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A first report on the relations between climates and crops online

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University of California.





No. 3r.. W. B. No. 342.

»rl<'t', )8J|.60.









Chief United States Weather Bureau.




United States Department of Agricui '"ure,

Weather Bureatt, Office of Chief,

Washington^ D. 6'., August /, 1905.
Hon. James Wilson,

Secretary of Agnculture^ Washington,, D. C.
Sir: I have the honor to submit the manuscript of a first report,
by Prof. Cleveland Abbe, on the Relations Between Climates and
Crops, and to recommend its publication as a bulletin of the Weather

This paper is not designed as an original investigation, but as a
summary of the views of the best experimentalists and observers, so
far as those had been published up to 1891. A continuation of this
study, bringing the subject up to date, is contemplated: but as the
]Miblication of this first portion has been frequently requested, it
seems wise not to delay.

The author has intended to notice onlj^ those investigations that
have given precise information as to specific plants or crops and spe-
cific localities, and has made a thorough search of all the more impor-
tant literature, in so far as it was accessible to him; it is believed
that the numerous extracts given by him will be gratefully received
by those who have not access to the same volumes.

The work is prepared with the idea that it will be especially useful
to the teachers of the agricultural colleges and the investigators of
the agricultural experiment stations. Therefore only a limited edition
is recommended.

As the memoir points out the importance of a climatic laboratory
and the methods that must be pursued in order to evolve new varieties
of crop plants adapted to special climatic conditions, I can but con-
sider that yon will recognize this memoir as a proper contribution to
igriculture from the Weather Bureau.

Very respectfully, Willis L. Moore,

Chief U. S. Weather Bureau.
Approved :

James Wilson.




Several experts in agricnltnral science having stated to me their
need of a systematic summarv of the present state of our knowledge
with regard to the specific influence of climate in agriculture and its
relation to or absolute effect on the percentages of the resulting har-
vest, and the subject being one in which I had long been interested,
I therefore presented the matter to the Chief Signal Officer, who
thereupon issued an instruction, dated February 25, 1891, authorizing
me to prepare this work, completing it before June 30 of that year.
The present report is a rapid compilation from a wide range of
sources, and presents a preliminary view of the condition of our
knowledge at that time as to the effect of climate upon the gi'owth
and distribution of our staple crops. As far as practic?Mc I have
presented, in the words of the respective authors, the results of their
own investigations on the points at issue, my owm duty being not to
undertake any extensive original study, but to merely connect their
results together in a logical manner, to collect data for future general
use, and to suggest, or stimulate, further inquiry on the points here
presented. I regi'et that the report could not have been published
in 1891, as many of the ideas presented therein have by delay thus
been withheld from their practical applications to the benefit of

As the study of phenology and agriculture, in the modern* spirit,
has been cultivated for over a century in Europe, much of our knowl-
edge must be drawn from European literature, which is really far
too extensive to be satisfactorily summarized in the time and space
at my disposal. Originally it was my hope to introduce into this
report a sunnnary of the large and sadly scattered literature of
American phenology, including the dates of l)lossoming and ripening
both of natiA'e and cultivated ])lants, enlarging the work already done
in this line by F. B. Hough for the State of New York; but I did not
succeed in completing this part of the work, and reserve it for a
future occasion. Requests for phenological observations in the
United States have been frequently made since 1800. and large collec-
tions of data exist in manuscript and print sufficiently extensive to
justify the hope that they may prove worthy of a study as elaborate



as that which European observations have received at the hands of
the lamented Linsser.

The very extensive problem suggested by the title of this report
involves, first, a general study of meteorology in its relations to
vegetable and animal life; second, the determination of the effect of
climate upon the growth and distribution of staple crops; third, the
determination of the climatic conditions and the localities best suited
to the growth of special varieties of plants and seeds; fourth, the
statistics of the extent of the areas best adapted to each of the more
important crops; fifth, the separate and the combined effects of tem-
perature, rainfall, and sunshine, both in their normal and abnormal
proportions, upon the annual yields of the staple crops. But such
study necessitates great labor and much time, and as the first step
in any such investigation consists in the critical examination of the
work already done by others, in order to prevent unnecessary dupli-
cation and avoid the troubles that others have experienced, therefore
the reader must consider this first report as only a brief introduction
to our knowledge of the relations between climates and crops.

