The Farmers' Register, Volume 8(1): 51-52 (Jan 31, 1840)

SOURCES OF ERROR IN EXPERIMENTS OF THE PRODUCT OF DIFFERENT KINDS OF CORN

There have been published so many and such contradictory accounts of the products of twin-corn, and of other varieties, that general readers are unable to arrive at any conclusion; and of those who rely on some one experiment or report, some are convinced that some particular kind of corn is the most productive by a third or more, and others as well convinced that it is as much inferior to the ordinary kinds. Yet, if rejecting all loose opinions, and imperfect testimony and uncertain facts, we have the results of actual experiment and measurements, made by gentlemen of undoubted veracity, and competency for observation, which sustain both the extremes of the opposite opinions. Whence arises such striking contradiction?

The cause of these and all such contradictory reports of comparative products, is this: it is a fact well known to every practical cultivator, that the product of corn, more especially, is greatly affected by differences of season at particular junctures, and this difference is made the greater by differences of times or manner of tillage, in connexion with the seasons. Thus, if of two distant lots of corn, in all respects equal, and alike cultivated, one receive a sufficient rain soon after its last ploughing, and just before the shooting time, and the other lot remain without rain but two weeks longer, the result would probably be that the first would produce 25 per cent, more than the second. Now suppose two parts of the same field of corn, in all respects equal and alike, except that of being planted in different varieties of corn, and one, two weeks more forward in ripening than the other. Suppose further, the season to visit both parts alike, and the tillage to be the same in time as well as in kind. Still, is it not manifest that if a particular tillage, or a rain, occurs at the best time for the one variety of corn, that it will not be so for the other? If either suits the one kind precisely, it must be two weeks too soon, or as much too late, for the other. And this difference alone would be enough to cause a very considerable difference of product in that crop, although the two kinds of corn might be both good, and equal in productiveness, on a general average of years and of seasons.

But besides the above-mentioned and very common sources of erroneous judgment, there are others affecting every comparative trial of different kinds of corn. If planted at like distances, if the one kind has proper space for that particular situation and season, a very different variety of corn would probably have too much or too little. And if different distances are allowed, the proper and correct allowance can seldom he made in new trials.

Though more distrustful than most others seem to be of the alleged superior productiveness of new and highly praised kinds of seeds, still we would by no means desire to discourage comparative trials. All that we have aimed at, in these and previous remarks, is to prevent too much reliance being placed on single experiments, or insufficient testimony of any kind.

Besides the reports of several gentlemen which were communicated for, and published in this journal, we have heard several other concurrent opinions, (and indeed seen the growth in one case,) going to confirm the superior productiveness of the twin, or Baden corn. But one of those who had the largest and fullest experience of all whom we have met with personally, and who had a high opinion of this corn, still recommended to others his own practice of planting but a part of his crop in that kind, and for this reason: that, in a favorable season, it was more, productive than other kinds, but less so if otherwise; and therefore he deemed it useful not to trust to it for his entire crop. Now we do not assert the soundness of this objection—and the remedy proposed is but a mode of dividing and balancing risks of loss. But the same objection, and the same reasons for difference of productiveness, must apply, in a greater or less degree, to every two varieties of corn, having considerable difference of character.—Ed. F. R.