Monthly Genesee Farmer 4(6): 82 (June 1839)

Conversion of Winter into Spring wheat.

Our respected contemporary of the Yankee Farmer is informed that immediately on the receipt of his note requesting farther information on the process of changing winter wheat to spring wheat, we placed it in the hands of Col. Abbott, the gentleman who made the experiment, and he has politely furnished us the annexed statement, which we think is sufficiently clear and explicit to enable any one who chooses to repeat the experiment. The great object to be attained is evidently to subject the wheat to a process similar to that to which winter wheat, sown so late as not to corn. plate its germination until the coming spring, is exposed. All acquainted with new countries, are aware, that the clearing of lands is at times so delayed, that the wheat sown in the fall, does not come up; it only swells, sprouts slightly, but does not show itself shove the surface; in this state it is exposed to the frosts of the winter, and remains without further progress till the warmth of the spring bring it forward in common with the earlier sown wheat. The same effect is produced by the process described in the letter of Col. Abbott.

Otisco, Onondaga co., April 6, 1839.

Mr. W. GAYLORD, Ed. of Gen. Farmer:—

Dear SIR—At your request I will briefly state the process adopted by me in an experiment on wheat. I did not consider it of sufficient importance to be made public at the time; instituting the experiment barely to gratify curiosity of my own in regard to the relation existing between winter and spring wheat. But as the result proved, I am pleased to gratify those who may feel interested in the information, and feel it to be my duty, and those of every other farmer, to convey, through the medium of your excellent paper, such knowledge as may by accident or otherwise be put in their possession.

Late in February, 1837, I took a quantity of white flint winter wheat (bald); I put it into a tub with water sufficient to wet it thoroughly. It was frequently stirred and kept in a warm room, and at as even a temperature as possible, until the sprouts on some of the kernels were an eighth of an inch in length, and all well swollen, or in a state of germination. The water was then drained off, and the wheat put into a box and exposed to the winter frost in the open air, but did not freeze through as I could wish, to have an even crop. It ripened very unevenly, which I attributed to the want of equal and thorough freezing. On the 12th day of the succeeding April, I found that the frost had wholly left my wheat, and that fermentation had commenced. Without delay, I sowed it on a piece of fall ploughed stubble land, although quite too wet to work well, yet there was no alternative but to sow the wheat, or lose the experiment. I chose the former, and harrowed it in as well as the muddy surface would permit.

The blade came up very small, and appeared feeble in the first stages of its growth; but as other wheat began head, about one half of this to my surprise put forth large heads of bearded wheat, the other part still retaining the appearance of winter wheat in the fall of the year. Some twelve or fourteen days after this some of the remainder, and by degrees the whole spindled up, and ears of the original flint wheat now showed themselves, and in a growth of nearly one foot higher than the bearded which came up first. The rust, so common and so fatal to late wheat in this country that season, struck the last growth, and it shrunk to a very small, and in the most tardy ears, a worthless berry. But the bearded heads ripened in good season, had a very large plump berry, much resembling both in color and shape a winter wheat. I am satisfied, and I think I have good reason to believe, that if I had commenced the sprouting operation in time to have had a solid freeze on the whole mass of germinating seed, the transformation would have been the same on the whole, and an excellent crop the result. I think the wheat should be sprouted in January, and frozen in a cask or box that can be secured from warmth in the spring until the ground is sufficiently dry to harrow well, then bring it to the air, and as soon as thawed, sow and harrow it in with as little delay as possible, on ground prepared by fall ploughing. In this way I think a good crop of wheat may be grown, where winter wheat would, without such preparation, totally fail.