Three ways are generally recognized as affording our only methods
of advancing our knowledge of our subject, viz, physiological, experi-
mental, and statistical. I shall therefore endeavor to present the
question of climates and crops from these three points of view.

1. The physiological studies of many botanical physiologists, under
the leadership of Prof. Julius von Sachs, of the Botanical Institute
at Wiirzburg, Germany, have given us an insight into the method
of growth of plants and the conditions upon which successful agri-
culture must depend. Their conclusions, based upon microscopic
examination, delicate measurements, and detailed study of all the
minutiae in the life of a plant, have given occasion to the development
of what ma}^ be called a theory of vegetable life, which, however, is
still fclr from having reached a perfect stage of development. Under
this head I have collected observations relative to the germination
of seeds, the flow of the sap, the action of sunlight on the leaves, the
absorption of moisture by the roots, the transpiration from the leaves,
the ripening of the seeds, the nutritious value of the crop, and the
acclimatization of plants.

2. The experimental method of determining the relations of crops
and climates is that practiced at agricultural experiment stations
and also in the botanical or biological laboratories that are so plen-
tiful in the United States and in Europe. In these institutions
special seeds are sown with special care, either in the open air in small
plats of ground or in culture pots in rooms where the temperature,
moisture, and other conditions are under control. The numerous ab-
stracts that I have presented in this report tend to show the effect of
varying conditions upon the resulting crops, and I must agree heartily

with De Candolle in his plea for a climatic laboratory. It is evident
that in such an institution one may reproduce to perfection the cli-
matic conditions under which a given seed was grown, and thus
insure a maximum crop; or. on the other hand, by successive culti-
vations, under successive slight changes in the artificial climate, may
so modify the seed as to produce a new variety with a fixed habit of
growth adapted to any natural climate that the farmer has to deal
with. The laws of acclimatization that naturally follow from Lins-
ser's investigations, and, in fact, from general experience in all parts
of the world, point to this as a most important field of future useful-
ness. It is thus that we may hope to accelerate the natural course,
which, on the one hand, has already produced grains adapted to the
Russian steppes, and, on the other, will eventually evolve those
adapted to the vicissitudes of our own arid regions and i30ssibly our
severe Alaskan climate.

3. The statistical method of ascertaining the effect of a climate on
the resulting crop consists in comparing the statistics of the succes-
sive annual harvests in the country at large with the statistics of the
prevailing climatic conditions. At the close of this report I have
given a large collection of data of this kind, sufficient, I think^ to
ihow that this method is very unsatisfactory because of our ignorance
3f the many details that must be considered in discussing the statis-
tical figures. I have compiled these elaborate tables for the United
States from the data given by the former Statistician of the Depart-
ment of Agriculture, Mr. J. R. Dodge, and his able assistant, Mr.
Snow, and have indicated a method of treating these figures which
will, I think, eventually give us the best results that they are capable
of affording, and will be, perhaps, sufficiently accurate for the needs
of the farmer, the merchant, and the statesman, but Avhich can scarcely
respond to the exact demands of agricultural physics. The great col-
lection of data given in the reports of the Tenth and Eleventh cen-
suses of the United States for the crop years 1879 and 1889 will,
I hope, tempt some one to an extended study for those years.

I shall not devote much space to the question of the relative influ-
ence of forests and cultivated fields on the temperature and moisture
of the local air. This has become a special studv on the part of those
devoted to forestry, and the papers of Professor Ebermayer (1873),
Muttrich (1880), Nordlinger (1885), and others" teem with figures to
show that in the heart of an extensive forest the mean daily varia-
tions of temperature or the range from minimum to maximum is, on
the average, from 2° to 5° C. less than in the open air just outside the
forest, while a similar difference of only 1° to 2° C. exists for the

.he full titles of the works referred to in this report will be found in section
Bibliography," Part IV.

annual ranges of temperature. Some attempts have also been made
to show that in a forest region more rain falls than in adjacent open
fields ; but this I shall not further consider, as I have elsewhere shown
that the measured differences are all due to the influence of the wind
on the catch of the rain gage and have nothing to do with rainfall
itself. All reliable observations show that the percentage of moisture
in the soil is larger under the forest than in the open air, and all
investigations show that the temperature of the soil is far more uni-
form under the forest than in the full sunshine.

