Essays on Wheat
By R. H. Reginald Buller


Dr. Buller has done much more in this book than his modest title declares. As Professor of Botany in the University of Manitoba his attention was very naturally claimed many years ago by the Marquis Wheat, which is to-day (with its parent, the Hard Red Fife) the basis of all the high-grade w heat grown in Western Canada. His third chapter is an account of the work of Dr. Charles E. Saunders, who as Cerealist for the Dominion of Canada produced the single grain of wheat in 1903 from which has sprang all the Marquis Wheat at present in existence. The history of the new variety is well worth commemoration. Six years passed before the supply of Marquis had grown sufficiently to allow for thorough milling and baking tests, and for distribution among farmers. In the spring of 1900 four hundred samples were sent to many parts of Western Canada and its general cultivation began. Marquis Wheat invaded the United States almost at once, and to-day 300,000,000 bushels are being reused in North America from the seed originally selected seventeen years ago.

The quality of this wheat which first attracted attention, and which made it so valuable for the northern prairie, was its early ripening. It can be sown as spring wheat in latitudes where the slower ripening grains cannot, and it can be trusted to mature before the frosts at the close of the year. But for this reason it is a spring wheat more valuable to Canada than to the United States, and its development in the United States has occurred chiefly in those states where winter wheat is little sown.

The achievement represented by the production of this enormous crop, from ii grain selected on an experimental farm less than twenty years ago, recalls the great impulse to agriculture, which came from scientific farmers of the eighteenth century. This is a record of which the Dominion Department of Agriculture may well be proud, and Dr. Buller treats his book primarily as a monument to the great cerealist who made so great a development possible. But it is much more than a scientific exposition of the qualities of a variety of wheat. The first two chapters of the book, which are designed to form a perspective for the right appreciation of the Marquis crop, are a general account of the grain trade of Western Canada. Chapter I is devoted to the story of the Red River Settlement in Manitoba, and is based largely on the work of Professor Chests Martin and the Selkirk Papers. It is a record of pluck on the part of the early settlers no less than of persistent misfortune. Chapter II gives an account of the grain trade in modern Manitoba. It explains in grtat detail the type of farming which is general in the West, the system of transportation by which the wheat is passed through Winnipeg and the cities at the head of Lake Superior, the methods of inspection and grading employed by the government, and the means by which the crop is financed.

Once or twice Dr. Buller is betrayed by his authorities into statements which it is to be hoped will be corrected in a subsequent edition. On page 39, in a table designed to show the position occupied by Canada among the great wheat-exporting countries of the world, a quotation from the Cereal Maps of Manitoba leads him to represent the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany as wheat-exporting countries. Of none of these is the statement true, though Germany did before the war export an amount of wheat rather more than equal to one-fifth of her wheat imports. Similarly the quotation of figures relating only to a single year gives a misleading impression of the relative importance of the wheat-exporting countries. Canada does not normally hold the second place, as she did in that year. This would be corrected if the figures for a period of five or six years were combined in an average. It is more than a pity that so many of the official publications of Canada lend themselves to criticism of this type, and betray writers who depend on them into statements which arc not borne out by the facts.

But this is a small fault in a book which deals more fully than any of its predecessors with the economic organization of the grain trade in Canada. It should take its place beside the studies of the great industries of North America, which are now at last becoming plentiful. Most valuable of all, it gives an account of the reorganization of the grain market which was caused by food shortage in war time; and the reader who has digested the very detailed information secured for him by Dr. Buller, will be prepared for the difficulties of transition from wartime regulation to the free market for wheat, which will some day be restored.

G. E. Jackson

You can read this book here in pdf format


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