Excerpt from The Improvement Era, Vol. 27: October, 1924
Fully one-half of the wheat grown in the United States originated In Russia. A bag of wheat from the Volga river valley, furnished seed for the first planting of hard-red spring wheat on the American continent and made possible the production of this cereal in regions that had long been consid ered too far north. From the territory north and east of the Black Sea came the progenitors of our hard-red winter wheats which proved to be able to thrive in spite of the rigorous climate of our Great Plains and made possible a rapid westward drift of our wheat belt. Then a third, the durum or macaroni group of wheats emerged from that Slavonic nation, this time from the Kirghiz Steppe region of western Siberia, and upon finding a new home in the United States added millions of bushels to our wheat supply.
The story of the introduction and establishment of these wheats com prises an interesting chapter of the agricultural history of our nation. It is doubly interesting at this time, because the United States, owing to Russia's agricultural breakdown, is expected by other nations to supply an unusually large proportion of the world's Wheat crop. This story also develops an appreciation of the fact that, while Russia may be a novice in the art of democratic government, she is a past master of scientific crop husbandry. For most of our hard wheats, although highly developed by plant-breeders of the United States, may be traced back to hardy types long ago, improved by Russia's peasantry.
The history of Russian wheat in North America begins about 1842. In that year, David Fife of Ontario, Canada, received a small lot through a friend in Glascow, Scotland, who obtained it from a cargo shipped from Danzig from the northern Volga River Valley. Mr. Fife, not knowing whether the wheat was of the spring or winter type, planted some, as an experiment, in the spring. Only three heads matured, and these apparently came from a single grain - the only spring - wheat kernel in the lot that was planted, all the others proving to be of the winter type. From those three heads was developed the well known Fife group of hard - spring wheats. The different strains of Fife spring wheats appearing under a variety of local names, now comprise the bulk of our standard grades and are among the highest priced wheats on the market. But the Scotch name is misleading, as this wheat is distinctly Russian.
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