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' AN' IMPORTANT APPOINTMENT. INCREASING THE VALUE OF FLAX. Dr. L. jCockayne, F.L.S., has , been appointed by the Government to superintend experiments in plant-breeding on tho' Government agricultural stations. In conversation with a Dominion representative yesterday, ho gavo some partithilars of the first series of those experiments, which lie will, direct. Their object is to improve the commercial qualities of New Zealand flax. A NEGLECTED PLANT. The huinblo flax plant is an asset of increasing value to Now Zealand. Tho export of phormium fibre during 1906. was valued at £770,106, as against £195,728 for 1901, and £32,985 for 1896. But New Zealand phormium, at, present,'is far from being a perfect plant for' flax-millirig purposes. It is," in fact, probably the only example of a wild plant used ; commercially on a large scale. Other plants so used are the result of years of careful experiment.- ' ; . The neglected pliormium tenax is now to bo taken in haild, and Dr. - Cockayno' will visit in a few; weeks' time the. Government experiment stations in - tho . Auckland • pro- ' viiice, in connection with a series of experi-. ments whoso object is the production of forms of flax of. a higher economic value than any tiow.' existing.Ho. will arraugo with the flax-growing experts so that tho work'shall be conducted on. strictly modern' scientific lines, accurate records being, made in order that future investigators . may continue the work exactly where it is left off. At the' prosent time Dr. Cockayne. states : nothing is accurately known about the varia-'.; tions of pliormium. In fact, tho extremely important -point >as to 'whether,tho wellmarked variations' come true from seed is quito ? unsettled. Experiments'will also be conducted, in regard to the action of definite soils upon fibre-production, and the like, and Dr. Cockayne hopes to publish in the spring an up-to-date account of pliormium tenax dealing with its wild and cultivated varieties, anil its-variations under natural conditions. The account should form a valuable basis for .future work. • " A HOPEFUL SCHEME. , It is hoped, as the' result of tho experiments, to increase .the output of flax, and at the same time improve the quality, of ithe fibre. Such improvements have been successfully performed in the caso of many other plants, and'there is every reason to hope that the flax plant, also, can bo very much enhanced in value, since it possesses tho essential qualification for. improvement,: namely, extreme variability both in the wild and cultivated states, tliough tho variations themselves have never been studied accurately and scientifically. , ■ . . ' POINTS FOR CONSIDERATION. At a meeting of tho Philosophical Society last evening, Dr. Cockayno announced, in tho courso'of a discussion on Mendel's law, that the Agricultural Department was going to give him control of a.considerable number of experiments in plant breeding at agricultural stations. One of the first was in regard to pliormium tensix, and it was necessary at the outset to show whether the pliormium consisted of a largo number of ele-, mentary species or not. If it was so composed the improvement of that very important plant would bo a matter of, a very short time. . Mr. A. Hamilton, speaking later, said that in tho improvement of flax tliore were many other points to bo considered besides tho fibre. Among them was tho elimination of the gum. He was sure that this Society would be glad to hoar' Dr. Cocka3'ne's intimation that the Government had undertaken, and had given him the superintendence of those experiments. '

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Bibliographic details

SCIENTIFIC PLANT BREEDING., Dominion, Volume 1, Issue 191, 7 May 1908

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SCIENTIFIC PLANT BREEDING. Dominion, Volume 1, Issue 191, 7 May 1908