To test the conversion of this winter wheat to spring wheat, on the 14th day of May, 1838, (which is too late to sow the common varieties of spring wheat here) I sowed a small quantity of the above described wheat, and where it was not injured by the heavy rains, it grew to great perfection, a complete spring wheat; not as white in the berry as the original flint wheat, but still lighter than any variety of spring wheat cultivated among us, with which I am acquainted. As to its flouring qualities, it has already been described in vol. 3 of the Monthly Farmer, page 165. 1 am preparing to sow some of this second production, and I doubt not should the spring prove favorable, that I shall have a fine quality of spring wheat from the sowing. If so, you may expect to hear the result.

Yours truly, W. ABBOTT.

The Silk Grower and Farmer's Manual, 1(7): 148-149 (Jan 1839)


This statement is also found in Loudon's An Encyclopaedia of Plants p. 70, 1829.

In the Encyclopedia Americana, article Wheat, may be found the following statement:—"Winter wheat sown in the spring, will ripen the following summer, though the produce of succeeding generations of spring sown wheat, is found to ripen better. White, red, awned, and beardless wheats change and run into one another, in different soils and climates; and even the many spiked Egyptian wheat, is known to change into the single spiked common plant."

Some experiments have been made in this country that seem to favor the correctness of these opinions, though none seemed to be clearly decisive of the turning of winter wheat to spring wheat. The principal difficulty was found to arise from the fact that winter wheat sown in the spring would not sufficiently mature its seed before the frosts of autumn; and that in most cases the roots required to stand over the winter before any ears were produced. To prevent this necessity, and hasten the period of its ripening by anticipating, in effect, the time of sowing, the winter germination of wheat to be sown in the spring was attempted and found practicable, though it led to no particularly valuable results.

Believing that some of the best and hardiest varieties of winter wheat could be thus transformed into spring wheat, a valuable addition might be made to the resources of some districts where winter sown wheat is at the best an uncertain crop, in a former volume of the Farmer, we urged the importance of such experiments, and the benefit of a successful result.

In the winter of '36-'37, Col. W. Abbott, of Onondago county, a farmer of success and intelligence, entered upon the experiment. The wheat selected by him was the white flint variety, a kind well known to our farmers and millers as one of the best produced in the country; hardy, yielding well, very thin-skinned, and making flour of a superior quality; berry white, and ear beardless.

A small quantity of this wheat, prepared by soaking, sprouting, and freezing during the winter, was sown by him in the spring of 1837; but owing to the imperfect manner in which the grain was prepared, (only a portion of it having been thoroughly and fully sprouted before freezing,) only a part of it eared out at the proper time, while the other part, though it finally threw out ears, produced only a shrunken, worthless, immature grain.

Last spring we procured from the Colonel a bushel of this on the whole, very inferior looking product, though containing many fine kernels; but the quantity was reduced nearly one half by the process of brining, skimming and liming, to which it was subjected before sowing. It was sown on about half an acre of ground, and though seriously injured by the heavy rains which fell soon after it was put into the earth, much of it grew and had a fine appearance. It is not yet threshed, but we shall probably have some six or eight bushels of wheat. Before sowing the wheat Col. Abbott had assured us that the earliest and most perfect ears from his sowing, and those of course in which the change was the greatest and most perfect, were all bearded; and when our wheat came to earing, a careful examination made at different times could not discover a single car that resembled the original bald wheat; every ear was bearded. It was also no less remarkable that, though the original wheat was one of the whitest berried varieties we have, the new product is clearly a red wheat, not so dark as the common variety of spring wheat, but still only a shade lighter in color than the Italian.

By a comparison with the best varieties of common spring wheat, as well as the Italian and Siberian, (which by the way we suspect are only varieties of the same plant having the same origin,) made with one of Raspail's microscopes, some of the distinguishing and peculiar excellences of the original wheat can be plainly traced in the thinner skin, whiter flour, and greater ease with which it is reduced.

