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Newspaper Page Text
An Address by MILTON WHITNEY, Chief of the Bureau of Soils. ^IpHE maintenance of soil fertility, upon which you have asked me to address you, is a very difficult subject to discuss fully in a meeting of this kind. It is a subject so intricate in details and so dependent upon local and variable conditions that it does not lend itself to the didactic treatment of a popular address. Agri culture is an art and not a science, but it is an art that can be and should be largely influenced and directed by scientific investigations and thought. I see no reasonable prospect of agriculture it self ever being more than an art that is, it will never be founded upon the exact lines which we recognize in an exact science. I shall be glad, however, to speak of certain general features of the essential and broadly applicable laws of soil fertility that the Bureau of Soils with its large force of field men and its large force of chemists and soil physicists, has investigated in the last twelve years. We think that as a result of this work we understand far more about the principles of soil fertility now than we ever have before, and I wish to give the results in words as simple as possible. You need not necessarily believe everything I say (because I can not say truly I believe everything myself, but only that our opinions seem reasonable deductions), but I wish you to think about what I say and if it appears reasonable to you, and if it harmonizes with your own experience on your farms. I have to offer you in the latter part of my address, after discussing the principles of soil fertility, a method we have devised for determining the manurial requirements of soils. I think you farmers can use this method, and if it proves to be of use on the farms, if you can handle your fertilizer problems as you are handling your corn-selection problem, I think it will be a great benefit to the art of agriculture. In speaking of the fertility of soils I shall have to ask you to per mit me to review some of the important questions of crop production. DEFINITION OF FERTILITY. Fertility and crop production are different terms. Fertility is a property inherent in the soil it is what the soil is capable of doing if it is under the best possible conditions. The yield of crops, on the other hand, is not dependent upon the fertility alone. Several 10.