By Luther Burbank
(Luther Burbank writes of the Yogoda System taught by Swami Yogananda: "It is ideal for training and harmonizing man's physical, mental and spiritual natures . . . I am glad to have this opportunity of heartily joining with the Swami in his appeal for international schools on the art of living, which, if established, will come as near to bringing the millennium as anything with which I am acquainted.")
"Some qualities, Nature carefully fixes and transmits ...but some, and those the finer, she exhales with the breath of the individual ...as too costly to perpetuate. But I notice also that they may become fixed and permanent in any stock, by painting and repainting them on every individual, until at last .....Nature adopts them and bakes them into her porcelain."
The fundamental principles of plant-breeding are simple, and may be stated in few words. The practical application of these principles demands the highest and most refined efforts of which the mind of man is capable, and no line of mental effort promises more for the elevation, advancement, prosperity and happiness of the whole human race.
Every plant, animal, and planet occupies its place in the order of Nature by the action of two forces—the inherent constitutional life-force, with all its acquired habits, the sum of which is heredity; and the numerous complicated external forces or environment. To guide the interaction of these two forces, both of which are only different expressions of the one eternal force, is, and must be, the sole object of the breeder, whether of plants or animals.
When we look about us —on the plants inhabiting the earth with ourselves, and watch any species day by day, we are unable to see any change in some of them. During a life-time, and in some cases —perhaps including the full breadth of human history— no remarkable change seems to have occurred. And yet there is not today ...one plant species— which has not undergone great, and to a certain extent constant change. The life forces of the plant ...in endeavoring to harmonize and adapt the action of its acquired tendencies to its surroundings ...may, through many generations, slowly adapt itself to the necessities of existence ...yet these same accrued forces may also produce sudden, and to one not acquainted with its past history, most surprising and unaccountable, changes of character. The very existence of the higher orders of plants which now inhabit the earth has been secured to them only by their power of adaptation to crossings. For through the variations produced by the combination of numerous tendencies ...individuals are produced which are better endowed to meet the prevailing conditions of life. Thus to Nature's persistence in crossing ...do we owe all that earth now produces in man, animals, or plants; and this magnificently stupendous fact may also be safely carried into the domain of chemistry as well, for what is common air and water ...but Nature's earlier efforts in that line. And our nourishing foods ...but the result of myriad complex chemical affinities of late date?
It was once thought that plants varied within the so-called species but very little, and that true species never varied. We have more lately discovered ...that no two plants are ever exactly alike, each one having its own individuality, and that new varieties —having endowments of priceless value—and even distinct new species, can be produced by the plant-breeder with the same precision that machinery for locomotion and other useful purposes ...are produced by the mechanic.
The evolution and all the variations of plants ...are simply the means which they employ in adjusting themselves to external conditions. Each plant strives to adapt itself to environment ...with as little demand upon its forces as possible and still keep up in the race. The best-endowed species and individuals ...win the prize, and by variation as well as persistence. The constantly varying external forces —to which all life is everywhere subjected— demand that the inherent internal force ...shall always be ready to adapt itself or perish.
The chemist, the mechanic ...have, so to speak, domesticated some of the forces of Nature. But the plant-breeder is now learning to guide even the creative forces into new and useful channels. This knowledge is a most priceless legacy, making clear the way for some of the greatest benefits which man has ever received from any source by the study of Nature.
When we capture and domesticate the various plants, the life-forces are relieved from many of the hardships of an unprotected wild condition, and have more leisure, so to speak, or, in other words, more surplus force, to be guided by the hand of man under the new environments into all the useful and beautiful new forms which are constantly appearing under cultivation, crossing and selection. Some plants are very much more pliable than others, as the breeder soon learns. Plants having numerous representatives in various parts of the earth ...generally possess this adaptability —in a much higher degree ...than the monotypic species. For having been subjected to great variation of soil, climate and other influences, their continued existence has been secured ...only by the inherent habits which adaptation demanded, while the monotypic species ...not being able to fit themselves for their surroundings without a too radically expensive change, have continued to exist only under certain special conditions. Thus two important advantages are secured to the breeder who selects from the genera having numerous species—the advantage of natural pliability and ...in the numerous species to work upon by combination for still further variations.
The vast possibilities of plant-breeding can hardly be estimated. It would not be difficult for one man to breed a new rye, wheat, barley, oats, or rice which would produce one grain more to each head, or a corn which would produce an extra kernel to each ear, another potato to each plant, or an apple, plum, orange, or nut to each tree.
What would be the result? In five staples only in the United States alone ....the inexhaustible forces of Nature would produce annually, without effort and without cost, 5,200,000 extra bushels of corn, 15,000,000 extra bushels of wheat, 20,000,000 extra bushels of oats, 1,500,000 extra bushels of barley, 21,000,000 extra bushels of potatoes.
But these vast possibilities are not alone for one year, or for our own time or race, but are beneficent legacies for every man, woman, and child who shall ever inhabit the earth. And who can estimate the elevating and refining influences and moral value of flowers with all their graceful forms and bewitching shades and combinations of colors and exquisitely varied perfumes? These silent influences are unconsciously felt even by those who do not appreciate them consciously, and thus with better and still better fruits, nuts, grains, and flowers ...will the earth be transformed, man's thoughts turned from the base, destructive forces ...into the nobler productive ones —which will lift him to higher planes of action— toward that happy day ...when man shall offer his brother man, not bullets and bayonets, but ...richer grains, better fruits, and fairer flowers.
Cultivation and care may help plants to do better work temporarily, but by breeding, plants may be brought into existence which will do better work always ...in all places and for all time. Plants are to be produced which will perform their appointed work better, quicker, and with the utmost precision.
Science sees better grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, all in new forms, sizes, colors, and flavors, with more nutrients and less waste, and with every injurious and poisonous quality eliminated, and with power to resist sun, wind, rain, frost, and destructive fungus and insect pests; fruits without stones, seeds, or spines; better fiber, coffee, tea, spice, rubber, oil, paper, and timber trees, and sugar, starch, color, and perfume plants. Every one of these, and ten thousand more, are within the reach of the most ordinary skill in plant-breeding. Man is slowly learning ...that he too may guide the same forces which have been—through all the ages— performing this beneficent work ...which he sees everywhere —above, beneath, and around him— in the vast teeming animal and plant life of the world.
These lines were penned on the heights of the Sierras, while resting on the original material from which this planet was made. Thousands of ages have passed, and it still remains unchanged. In it ...no fossils or any trace of past organic life are ever found, nor could any exist, for the world creative heat was too intense. Among these dizzy heights of rock, ice-cleft, glacier-plowed, and water-worn, we stand face to face with the first and latest pages of world creation, for now we see also tender and beautiful flowers adding grace of form and color to the grisly walls, and far away down the slopes ...stand the giant trees, oldest of all living things, embracing all of human history; but even their lives ...are but as a watch-tick— since the stars first shone on these barren rocks, before the evolutive forces had so gloriously transfigured the face of our planet home.
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