Should it prove on farther trial an improvement an the common varieties of spring wheat now sown, the name of White Flint spring wheat, or Abbott's spring wheat might be adopted. To determine whether it is worthy of a new name, must, however, be left to the trial of another year. In the meantime the facts, that winter wheat can be converted into spring wheat— that bald wheat can be changed into bearded wheat— and that white wheat can be transformed into the red varieties, we consider fully established. We wish some of our farm friends would, by experiment, ascertain whether by sowing spring wheat in the fall, the reverse of these changes can be obtained.—The Monthly Genesee Farmer. [3(11): 165 (Nov. 1838)]

Transactions of the New-York State Agricultural Society for the year 1841 (1842)

Col. W. Abbott, of Otisco, presented a fine sample of spring wheat which he originated by a series of experiments from the bald flint, which is a well known variety of winter wheat. For an account of his experiments we would refer to page 138 of volume 9 of the old Genesee Farmer.

The Monthly Genesee Farmer 2(10): 152 (October 1, 1837)
Spring Wheat

The Journals from the interior and southern part of Pennsylvania, speak with approbation of the exertions made in these sections last spring to introduce the culture of this valuable grain, and state that in most instances the yield has heen heavy. We believe this has been the case where this grain is cultivated in this state, and that in our more favored sections, it has suffered in general, less from rust and blight, than winter sown wheat. The berry of the spring wheat is not usually quite as plump and full as the finer varieties of winter wheat, but it in several instances within our knowledge has reached from sixty-two to sixty-four pounds a bushel, and according to Mr. Hathaway of Rome, who introduced the Italian or Florence wheat into the country, it is equal to any wheat in the quantity of flour it will furnish. We are clearly of the opinion that this wheat should be much more extensively sown than it now is; and unless some method can be discovered of preparing winter wheat in the fall of the year so that it may be sown in the spring, spring wheat will in many places be substituted for fall sowing. Judge Buel states that in Tennesssee on the approach of cold freezing weather wheat is put into a barrel or other receptacle, thoroughly soaked with water, and then frozen, in which state as nearly as possible it is kept till the time of sowing in the spring, when it is put into the ground in the same way as spring wheat would be, and like that is safe from the injurious effects of winter. We have understood that in some parts of the Black River country, a similar system has heen practiced with success; but the details we have never been fortunate enough to learn. The principle appears to be a plain one—keeping the soaked wheat at a temperature so low as to prevent germination through the winter, as wheat sown so late in the fall as not to sprout in the earth, not unfrequently does.

The Monthly Genesee Farmer 2(12): 187 (December 1, 1837)
Experiment in freezing Wheat
James McCall
Rushford, Oct. 26, 1837

Mr. Tucker—I perceive in the Genesee Farmer of the present month, some hints on the subject of freezing wheat to sow in the spring. Three years ago the coming winter, I was told that, to take wheat and soak and freeze it, and sow it early would be better than to sow spring wheat. I put three bushels into warm warm water and let it stand one night, and then put the wheat in an open loft and spread it about two inches thick and left it till spring. I sowed it early in April; it came up and grew well, but not one head appeared. I am of the opinion that it must be frozen after it is sprouted or it will not come to maturity the first year. I purpose trying a small quantity this winter, by mixing it with fine sand and letting it freeze, and keeping it frozen until I am about to sow it.

The Cultivator 7(10): 153 (October 1840)

J. D. asks the process of converting winter into spring wheat.

To do this, nothing more is necessary than that the winter wheat should be allowed to germinate slightly in the fall or winter, but kept from vegetation by a low temperature or freezing, until it can be sown in the spring. This is usually done by soaking and sprouting the seed, and freezing it while in this state and keeping it frozen, until the season for spring sowing arrives. Only two things seem requisite, germination and freezing. Thus it is probable, that winter wheat sown in the fall, so late as only to germinate in the earth, without coming up, would produce a grain which would be a spring wheat if sown in April, instead of September. English spring wheats are here winter wheats, that is they are there sown so much earlier than it is possible to sow here, that put into the earth with our spring wheats, they do not come to maturity. We have for two or three years grown a spring wheat produced by the above process, from the autumn or winter flint wheat, and consider it a very good variety.