Skip to main content
 Previous Next
  • Zoom In (+)
  • Zoom Out (-)
  • Rotate CW (r)
  • Rotate CCW (R)
  • Overview (h)
Agriculture and Horticulture: Encyclopedia Arctica 6: Plant Sciences (Regional)
Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, 1879-1962

Agriculture and Horticulture

Agriculture and Horticulture of Arctic and Subarctic Areas

EA-PS. Plant Sciences
[Basil M. Bensin and George W. Gasser]

AGRICULTURE AND HORTICULTURE OF ARCTIC AND SUBARCTIC AREAS

CONTENTS
Page
Climate 2
Soils and Vegetation 10
Agricultural Explorations of Arctic and Subarctic Areas 16
Bibliography 22

EA-Plant Sciences
[Basil M. Bensin and George W. Gasser)

AGRICULTURE AND HORTICULTURE OF ARCTIC AND SUBARCTIC AREAS
The main centers of agricultural production are located in the temperate
zone of both hemispheres, and only a small percentage of arctic and subarctic
areas is used for agriculture. This is due to the marginal agriculturual en–
vironment of these areas, comprising great complexity of environmental factors
limiting possibilities of agricultural use of the land
However, there are very strong economic and political factors forcing the
finding of every possible way for agricultural exploration and exploitation of
the farthest north lands, to secure food for the growing population of new
industrial and military establishments. Discovery of rich deposits of precious
gold, silver, copper, platinum, antimony. phosphates, coal, and, finally, oil
in the northern zones has brought a considerable population to formerly un–
settled areas above the Arctic Circle and within subarctic regions.
Despite unfavorable environments, some phases of agricultural developments
have been tried and definite branches of agricultural production, including
plant and animal industry products, have been established. The Agricultural
Experiment Stations scattered in the northern regions of both hemispheres have
had a great role in this pioneer agricultural work.
Our present goal is to present a brief review of the prevailing environmental
factors in these regions, both favorable and unfavorable for agriculture, and to

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

indicate the specific character of arctic and subarctic agriculture as it
appears under existing economical conditions.
The chief environmental factors to be considered are:
1. Climate. 2. Soil. 3. Natural vegetation in its relation to agricul–
tural exploitation.
Climate
The main climatic factor for plant growth in the northern areas is summer
temperatures. The real indication of climatological limits for agriculture is
the isotherm of the warmest month, July. The isotherm of 10°C. (50°F.), lying
near the limits of the polar regions of both hemispheres (Fig. ), could be
considered as such a limit. This isotherm extends from the northern edge of
the Scandinavian Peninsula (Norway) through the northern part of the White Sea,
the estuaries and deltas of large northern rivers (Pechora in Euorope; Ob,
Yenisei, Lena, and Kolyma in Asia; Yukon and Mackenzie rivers in America), then
through the southern part of Hudson Bay, northern part of Labrador, Newfound–
land, and Iceland.
The greater part of this isotherm lies above the Arctic Circle; exceptions
are northern Canada and Iceland, the northeastern part of the Asiatic continent
extending to the Kamchatka Peninsula, and the northern part of the maritime
region of the U.S.S.R., where this isotherm drops below 60°N. latitude. In
the Asiatic continent it approximately coincides with the permafrost area which
extends to 55°N. latitude; around Hudson Bay and adjacent region it is in–
fluenced by the cold arctic air which penetrates far inland without being checked
by mountain ranges such as are found in the northwestern part of the American
continent and Alaska Peninsula.

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

Most of this 50°F. (10°C.) July isotherm lies in the tundra zone or, in
some places, in the forest-tundra, which is an intermediate formation between
tundra and taiga. The dominant vegetation of treeless tundra consists typi–
cally of various aggregations of mosses ( Polytrichum and Sphagnum ), lichens
( Cladonia , etc.), also sedges ( Carex and Eriophorum ), heaths ( Cassiope ,
Arctostaphylos , Vaccinium , Ledum ), crowberry ( Empetrum ), grasses ( Calamagrostis
and many others), and such shrubs as species of birch ( Betula ), alder ( Alnus ),
and willows ( Salix ).
On the fringe of this isotherm only a few cool-season vegetables such
as Cruciferae (radishes, turnips, rutabaga) can be grown out-of-doors in
specially prepared seed beds with an addition of fertilizer and preferably
under glass in hotbeds and cold frames or in heated greenhouses. In cold
frames cabbages, onions, and lettuce can be produced. As a matter of fact,
radishes and lettuce were be grown on the high sandy beach at point Barrow
(71°20′ N., 156°20′ W.) on the fringe of the plus 5°6. isotherm in the month
of July in 1883, according to Middleton Smith, who made this comment: “A
study of the conditions under which plants germinated and matured is not only
curiously interesting, but suggests that there was some stimulating force —
perhaps the large amount of atmospherical electricity — which caused them to
arrive at maturity in a much shorter period than those grown in temperate zones.
Whatever the agency, inasmuch as the summer season is so very brief, it is
absolutely necessary that plant life in the North should arrive at maturity
very quickly in order to perpetuate the species.” These plants were matured
(ready to be used) in 19 days, while in the temperate zone a 30 to 40 - day s period

