AGRICULTURE AND MODERN SCIENCE


AGRICULTURE AND MODERN SCIENCE. Jardine W M

 

  In working with these problems it has been necessary to device …


In working with these problems it has been necessary to device new advanced statistical methods-an example of the application of mathematics to agriculture. The reason that economists have not heretofore been able to express their observations quantitatively is that they have not been able to determine the conditions under which they made their observations. Unlike the natural scientists, they have not been able to take their problems into a laboratory to observe facts undisturbed by varying outside conditions. If, for example, they attempted to study the effect of the size of the domestic wheat crop on price, they were confronted by numerous complicating factors such as the production of other grain crops, the production of wheat in foreign countries, the changes in the general commodity price level, and the fluctuations in business conditions. Now, however, by the use of correlation methods recently developed, these general factors can be isolated and their separate influences on each other measured.

The examples which I have cited, from many sciences and from many agricultural enterprises to which the results of research have been applied, merely suggest the debt which modern agriculture owes to science. It is not exaggeration to say that through the research accomplishments of recent years the average farmer today knows more of the science on which his industry rests, and brings it into constant application, than the scientist knew fifty years, ago. Yet there remains much to be done. The agricultural field is full of problems, a large proportion of which depend for their solution on the effectiveness with which underlying problems in pure science are dealt with.

American science, I am convinced, needs to concern itself more with fundamental research than it has done heretofore. No country in the world has made such progress in applied science, but our record in pure science is not so flattering. Since 1900, when the Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry, and medicine were inaugurated, 76 awards have been made. Of these, 24 went of Germany, 11 to England, 10 to France, 6 to the Netherlands, 5 to Sweden, 4 to the United States, 3 to Denmark, 3 to Switzerland, 2 each to Austria, Canada, Italy and Russia, and 1 each to Belgium and Spain. On the basis of population the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland received one to every million inhabitants; Germany one to every two and one-half millions; Austria one to every three million; England one to every three and a quarter million; France one to every four million; the United States, one to every twenty-nine million.

This is the situation despite the fact that we have vastly more students in colleges and universities in proportion to the population than has any other country in the world. The difficulty seems to me two fold: We are not laying enough emphasis on pure science in proportion to our emphasis on the applications of science; and we are not stimulating and training an adequate personnel in scientific research.

Indeed, superior personnel is need in every field touching scientific work. There is grave need, as I have pointed out, for workers in pure science. There is need likewise for those who can correlate and co-ordinate the facts discovered.

There is demand also for those who can interpret and apply to practical problems the results obtained through scientific investigation.

The agriculture of the future will be successful in proportion to the extent to which it is shaped and guided by the basic facts revealed by scientific research, especially research in the fields of natural science, economics, engineering and business administration. If satisfactory progress is to be made in the solution of the diverse problems of the farm, to the end that agriculture may be more prosperous, the facts developed by research must be intelligently correlated and co-ordinate,d superficials distinguished from fundamentals and the latter interpreted in the light of practical knowledge as well as scientific information.

Of supreme importance is a sufficiently numerous personnel characterized by outstanding ability, thorough professional training, and unstinted devotion to the search for the truth. To the development and encouragement of such a personnel every organization concerned with science may wisely lend its hearty efforts.

W M Jardine