Male And Female Plants

It has long been observed that all of the asparagus plants in a bed do not produce seeds, owing to the fact that the male and female flowers in asparagus are nearly always borne on separate plants. Seed bearing is an exhaustive process,

and, as might be supposed, those plants that have produced seed have less vigor than those that have not. In order to determine the difference in vigor between the seed bearing and non-seed bearing plants, Prof. William J. Green, horticulturist of the Ohio Experiment Station, staked off fifty of each in a plantation of half an acre. When the cuttings were made the shoots taken from male and female plants were kept separate, and the weight of each recorded in Bulletin No. 9, Volume III., of the Ohio Station, as follows: "The cuttings were made at regular intervals and in the ordinary manner, as for market purposes. The weight of shoots taken at each cutting is not given in the table, since the facts are quite as well shown by stating the aggregate weight for periods of ten days each. The division into periods is made for the purpose of showing comparative earliness. This could be shown in a more marked degree by taking the first and second cuttings alone, but they were too limited in quantity to admit of conclusions being drawn from them; hence they are included with the other cuttings in the same period. PRODUCT FROM FIFTY PLANTS EACH, MALE AND FEMALE +========================+=============+============+ Product fromProduct from fifty male fifty female plants plants +------------------------+-------------+------------+ Ounces Ounces First period, 10 days 37 21 Second period, 10 days 104 68 Third period, 10 days 266 164 Fourth period, 10 days 203 154 +-------------+------------+ Total for the season 610 407 +========================+=============+============+ "This shows a gain of the male over the female plants of seventy-six per cent. for the first period, and a fraction less than fifty per cent. for the whole season. Reversing the standard of comparison, it will be seen that the female plants fall below the male forty-three per cent. for the first period, and a little more than thirty-three per cent. in the total. In no case did the female plants produce equally with the male. "If comparative earliness is determined by the date of first cutting alone, there is no difference between the male and female plants, since the first cutting was made on both at the same date; but taking quantity of product into consideration, which is the proper method, there is a decided difference, the gain of the male over the female plants being seventy-six, fifty-two, sixty-three, and thirty-one per cent. for the four periods respectively. The difference in yield between the two was greatest at first, and diminished toward the last, which practically amounts to the same thing as the male being earlier than the female. There is a still further difference between the two in quality of product, the shoots of the female plant being smaller and inferior to those of the male. "It is not safe to draw conclusions from such limited observations as these, further, at least, than to accept them as representing the truth approximately. Allowing a wide margin for possible error, there would still seem to be sufficient difference in productive capacity between the male and female plants to justify the selection of the former and rejection of the latter when a new plantation is to be started. If the figures given in the table are taken as a basis, the gain in the crop, if the male plants alone were used, would each season pay for all the plants rejected, and leave a handsome margin at the end of the term of years when an asparagus bed has served its period of usefulness. Male plants can be secured by division of old plants, or by selecting those that bear no seed, after they have attained the age of two years." In summing up the results of this experiment, Professor Green states that male asparagus plants are about fifty per cent. more productive than female plants, and the shoots being larger have a greater market value.

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