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

is needed. The total average degree days above the freezing point in Point
Barrow for the months June, July and August, 226°C. (406°F.), is evidently
sufficient for growing such early vegetable crops, even under the plus 5°C.
(41°F.) July isotherm.
The behavior of plants in the North is a most interesting study. It is
at once apparent that latitude has a profound effect upon the size and fruit–
ing habits of plants. It is the prime purpose of every plant, especially the
annuals, to produce seed so as to perpetuate its kind. To that end we
find that in the North the vegetative growth of plant is curtailed so as to
speed up reproduction. This is brought about primarily by the long daylight hours
(Fig. ). It is well known that some plants are affected adversely by extended
daylight periods, but these types cannot maintain themselves in the high north
and are eliminated by natural selection. Consequently, we find plants respond–
ing, as noted above, so as to [: ] hasten the fruiting period.
G. W. Gasser has noted that some native plants in the Tanana Valley, Alaska,
and the same species one hundred miles above the Arctic Circle, matured seed
at about the same time; obviously, the farther north the greater the day length,
which consequently speeds up plant growth, particularly maturity.
Some such effect has been noted in plants that have been introduced from
southern latitudes. The garden pea, which is grown quite generally in many
states as a canning pea, after having been grown in Alaska over a series of
years, came into fruiting stage from ten days to two weeks earlier than plants
grown from seeds and produced in the continental United States.
The potato, which is one of the world’s most important food plants, thrives
in Alaska as far north as the 68° parallel at Wiseman, Alaska. Mean summer

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

temperature (June-August) at Wiseman is 54°F. or a total of 1,980 degree days
(1,100°C.), which is sufficient for production of a good yield of acclimated
potatoes. As a matter of fact, the potato variety best adapted to Alaska has
been originated in Wiseman as a very popular variety, Arctic Seedling.
Grain production requires many more thermal units for its maturity than
potatoes. According to experimental trials in the U.S.S.R, the total number
of degree days from emergence to maturity of grains, in temperate zones, is
established as follows:
1. Wheat 1,780-2,270°C. (3,204-4,086°F.)
2. Barley 1,700-2,500°C. (3,060-4,500°F.)
3. Oats 1,940-2,300°C. (3,492-4,140°F.)
At the Alaska Agricultural Experiment Station, College, Alaska (64°21′ N.
latitude) in 1949, for example, the following numbers of degree days were ob–
served for growth maturity:
Average Earliest
1. Wheat 2,256°F. 2,167°F.
2. Barley 1,726°F. 1,625°F.
3. Oats 1,971°F. ---
In other words, the varieties of grain best adapted to the subarctic
region require fewer thermal units for maturity than in the temperate zones,
evidently due to the longer days of the North.
Therefore, we might consider three groups of crop plants for subarctic
agriculture and horticulture. (1) Early cool-season vegetables, which can be
grown even above the plus 10°C. July isotherm. (2) Potatoes, which can be
grown in regions with a July temperature of 12 to 13°C. (53.6° to 55.4°F.).

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

(3) Ear l y maturing grains growing in the region of 15°to 16°C. (59° to 60.8° F.)
in the month of July. Northern limits for growing of these three groups of crop
plants can, in a general way, be indicated by the isotherm lines of each region.
However, the essential variability of physiographic features and micro–
climatic conditions in different regions affects the specific character of the
existing or potential agricultural production. One basic climatic difference
of subarctic regions from temperate-zone areas is the greater range of maximum
and minimum diurnal daily temperatures, which has very profound effect upon
plant growth. (Fig. )
During the clear summer days, the temperature rises very rapidly after
sunrise; but during the night and particularly in early morning before sunrise,
temperatures may drop below the freezing point, and in such a short time not
more sensitive garden plants and even potatoes can be damaged.
These temperature fluctuations are greatly affected by the topography and
microrelief features of the land, as well as its exposure toward sunlight. Gentle
south-facing slopes, for example, receive more sunlight and heat, are thus less
susceptibile to early morning frost than lowlands, and have a distinctly different
natural vegetation. This microclimatological variability of certain small areas
within the same climatological region is the most significant factor for land
valuation and agricultural use of arctic and subarctic regions.
Every additional thermal unit affecting soil temperature and stimulating
plant growth should be counted. Therefore, general meteorological observations
recorded by Weather Bureau stations are not sufficient for the proper agro–
climatological analysis of agricultural land. For example, maximum and minimum
thermometers of the standard [: ] meteorological stations are placed on the
shelter four feet above ground. But for close studies of agricultural meteorology,

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

the temperature of the lower strata of the air adjacent to the soil surface
should be recorded by a special shelter with three units of maximum and mini–
mum thermometers arranged at various levels, 1, 2, and 3 feet above the soil
surface (Fig. ). The temperature fluctuations of the lowest unit, near the
soil surface, is particularly valuable since it coincides with the level of
the growing plants.
In addition to these thermometers, thermographs and hydrographs should be
used to record diurnal data of temperature and air humidity fluctuations. By
means of such an arrangement, microclimatological differences of cleared and un–
cleared lands can be detected, as well as the differences of cultivated fields
of various dimensions and exposures. On the basis of such microclimatological
analysis, proper use of land can be planned.
In addition to air temperature, the soil temperature movement during the
growing season at various depths of agricultural land is a decisive factor for
the rhythm of plant growth affecting various phonological phases of crop plants.
By the systematic recording of soil temperature, definite soil temperature pro–
files for the growing season ( pedothermal profiles ) can be established. This
gives particularly valuable information for agricultural use of land in the perma–
frost artic and subarctic regions.
Permafrost is permanently frozen subsurface material normally not subject
to seasonal thawing and freezing. There are great permafrost areas in both
hemispheres, the largest being in the Eurasian continent. For agricultural use
of land, it is essential to investigate the permafrost table, which is the more
or less irregular surface representing the upper limit of permafrost. High perma–
frost table is at times found near the soil surface at depths of 8 to 12 inches
under thick moss cover. Low permafrost table is found at depths of several feet