The proper conclusion to draw from these forest studies, in so far
as they relate to the question of the influence of climate on crops, is
simply that plants growing within the influence of a forest have a
somewhat different climate from those growing in the open field.
The amount of this influence will become a proper study when any
important crop is cultivated within a forest or under its influence,
which, however, is not now generally the case.

The inverse question as to the influence upon general atmosj^heric
phenomena of the temperature and moisture of the thin layer of quiet
air within a region covered with a forest is one that may be relegated
to the future as being of minor importance in dynamic meteorology
and of still less importance in agricultural climatology.

On the other hand, the distribution and quality of forest trees
affords a very important illustration of climatic influence. Indeed,
the forests themselves furnish a most important crop of lumber and
firewood, perhaps the most valuable crop recorded in the statistics
of the countrj^, and one whose relation to climate must be imj)ortant,
but, unfortunately, the statistics of annual forest growth are not yet
available for this stud}'. I have, therefore, deferred the considera-
tion of this branch of our subject to a future date, when perhaps
American forestry will be more fully developed.

I shall omit the consideration of theories and experiments as to the
artificial improvement of the weather, especially the production of
rainfall, protection from hail and lightning, and the amelioration of
our hot winds. Although this subject is alluring, I hope the common
sense of the agricultural community will eventually indorse my con-
viction that, for the present, our wisest plan is to confine our study
closely to, first, the influence of sunshine, heat, moisture, and atmos-
phere on the growth of plants, on the nature of the seed, and on the
character of the crops; second, the influence of the quality of the seed
itself and of the richness of the soil on the crop ; third, how to choose
our seed, cultivate the ground, and protect the plant from frost, birds,
insects, fungi, etc., so as to secure a good crop in spite of adverse
natura. climatic conditions.

In general, I have labored to put my data and conclusions before
(he reader so fully that, if a student, he may utilize this report as a

basis for further generalizations, or, if a farmer, he may derive many
suggestions, hints, and rules by which to improve his methods.

Very few appreciate the extensive range of edible plants, but the
lists given by E. L. Sturtevant (Agr. Sci., Vol. III., p. 174) suggest
that we have in the botanical world an almost unexplored field from
which to recover for the use of civilized man an endless variety of
foods and fruits unknown to our present cuisine and table. Sturte-
vant enumerates in detail the 210 natural orders of plants recognized
i)y botanists from the days of Linn?eus to those of Bentham and
] looker. These orders include 8,849 genera and 110,GG3 species, and
Sturtevant shows that the edible plants include only 4,283 species,
repr(>senting 170 of these orders, so that only about 3^ per cent of the
known species of plants are now being used as food — most of them,
of course, to a very slight extent, only as auxiliaries to the princij^al

The food plants extensively cultivated by man include only 1,070
species; that is to say, less than 1 per cent of all known species are
cultivated anywhere throughout the known world, and those actually
in ordinary use in European and American kitchen gardens represent
only 211 species. The preceding numbers all refer to the phenogams,
but Sturtevant gives supplementary lists covering the lower order of

Therefore it would seem that the present condition of agriculture
and the present extent of our available vegetable foods is limited not
so much by our climate and soil as by our ignorance of the laws of
nature affecting plant life. We may not control the clinuite, but we
may rear natural plants and adopt rational methods of modifying
them by cultivation until they and we become quite independent of
the vicissitudes of drought and frost.

In conclusion I gratefully acknowledge the enthusiastic assistance
that I have received from Mrs. R. S. Hotze as translator, and Mr.
E. R. Miller in the preparation of the index.



Letter of Tr.u^smittal 3

Preface - 5

Table of Contents - - 11

Part I.— Laboratory Work, Physiological and Experimental.

