one thousand volumes have been added to the library, the additions consisting exclusively of works upon the special interests committed to the charge of the Department. A portion of the books have been purchased, but the larger number have been received in exchange for publications of the Department. The additions made are of great value, being fresh and reliable records of the progress of agriculture and collateral sciences throughout the world, including new discoveries in botany, geology, natural history, chemistry, meteorology, &c. The Department is also in receipt of all the prominent agricultural journals, both foreign and domestic, which of themselves will soon constitute a reference library of value.
DISEASES OF STOCK.
The numerous epidemics and zymotic diseases by which our cattle are infected demand the intelligent consideration of the general government and of the several States. Besides the ordinary diseases to which cattle in open pasture are subject, there is much suffering and loss produced by the restraint and unhealthy conditions in which our domestic animals (especially the cow and the horse) are placed, in disregard of their natural habits and of the well-known laws of hygiene. Simple humanity, irrespective of any pecuniary consideration, would dictate that the services of these useful animals should be rewarded by proper care and attention; but when it is known that several of the diseases which are produced by our neglect of animal comfort are continually communicated to man-small pox, typhoid fever, and glanders among the numberit would seem to be the duty of the government not only to direct the attention of the agricultural community to the want of care of stock and to the general ignorance of appropriate treatment, but also to encourage the establishment of institutions where veterinary medicine and hygiene, in their widest application, may be taught, and a class of practitioners be produced capable of solving the problem-how to preserve domestic animals in good health under conditions not natural to the species. The experience of the past few years has demonstrated the increased necessity of such facilities, and I therefore strongly recommend the establishment of a division of veterinary surgery in connection with this Department.
THE ANNUAL REPORT.
A change has been effected in the matter and style of the annual volume of Department transactions, which will enhance its value and enlarge its usefulness. Exhaustive treaties upon special topics by private individuals have been discarded, and in their place are presented, under the report of the Editor, digests of official researches upon popular and timely topics, suggested by the exigencies of the hour and illustrative of the direction of rural progress. These investigations, instead of being conducted by a single individual from private resources, are made with the aid of a large corps of special correspondents, officers of industrial organizations, diplomatic representatives of the country abroad, and experts in special branches of rural technology. While the co-operation of experts is thus secured, the unity and consistency of the work is not marred by dissimilar views and irreconcilable differences of fact and opinion. It is believed that this plan will enhance the practical value of the volume, and render it more legitimately a report of official operations and a record of agricultural progress.
The work of the chemical division has been considerably increased. The number of analyses performed has been greater than in previous years, while the information given, orally and by letter, to parties apply. ing for assistance on matters of industrial chemistry, has occupied more working time and has been more comprehensive than ever before. The general operations of the laboratory have embraced analytical work for agricultural communities and societies in various parts of the country, for individual farmers and others, for large industries, and for other departments of the government. The laboratory has been rendered more efficient by the purchase of additional apparatus, but the outfit is not yet complete. The collection of minerals deemed necessary to illustrate agricultural and economical geology is in course of formation, and valuable specimens are being received from time to time from various sections of the country, cases for the exhibition of which are being constructed.
The agricultural cabinet or museum of the Department has been enlarged and improved during the year, and gives renewed evidence of usefulness as a means of reference in agriculture and industrial arts. Valuable donations are being received from individuals and societies in all quarters of the globe. During the past year the Department has received from various parts of the country many valuable additions to the museum of fruits, grains, seeds, and fibers, both animal and vegetable; especially a very valuable collection from the Smithsonian Institution, comprising fibers used for manufacturing purposes; specimens of