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture &Horticulture

below the soil surface. By clearing the land and plowing, the high permafrost
table may be lowered, since increasing soil temperature occurs when soil surface
is exposed to sunlight and heat. In cases where permafrost consists not only of
frozen ground but also of ice lenses, lying underneath, the land can not be
used for agriculture at all. Otherwise, agriculture in the permafrost area is
possible and can be developed successfully if climatic conditions are favorable
This has been demonstrated in such permafrost regions as the Yakutsk district of
Siberia and the Tanana valley region of Alaska.
The amount of annual precipitation and its monthly distribution is another
essential factor of agriculture envi or ro nment. All arctic and subarctic regions
have low annual precipitation, ranging, in the continental parts, from 5 inches
in the arctic to 12 inches in the subarctic. Coastal, insular, and some peninsular
regions have higher precipitation, but lower summer temperature. The amount of
precipitation in areas of usable agricultural land depends upon the influence
of Atlantic and Pacific ocean currents, which have a profound effect upon the
climatic conditions of these areas. The Arctic-Atlantic climate zone of Europe
is milder, due to the influence of the Gulf Stream which extends to the northern
part of the Scandinavian peninsula, Kola Peninsula, and even around the White
Sea land of European Russia. As a result, the coastal part of Arctic Norway
has a milder climate than its eastern inland part which is cut off by the
Scandinavian mountain range (Fig. ). Therefore, agriculture conditions of
the subarctic portions of Norway are very different from those of Sweden. The
western Siberian lowlands are likewise unprotected from the north by any mountain
ranges.
The greatest part of this distinct physico-geographic area with subarctic
climate has underlying permafrost. There are similar unprotected land areas in

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

the northern part of the eastern Asiatic continent, where the large Siberian
rivers empty into the Arctic Sea, north of the Arctic Circle. This area is
largely tundra land and not suitable for agriculture cultivation. A series
of long mountain ranges are found in the southern part of eastern Siberia
(Yablonovoi, Stanovoi, Cherski, Tas-Kystabyt) with surrounding areas of rough
terrain. Due to the topographical features, agriculture land is here confined
to the river valleys and smaller plateaus. Climatic conditions of there
valleys in great degree depend upon the influence of the surrounding mountain
ranges.
The same conditions also apply to the Alaska Peninsula. The Alaska Range
on the southern edge of the peninsula has a decisive effect upon the summer climate
of inner Alaska, shutting out the moist air from the pacific, while the Brooks
Range on the north serves as a barrier against the cold air from the Arctic. A
result, central Alaska climate is continental, approaching the semiarid,
with warm, sunny summer and very cold winters.
The eastern part of the northern North American continent consists of low–
lands with the large body of Hudson Bay extending inland to 50°N. latitude.
The climate of this area is colder during the summer months than that of inner
Alaska at the same latitude. This is the limiting fac or for agricultural
development of these subarctic regions. Northern limits of potato growing,
for instance, are much lower than in Alaska (Fig. )
Prevailing wind directions and wind velocities are also significant
environmental factors for agriculture. Strong coastal winds and prevailing
winds of the open areas increase soil evaporation and cause considerable soil
erosion. During the winter months surface winds blow the snow away from large
portions of the fields and accumulate snowdrifts around barriers that occur

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

here and there. The barren surface causes deep freezing of the soil and of
the unprotected roots of annual and perennial plants, with a consequent high
percentage of winter-killed cultivated plants. The low wind velocity of the
continental areas of Siberia and Alaska is a distinctly favorable asset for
agriculture.
Rate of evaporation during the summer months depends on the air temperature
and wind velocity and is a significant climatic indication. In semiarid sub–
arctic agricultural regions, the rate of evaporation in some seasons exceeds
the rate of summer precipitation and crop plants suffer from lack of soil moisture.
Problems of soil-moisture conservation and irrigation in such cases are an impor–
tant part of agriculture and horticulture of the subarctic. In the permafrost
regions, high or low permafrost table has a direct effect upon the soil moisture
movement during the dry summer season.
Several physiographic features occurring in subarctic areas modify general
climatic conditions of certain regions, such as large lakes, which are numerous
around rivers and creeks, icings (naleds) found in the watersheds of rivers, as
in the case of the Matanuska River Valley, or some extraordinary phenomenon,
such as volcanic lava brought long distances by winds and accumulated on the
soil surface. All these local environmental factors should be considered in
evaluating land for agricultural use.
Soils and Vegetation
There are two principal vegetation zones of the arctic and subarctic areas:
tundra and taiga. Tundra — the treeless coast a l plain bordering the arctic seas
— can hardly be considered as potential agricultural land. For soils of tundra
of various types are shallow, with a very small percentage of organic matter and

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

very limited microflora since the low temperatures prevailing during the summer
months prevent any considerable amount of bacteriological activity. Diversity
of microrelief of arctic and subarctic tundra has a distinct effect upon the
vegetative cover, including not only the mosses and lichens but also flowering
plants and even dwarf shrubs.
It is possible that, by proper use, including drainage, the land “islands”
with somewhat higher elevation could be developed as pasture land. At present
tundra vegetation, consisting primarily of mosses and lichens, is used in various
countries by reindeer, moose, musk oxen, and other browsing animals which can
use even bark of trees and young t iw wi gs of [: ] shrubs. On Fig. the areas
of reindeer tundra area, and forest pastures in Sweden and Norway are shown.
In Siberia, the reindeer is the most common and useful animal all over the vast
tundra region, and in Alaska reindeer herds are owned by the native Eskimos.
However, real agricultural land is found also as land islands with specific
physiographic features in the taiga zone, south, of the tundra, where climatic
conditions are sufficiently favorable for trees and shrub growth. This taiga
forest vegetation extends south in the Asiatic continent almost to 50° North
latitude in the low plateau of western Siberia where it merges into steppe
zone (Fig. ). In Alaska, taiga vegetation covers most of the inner Alaska
Peninsula, where dense forest formations extend along the river valleys almost
to 68° N. (Fig. ) Agricultural land is found along the river valleys mostly
below the Arctic Circle, and consists of pastures, meadows, and land suitable
for growing potatoes and grains, where there are a limited number of frostless
days and warm summer temperatures.
Typical river valleys of these subarctic regions consist of two distinct
physiographic features, ( 1 ) flood plain and ( 2 ) terraces. Both have distinct