Chapter I. General Remarks 15

The vital principle— Cellular and chemical structiire 15

General relations of the seed and plant to the air and the soil * 18

Importance of climatic laboratories (De CandoUe) 23

Chapter II. Germination 28

Influence of uniform temperature on germination of seed ( De CandoUe) . 28

Influence of temperature and moisture on germination (Sturtevant) 37

Influence of light and heat on germination (Pauchon) 37

Chapter III. The Temperature of the Soil 53

Observations at Houghton Farm and Geneva. N. Y., by Penhallow . .- 53

Observations by Goff 53

Observations of temperature of manured soils in Japan by Georgeson _ 54

Influence of rain on temperature of the soil at Munich (K. Singer) 54

Soil temperatures as affected by surface slope and covering (Wollny) _ . 57

Soil temperatures observed at Greenwich, England 58

Soil temperatures observed at Brookings, S. Dak 59

Soil temperatures observed at Auburn, Ala 61

Soil temperatures observed at Pendleton, Oreg 62

Soil temperatures observed at Montreal. Canada 63

Methods of measuring soil temperatures (Whitney; Emory; Menden-

hall) 65

Chapter IV. The Infllt:nce of Sunshine on Assimilation and Trans-
piration 67

Chemistry of assimilation (Abbott) 67

Sunshine and transpiration (Marie- Davy: Deherain) ' 69

Annual distribution of svmshine ( Humboldt) 72

^otal quantity of heat required to ripen grain ( Boussingault) 73

The sunshine and heat required to ripen grain (Tisseraud ) 73

>,,^^The sunshine and heat required to form chlorophyl (Marie-Davy) 75

Influent'e of absorbent media on chlorophyl (Engelmann) 77

Influence of the .supply of sap (Laurent) 77

Climate and the location of chlorophyl cells (Guntz) 77

The influence of cloud and fog ( Marie-Davy) 78

Influence of shade on development (Hellriegel) . 79

Influence of long and short waves of light ( Vochting; Sachs) 79

Influence of dryness and sunlight on development of tubers (Knight;

Langeuthal; Wollny) 80



Chapter V. The Methods of Measuring Direct or Diffuse Sunshine

AS to Intensity or Duration . 81

Theoretical relation of direct and diffused sunshine (Clausius) 81

Total insolation, direct and diffused (Marie-Davy) , ^ ^ . . 82

Theoretical formulae for actinometer (Arago-Davy: Marie- Davy: Fer-

rel) 87

Intensity and duration of sunshine at Montsouris (Marie-Davy) 89
Relative total heat received from sun and sky diiring any day by hori-
zontal surfaces ( Aymonnet) 90

^-~ilelative total heat received during certain months (Aymonnet) 92

Photo-chemical intensity of sunshine (Bunsen: Roscoe) . 92

Photographic intensity of sunshine ( Vogel: Weber) 95

Marchand's self-registering chemical actinometer 96

Comparison of Marchands and Marie- Davy's results (Radau) 96

Violle's conjugate bulbs 97

Bellani"s radiometer or vaporization actinometer (Descroix) 97

Arago"s cyanometer and Desain's thermo-electric actinometer -99

Duration of sunshine —

Recorded at United States Signal Service stations 99

Recorded at Winnipeg, Manitoba . - . . 100

Total possible duration of sunshine, by decades (Schott; Libbey) 101

Chapter VI. Moisture of the Soil 104

In general ... 104

Evaporatio.. from the surface of fresh water in evaporometer (Descroix;

^^-_^ ?erald; Piche; Riissell) 104

Culti \ ation diminishes surface-soil evaporation (Sturtevant) 108

Percol.^tion ( Welitschkowsky; Whitney; Goff ) 100

Available moisture ( Wollny; Haberlandt: Seignette) 110

Transpiration (Hoehner: Wollny; Risler; Marie-Davy: Perret) 112

Relation of plants to moisture of soil ( Wollny) . 114

Relation of water to crops (Ilionkoff: Haberlandt; Hellriegel; Fitt-

bogen; Birner; Heinrich; Wollny; Sorauer) ^.. 116

Rainfall and sugar beets (Briem; Grassmann) 125

Chapter VII. Miscellaneous Relations 128

Rapid thaws , , 128

Wind :. 129

The organic dust of the atmosphere (Serafina; Arata) 130

Atmospheric electricity ( Wisliczenus; Marie-Davy) 131

Chapter VIII. Relation of Plants to Atmospheric Nitrogen 133

In general 133

"The amount of nitrogen brought down by the rain to the soil (Marie-
Davy: Muntz: Marcano) 133

Nitrogen directly absorbed by soil (Schloesing) 136

Fixation of nitrogen by plants (Hellriegel and Wilfarth; Breal; Lawes
and Gilbert; Frank; Berthelot; Heraeus; Warini;ton; Maquenne;

Wheeler; Leone; Woods; Petermann; Pagnoul; Salkowsky) 136

Chapter IX. Relations of Crops to Manures and Fertilizers, and

Rotation 162

Artificial fertilizers and manures (Sanborn; Ohio; Ladd; Prize crops

of 1889) 162


Part II.— Open Air Work— Experience in Natural Climates.