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

characteristics of vegetation and soil types. The flood plain of large rivers,
as for example, the upper Yukon River in Alaska, with various physiographic
phases indicated by different microrelief and vegetation — series of sloughs,
meander scars, oxbow lakes, swamps, creeks, old channels, and dry lakes. The
type of vegetation of each phase varies according to the drainage conditions,
and in permafrost areas tundralke plant formations on the flood plain are not
uncommon. “Muskegs” and “niggerhead” hummocks are found on the flood plains
of the Yukon River and its tributaries in large areas, where permafrost conditions
hold the moisture near the surface until July. Several species of Carex ,
Eriophorum , mosses (chiefly Sphagnum spp.), lichens Cladonia spp.), as well
as several grasses (including species of Poa , Festuca , and particularly Calamagros–
tis canadensis
) are found in such low land of the flood plains.
When drainage conditions improve, grass formations become more conspicuous.
This happens also after fires, if “niggerheads” are sufficiently suppressed by
the fire. In the upper Yukon flood plains (66°30′ N.) several species of
Calamagrostis are found, i.e., yukonensis , alaskana , atropurpurea , and, on well–
drained sandy bars near Fort Yukon, luxurious communities of E Bromus pumpellianus
tweedye . Other grasses, such as Agropyron yukonense , alaskanum , and caninum occur
occur on the terraces at Yukon Valley. Likewise at Igarka (67°27′ N.), on the
flood plain of the Yenisei River of Siberia, native sedge and grass formations
are comprised of Poa pratensis , Alopecurus pratensis , Calamagrotis neglecta ,
landsdorfii , and also the legums Vicia cracca , Lathyrus pratensis , and Trifolium
lupinaster .
These native grasses and legumes could be used as a basis for agricultural
development of the arctic subarctic and the establishment of permanent
pastures and meadows.

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

Soils of the flood plain are chiefly alluvial of various composition and color
— sandy, clay, silt, with a considerable amount of organic matter as indicated
by the dark brown or even black color in the horizon. Various types of these
alluvial soils depend upon the paternal subsoil elements. Soil fertility
elements are deficient and application of manure and fertilizer is needed. [: ]
Likewise, soil microflora in arctic and subarctic alluvial soils is limited by
the climatic conditions. However, in most cases these alluvial soils could be
used quite successfully for meadows and pastures and to some extent for grains,
wherever the summer is warm and long enough.
Terraces or benches of the river valleys are conspicuous features of the
subarctic regions, with characteristic vegetation as a prominent element of the
regional landscape. Terraces of various elevations above the level of the flood
plain and with various exposures to the sum provide the most useful kind of
land for agriculture. South-facing slopes usually have a quite different type
of vegetation than the north-facing ones, for the additional amount of sunlight
and heat which they receive has a striking effect upon the plant communities,
which respond to the good soil drainage and higher temperature prevailing during
the growing period. Low south-sloping terraces, therefore, provide desirable land
for gardens or farm fields.
In the Yukon-Tanana region of Alaska, for example, prevailing communities
of aspen ( Polulus tremuloides ) and in some places cottonwood ( Populus balsamifera )
may be considered as indicating such a condition. When soil moisture is higher
on the gentle slopes, Alaska birches ( Betula paparifera occidentalis ) are present.
d On the edges of [: ] flood plains or on bottom land, where water accumulates
in the spring, black spruce ( Picea mariana ) and larch trees ( Larix laricina )
indicate rather poor drainage and are often associated with thick moss underneath.

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

In the Susitna River valley, low sloping terraces are covered with well-established
communities of Calamagrostis canadensis , as a very distinct local feature of
landscape.
Soils of terraces, covered by forest vegetation, are podsolic or crypto–
podsolic, with horizon that is weak or that may [: ] even be absent. There are
clay-loam, silt-loam soil types of terraces with low content of organic matter
and soil fertility elements (N, P 2 O 5 and K 2 O). This, for example, is shown
by the following chemical analysis of Yukon and Tanana valley terrace soils (H.
H. Bennett and T. D. Rice):
A. Tanana Valley
K 2 O P 2 O 5 N C a O M g O Organic
Matter
1. Fairbanks silt loam - soil 1.44 .38 .07 2.24 1.62 2.72
uncleared - subsoil 1.38 .08 .04 1.39 1.55 1.96
2. Fairbanks in field - soil 1.40 .49 .08 2.03 1.58 2.35
- subsoil : 1.32 .11 .03 1.90 1.63 .80
B. Yukon Valley
3. Rampart - Silt loam - soil 1.64 .13 .08 2.08 1.24 3.78
a. Bench -subsoil 1.78 .15 .06 4.25 1.90 .98
b. Foot of bench - soil 1.44 .20 .38 3.04 1.58 12.63
- subsoil 1.70 .19 .10 2.61 1.41 -
c. River flats
(flood plain)
- soil 1.44 .22 .38 2.97 .80 15.25
The amount of nitrogen and organic matter at the foot of bench or terrace is
higher, due to the colluvial soil formed by the seasonal wash-out of topsoil from
the top of the terrace. The bottom land of the Yukon River flood plain, according to this
analysis, is also richer in nitrogen content and organic matter than terrace soil.
The problem of soil erosion of the terraces thus becomes very great when land is
cleared and plowed.

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

Soils of the Yukon-Tanana region contain a rather high percentage of C a O
and, due to the presence of calcium, are almost neutral with pH 6.4 to 7.0.
This is a very favorable condition for soil bacteria activities. As a matter
of fact, legumes planted on these soils indicate well-developed nodules with–
out inoculation by nitrogen. This has been [: ] observed on both garden and
field peas ( Pisum sativam , Pisum-arvense ) as well as on red clover ( Trifolium
pratence
) and yellow flowering alfalfa ( Medicago falcata ) grown on the Experi–
ment Station fields at Rampart, in the Yukon River Valley, and at Fairbanks in
the Tanana Valley. Root nodules also were found on the native legumes Hedysarum
americanum
, Lathyrus maritimus , and Astragalus alpinus .
At the Igarka Experiment Station of the Yanisei Rivar valley the bottom land
soils have a rather high acidity pH 5.35 and prevailing fungi in the soil belong
to the group actinomycetes (O. Puskinskaja - Kuplenskaja). The most common fungi
are Penicilium , Mucor , Aspergillus , Cephalosporium , Monilia , and Oospora ;
Macrosporia and Fusarium are absent.
In the Tanana Valley bottom-land fields [: ] Fusarium appeared in 1950 in
a barley field in early spring (May and June), damaging seed roots of the young
plants. Same plants were killed, but a large part recovered after development
of secondary roots. [: ] Low soil temperature and excess of soil moisture in the
early spring evidently was a cause of this Fusarium attack.
Development of cultural methods for increasing soil temperature in gardens
and fields is the basic problem of horticulture and agriculture of the arctic
and subarctic regions. Very low content of nitrogen and phosphorus in soils
and very slow processes of nitrification of soils there make imperative the use
of commercial fertilizers, particularly nitrates and phosphates. Deficiency
of so-called “trace elements,” as manganese and boron, also has been noted in
these regions.

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

Agricultural Explorations of Arctic and Subarctic Areas
Agricultural exploration and land use of the arctic and subarctic regions
of both hemispheres is now just in the infancy stage of development.
The total area of these regions in European and Asiatic U.S.S.R. is esti–
mated by official sources as 993,000,000 hectares (2,455,703,000 acres). Alaska
occupies and area of 375,296.000 acres of which around 7,098,000 acres are con–
sidered arable, according to G. W. Gasser, former Commissioner of Agriculture,
Territory of Alaska. In the Scandinavian countries, as in Alaska and northern
Canada, these regions are sparsely populated and used to only a small extent.
In all these countries climatic and soil types are very similar, as has
been shown by recent investigations of the American Institute of Crop Ecology,
conducted by M. Y. Nuttonson. Therefore, agricultural and horticultural
problems of the arctic and subarctic areas have an international significance.
The greatest effort for development of agriculture has been during the last
30 years in Finland and particularly in the Soviet Union as a part of their
program of national economy.
Several experiment stations were established in these regions, as follows:
1 . In Finland: Apukka, 66°35′ N. latitude; Kukki, 64°41′ N.; Maanika, 63°09′ N.
Yhistaro, 62°57′ N.; Tohmajarvi, 62°15′ N.; Mikkeli, 61°40′ N.; Polkane, 61°20′ N.;
Lateensao, 61°04′ N.
2 . U.S.S.R.: Ust-Tsilma, 67°27′ N.; Khibini, 64°44′ N.; Murmansk, 69°20′ N.;
Yakutsk [: ] (Pokrovsk), 61°29′ N.; Kamchatka (Milkovo), 50°15′ N.; Aldan, 58°59′ N.;
Yarzevo, 60°30′ N.; Radchevo, 63°56′ N.; Igarka, 67°27′ N.
3 . Alaska: Fairbanks, 64°21′ N.; Matanuska, 61° N.
4 . Canada: Whitehorse, 60°45′ N.; and Beaverlodge.

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

Through the activities of experiment stations and administrative measure
of local governments the area of arable land as well as that of pastures and
meadows has been increased, with remarkably high yields of staple crops. Grain
growing and particularly spring and winter wheat have moved to higher northern
latitudes. These achievements were developed in many instance by economic
necessity, as in the case of the Kola Peninsula, where rich deposits of rock
phosphates (apatite and nephite) were discovered, and in the great Siberian
rivers of Ob, Yenisei, and Lena, after the establishment of the farthest north
route for arctic sea transportation from Archangel to Vladivostok. A great im–
pulse for increasing agricultural production in Finland, and particularly of
grains (spring wheat), was the result of a demand for national self-sufficiency
in food consumption products.
For these reasons agricultural explorations and investigations of recent
years have grown remarkably in both hemispheres. We are not in a position to
present here in detail the results of some very valuable scientific and practical
investigations that have been described in numerous publications, in various
languages, of experiment stations in Eurasia, and in the bulletins of American
experimental stations of recent years.
However, we mention some interesting scientific discoveries in this field
of practical value. Among the horticultural and agricultural crops, potato
( Solanum tuberosum ), as we have pointed out, has a great range of adaptability
— to 68° N. in both hemispheres. Since the potato is of South American origin,
grown as a native plant in high altitudes of the Andes in Chile, Peru, and
Argentina, a Soviet scientist, N. I. Vavilon, head of the Institute of Plant
Industry, organized in 1925 a special expedition to South America for collecting
original native potato varieties there. After these varieties were brought to the