Chapter X. Phenology _ 167

The relation of temperature and sunshine to the development of plants—
Thermometric and actinometrie constants (Reaumur; Adanson; Hum-
boldt: Boussingault: Gasparin; Lachmann: Tomaschek; Kabsch;
Sachs; Deblanchis; Hoffmann: Herve Mangon: Belland; Marie-Davy;

Georges Coutagne: Van Tieghem; Lippincott) 168

Studies in phenology —

Quetelet 181

Fritsch - -.- 189

Linsser 211

Applications of Linsser's results 233^

Dove - - -.-. 234

Hoffmann 236

Marie-Davy (1877; 1878; 1882; 1888; 1890)- 243

Angot (I, 1882; II, 1886; III, 1888; IV, 1890) 278

Requests for phenological observations of uncultivated plants (Smith-
sonian ; Hoffmann ) 290

Chapter XI. Acclimatization and Heredity 295

Grape (Fritz) 295

Grasses (Sporer) •. . 299

Cereals (Brewer) 300

Cotton (Hammond) 305

Beans (De Candolle) ^ . . ' 306

Pepper (Sturtevant) ... ^-"'-^ 307

Kentucky blue grass (Hunt) . - iV, 307

Chapter XII. Relation of Special Crops to Special Features of

Climate and other Influences 309

Beets and potatoes (Briem) 309

Sugar beets ( Durin) 310

Grasses (Ladd; Holten) 310

Cereals (Richardson) 312

Wheat— General relation to climate and soil (Brewer) 314

Cultivation of cereals— Experiments at Brookings, S. Dak. — Wheat-
Barley — Oats— Maize — Meteorologica! ^ecord for 1888 and 1889 318

Indiana 331

New York (Plumb) 332

Missouri (Schweitzer) 333

Pennsylvania (Frear and Caldwell) 333

Illinois (Hunt) 334

Maize and peas— New York (Sturtevant) 335

Sorghum— United States (Wiley and Stone) _ _ 337

Kansas 337

Ohio _ 338

Freezing of plants and seeds (Detmer) 338

ijuries and benefits due to wind-breaks 340

hunderstorms and ozone 341

Tuning versus climate 341

/"heat, temperature, and rain in England 341

agar crop and rain in Barbados 344


Part III.— Statistical Farm Work.


Chapter XIII. The Crops and Climates of the United States 351

Variability of results from plat experiments 353

Effect of variations in method of cultivation and in quality of seed for

different regions and years 355

Effect of variations in dates of seeding and harvesting 358

Brief summary of conclusions 363

Part IT.
Chapter XIV. Authorities:

Catalogue of periodicals and authors referred to 365

General index _ - - - - . 377



Chapter I.


It is not possible to conceive of an intelligent solution of the com-
plex problems offered by plant life in the ojjen air and cultivated
fields without first considering the innumerable experiments that
have been made by experimental botanists. It is therefore necessary
for the student and the practical man alike to know something of the
laws of growth, as presented in the elaborate treatises by Sachs, Vines,
Goodale, and others. I will at i3resent simply collate those special
results that bear upon crojjs as the final object of agriculture and
confine myself very closely to the relation between the crop and the
climate, in order to avoid being drawn into the discussion of innumer-
able interesting matters which, although they may affect the crop,
yet are understood to be outside the province of climatology. By
this latter term I understand essentially the influence on the plant of
its inclosure, i. e., the sky or sunshine, soil, temperature, rainfall, and
the chemical constitution of the air, either directly or through the


The growth of a plant and the ripening of the fruit is accomplished
by a series of molecular changes, in which the atmosphere, the water,
and the soil, but especially the sun, play important parts. In this
irocess a vital principle is figuratively said to exist within the seed or
•lant and to guide the action of the energy from the sun, coercing
he atoms of the soil, the water, and the air into such new chemical
ombinations as will build up the leaf, the woody fiber, the starch,
he pollen, the flower, tlie fruit and the seed.



A climate that is favorable to a special crop is one whose vicissi-
tudes of heat and rain and sunshine are not so extreme but that they

Online LibraryCleveland AbbeA first report on the relations between climates and crops → online text (page 1 of 42)