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

U.S.S.R., detailed analyses and identification methods were established by the
scientists of the Institute, V. A. Rybin, V. Burasov, Josepchuk, Commerson,
and others.
As a basis for such work as a citological analysis. While the common potato
( Solanum tuberosum ) contains 24 chromosomes, Rybin detected in the collected
native Peruvian potatoes, some varieties containing 24 chromosomes, others con–
taining 36 and 60 chromosomes. Several new species of potato were identified,
carrying the names of the scientists working with introduced potatoes ( Solanum
rybini , S. vavilovi , S. jaresi , S. commersonii , S. vallis mexici , S. buksaovi ).
Another variety, Solanum demissum of Mexico, has been found to be cold resistant,
not damaged by the frost, −5 and −6°C., but very low yielders. By several
crosses of this variety with Solanum alma and Solanum rotkaragis , the yielding
capacity has been increased.
Another cold resistant variety was Solanum acaule , growing in Peru, Bolivia,
and Argentina on the mountains 5,000 meters above sea level, and also Solanum
curtilobum . Several valuable hybrids were obtained for northern regions and
were tested by the Polar Experiment Station at Khibini, Kola Peninsula (64°44″ N.)
Besides these highly scientific discoveries in potato breeding, valuable
improvements were made in agricultural practice through preparation of potato
seeds before [: ] planting. This is done by proper methods of potato sprouting several
weeks before planting, and is accomplished by placing potato tubers in a light,
warm room three or four weeks before planting to force the sprouting. During
World War II, localities of food shortage, instead of potato tubers, potato
peelings with undisturbed eyes were planted with good results.
In Alaska the acclimated potato variety Arctic Seedling has been selected by
D. L. Irwin from the potatoes grown in Wiseman (68° N.) as the earliest and best

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

adapted Alaskan variety at present. In the warmer part of subarctic Alaska
successful experiments have been carried on with growing warm-season vegetables
out of doors by increasing soil and air temperatures with specially constructed
solar radiators-reflectors. This was done at the Alaska Agricultural Experiment
Station, College, Alaska (64°21″ N.) during 1947-50 by Dr. Basil M.Bensin,
Agronomist.
On the south-facing terrace of the Tanana Valley a series of such solar
radiators-reflectors were placed behind transplanted plants of tomatoes,
squashes, pumpkins, and cucumbers under the angle of incension. The solar
radiators-reflectors were painted black for absorption and radiation of sun
heat, and aluminum white to increase the light intensity needed for growing
warm-season vegetables. On the surface of the soil, black coal dust and charcoal
was scattered to accelerate the action of reflectors. As a result, all these
vegetables grew successfully during the season of 1950. Some tomatoes and
pumking were matured out of doors, and Zucchini squashes were unusually large.
Soil temperature has been raised by the solar radiators-reflectors up
to 20° F. above maximum air temperature of the clear days in July, and light
intensity increased from 5 to 25 foot-candles in the front of the reflectors.
Removal of snow from fields and gardens during the month of April could
be done successfully by scattering coal dust on the snow surface two to three
weeks ahead of the beginning of the season. Experiments with this removal of snow
were carried on at the Alaska Experimental Station, College, Alaska, in 1947-49,
by B. M. Bensin, with very good results. Local farmers who tried to use this
method began field work two weeks ahead of schedule in the spring. Coal dust
Could be spread over by airplane or helicopter without difficulty on the larger
areas.

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

The principal agricultural problems in the subarctic regions, however, are
connected with grain production and livestock raising. There are many difficulties
with grain growing in these regions and only systematic and long-range experiments
of the agricultural experiment stations scattered all over northern countries
of both hemispheres could give a satisfactory basis for proper agricultural prac–
tice in their regions. International cooperation in the acclimatization work with
grains has been arranged by governments, private institutions, and individuals
interested in this phase of agricultural research.
The United States Department of Agriculture [: ] was a pioneering institution
for the introduction of seeds and plants from foreign countries to America
through a special office of seed and plant introduction originated by David
Fairchild, who was particularly interested in horticulture. Another American
scientist, A. F. Wood, head of scientific research of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, assisted the organization of the International Institute of
Agricultural in Rome, Italy. This institute is devoted to computing [: ] international
agricultural statistics and organization of international agricultural congresses
in which representatives of 27 countries participated.
At the XIV International Agricultural Congress held in Bucharest, Rumania,
in 1929, it was decided to arrange international exchange of seeds for acclimati–
zation work in various countries. This was suggested by the report of the repre–
sentative of Czechoslovakia, B. M. Bensin, on agroecological investigations
originated in Czechoslovakia with Mais.
A special central experiment station for agroecological investigations was
established by the International Institute at Perugia, Italy. Grain seeds col–
lected from various countries were distributed for acclimatization tests to all
existing agricultural experiment stations. By this action of the Institute

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

several Siberian varieties of grains were sent to the Alaska Agricultural
Experiment Stations in 1934.
The Russian agricultural explorer, N. I. Vavilov, has organized several
expeditions, besides the above-mentioned potato expedition to South America, to
various countries for collecting native-grown seeds. The world’s largest col–
lection of grain varieties was accumulated by the Soviet Institute of Plant In–
dustry during the period 1925 to 1935; the collection is described in numerous
publication of the Institute in the Russian and English languages.
All grain experimental work in the subarctic agricultural experiment station
was based upon acclimatization of introduced varieties and their improvement by
plant breeding. Outstanding work with grains of subarctic regions was done in
the Soviet Union by Victor Pisarev, director of the Eastern Siberian Experiment
Station in Tulun, Irkutsk Region, and in America by G. W. Gasser, Director of
the Alaska Experiment Stations at Rampart and Fairbanks (1910-35). The varieties
originated by the Tulun experiment station are the most productive in Siberia,
and several of them have been introduced to Alaska. Gasser originated several
very valuable hybrids of wheat and barley, which are now in use in Alaska.

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

Bibliography

1. “Agricultural Acquisition of the Far North” (Selskokhoziastvennoje Osvojenie
Dalniaho Severa), Proceedings of the Research Council for Far
North meeting February 27 to March 3, 1936. Edited by I.C. Eichveld
and N. Y. Cmora, Moscow, 1937, Bull . Academy of Sc., U.S.S.R., vol.13
(Includes reports of Experiment Stations of arctic and subarctic
regions of the U.S.S.R.)

2. Alberts, H. W. “The Potato in Alaska.” Bull . Alaska Agr. Exp. Sta., No.9, 1929.

3. ----. “Forage Crops in the Matanuska Region, Alaska.” A Bull . Alaska Agr.
Exp.St., no.11, 1933.

4. Bennett, H. H., and Rice, T.D. “Soil Reconnaissance in Alaska with an Estimate
of the Agricultural Possibilities.” Bureau of Soils, U.S.D.A.,
16th Rep ., M. Whitney, pp.43-336, 1919, Washington, D.C.

5. Bensin, B. M. “Possibilities for International Cooperation in Agro-Ecological
Investigations.” (English and German.) Rev . Agr. Intern. Inst.
Mo.Bul.Agr. and Sc., Rome, Italy, V.21 (1930), pp.277-394. (Ref.
in Exp.Sta. Record , v.64, pp.701-06, Washington,D.C., 1930.)

6. ----. “Agroecological Analysis of the Crop Plants Root System in the Tanana
Valley Region, Alaska.” Bull . Eco.Soc.Amer., vol.27, p.54, 1946.

7. ----. “Alaska’s Nature Climate and Agriculture Season’s Calendar 1946, 1947,
1948, 1949, 1950,” Jessen’s Weekly , Fairbanks, Alaska.

8. ----. “Problems of Agricultural Microclimatology in Alaska,” The Farthest North
Collegian , vol.30, 3:518, College, Alaska, 1950.

9. ----. “Agro-climatological Investigations in the Permafrost Region of the
Valley,” Alaska. Alaska Science Conference, National Research
Council, 1950 (abstract in print)

10. Bykovsky. Vegetable Gardening in Farthest North (Ovoschevodstvo na krajnem
Severe). Polar Agr.Exp.St. Institute Plant Ind. U.S.S.R. Agr.Ac.
Sc., Leningrad, 1936.

11. Cook, F. A. To the Top of the Continent. Doubleday, Page and Co., New York,
1908.

12. Dall, W. H. Alaska and its Resources . Chapt. 4: “Climate and Agricultural
Resources,” pp.434-56, Boston, 1870.

13. Ganet, H. Climate of Alaska. Harrison Alaska Expedition, vol. II.

14. Gasser, G. W. Progress Reports , Fairbanks Agr.Exp.Sta., 1933, 1934, 1935,
College, Alaska.

15. ----, “The Tanana Valley.” Circular No. 2, 1949.

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

16. Gasser, G. W. “The Matanuska Valley.” Circular No. 3, 1946.

17. ----, “Information for Prospective Settlers in Alaska.” Circular No. 1, 1948.

18. Georgeson, C. C., and Gasser, G. W. “Cereal Growing in Alaska,” Alaska Agr.
Exp.St. Bull . 6, 1926.

19. ----. “Production of Improved Hardy Strawberries in Alaska,” Agr.Exp.Sta.
Alaska, Bull . 4, 1923.

20. ----. “Vegetable Gardening in Alaska.” Agr.Exp.Sta. Alaska, Bull . 7, 1928.

21. ----. Annual Reports , Alaska Agricultural Exp. Stations, 1902-1925, U.S.
Department of Agriculture, Washington.

22. Hanson, H. C. “Vegetation and Soil Profiles in some Solifluction and Mound
Areas in Alaska.” Ecology , vol.31, 4: pp.606-30, 1950.

23. Higgins, F. L. “Oat Production in Alaska.” Bull Alaska Agr.Exp.Sta.,
no.10, 1933.

24. Igarka Experiment Station. Soils Vegetation and Cultivating of Agricultural
Plants in Igarka District . Edited by P.P.Kjus, Moscow, 1940.

25. Kempner. Climatology of the Continents . London, 1927.

26. Klinger, J.B. “Climate of Alaska.” Yearbook , U.S.D.A., pp.1211-15, 1941.

27. Liverovsky, J. A. Soils of the Arctic Regions , Ac.Sc., U.S.S.R., Polar
Committe, v.19, 1934. (Russian with English summary.)

28. Matson, Sante, Gustafsson, Ynge and Nilsson, Inguar. “The Chemical Charac–
teristic of soil profiles” (Podsol Soils). An . Agr.Col. Sweden,
1933-34-36, 1935, pp.1-30, 1195-34.

29. Nordenskjold, Otto and Mecking, Ludwig. The Geography of the Polar Regions ,
Am.Geog.Soc. Spec.Pub . No.8, New York, 1928.

30. Nuttonson, M. Y. Ecological Crop Geography of Finland and its Agro-Climatic
Analogues in North America . 1950.

31. [: ] ----. Agricultural Climatology of Sweden and its Agro-Climatic Analogues
in North America . 1950.

32. ----. Ecological Crop Geography of Norway and its Agro-Climatic Analogues in
North America .

33. ----. Agricultural Climatology of Siberia, Natural Belts and Agro-climatic
Analogues in North America .

EA-PS. Bensin & Gasser: Agriculture & Horticulture

34. Pisarev, V. E. Northern Limits of Wheat Culture . Agr.Ac.Sc. U.S.S.R.,
v.8, 1936 (Russian)

35. Polunin, N. Botany of the Canadian Eastern Arctic , III. Vegetation and
Ecology. Can.Dept.Mines and Res., Ottawa, 1948.

36. Rockie, W. A. “Physical Land Conditions in the Matanuska Valley,” Alaska
Soil Conservation Service, Washington, 1946, 32 p.

37. Scientific Report of Narym Plant Breeding Station 1941-1942. Moscow,
1944 (Russian.)

38. Stefansson, V. “The Colonization of Northern Lands.” Climate and Man Yearbook ,
U.S.D.A., pp.205-16, 1941.

Basil M. Bensin
and
George W. Gasser

Agriculture in Alaska

EA-Plant Sciences
(G. W. Gasser)

AGRICULTURE IN ALASKA

PHOTOGRAPHIC ILLUSTRATIONS
With the manuscript of this article, the author submitted 19 photographs
and 5 negatives for possible use as illustrations. Because of the high cost
of reproducing them as halftones in the printed volume, only a small propor–
tion of the photographs submitted by contributors to Encyclopedia Arctica
can be used, at most one or two with each paper; in some cases none. The
number and selection must be determined later by the publisher and editors
of Encyclopedia Arctica . Meantime all photographs are being held at The
Stefansson Library.

EA-Plant Sciences
(G. W. Gasser)

AGRICULTURE IN ALASKA
Agriculture in Alaska had its beginning at the time of the excitement of
the gold rush. Thousands of people flocked to Alaska then, calling attention
to our most northerly possession.
The Congress of the United States was not slow to realize the need of
finding out whether or not crops could be grown in “Seward’s Ice Box,” to help
feed the stampeders. Consequently, in 1897, for the fiscal year of 1898,
Congress appropriated five thousand dollars and authorized the Secretary of
Agriculture to investigate and report to Congress as to the agricultural possi–
bilities of Alaska.
This investigation was carried out by Dr. W. H. Evans of the Office of
Experiment Stations, United States Department of Agriculture, Mr. Benton Killin
of Oregon, and Dr. Sheldon Jackson, superintendent of government schools and
reindeer experiments in Alaska. Excerpts from the report of Dr. Jackson were
most encouraging and are as follows (3) : “The soil of the Yukon Valley is a rich
loam with a sandy sub-soil. Eight miles back from Circle City on the hills on
Birch Creek is a large sandy tract of ground where there was a large experimental
garden this year, (1898), and it could not turn out better than it has so far. No
ice is met, and the earth seems to be warm. The potato vines were large and in
blossom, after having been planted but fifty days. The garden truck sent to Circle
City was first class.”

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

Or again (4): “Mr. Jack McQueston, an old-time fur trader at Forty-Mile
Creek, prepared some ground, plowing it with a team of dogs. Afterwards he
trained a pair of young moose to the harness and plowed with them. He succeeded
well with the vegetables.” )There have been several instances where moose calves
have responded to kind treatment and shown themselves amenable to domestication,
even to the extent of being used as draft animals pulling sleds and plows.)
There were other encouraging reports from farther down the Yukon River.
Sister M. Winifred of Holy Cross Mission gives this account (4). “The climate
varies from year to year. In 1895 I sowed radishes May 14; in 1896, May 26; in
1897, May 8 and in 1898, May 12. We begin to gather our first radishes about
the middle of June, and this is generally a standard date for the potatoes to be
coming up…On the 23rd of May we were shoveling snow out of our garden, and
three days later I transplanted 500 cabbages and cauliflowers. We have a little
spot on the side of a hill which is always free from snow two weeks before the
other gardens, and this is why we could afford to sow some early seed May 12, and
shovel off the snow on May 23 from another patch. I transplant from 1,500 to
2,000 cabbages and cauliflowers every year. The work is quickly done, for we
have a number of smart, busy workers among our school children who are quite
interested in the work…We began to take in our crops this year (1898), September 19,
and on September 23 we had a very hard frost. In 1895 we had hard frost September 6;
in 1896, September 27; in 1897, September 10, and the ground covered with snow
September 11.”
These and other reports were favorable enough to influence James Wilson, then
Secretary of Agriculture, to state in transmitting his report to the Speaker of the
House of Representatives, under date of December 16, 1897 (3): “The investigation
has, in my judgment, shown that it is important that the National Government should

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

continue the survey of the climate, soils, and economic plants of Alaska, and
that experiments should be undertaken to encourage the establishment of agri–
culture in that region in a way best suited to the local conditions.”
The following year Dr. Evans was again commissioned to extend the investi–
gation and, in addition, Professor C. C. Georgeson was appointed special agent
in charge of Alaska investigations. These two men made a second report, whereupon
Wilson has this to say under date of January 13, 1899 (3). “The investigations
have, in my judgment, shown the desirability and feasibility of establishing
agricultural experiment stations in Alaska, and I therefore recommend that
definite provision be made by Congress for the maintenance of such stations in
that Territory on a permanent basis, as is done elsewhere in the United States.”
From that time on, agricultural work in Alaska was carried out under C. C.
Georgeson. Land reservations were made, buildings erected, land cleared, seeds
distributed, crops planted, and records kept. Each year an annual report of
Alaska Agricultural Experiment Stations was published under the directed supervision
of the Office of Experiment Stations, Washington, D.C.
Table I gives the names and areas of the various stations within the Territory
and the dates of establishment by Executive order (9). Thus, at one time or
another, there have been seven stations. Each stations has tended to have its
Table I. Alaska Agricultural Experiment Stations .
Reservation Area, acres Date of order
Kodiak 160* March 28, 1898
Sitka 110 August 12, 1898
January 21, 1899
Kenai 320 January 21, 1899
Rampart 313 February 6, 1900
Copper Center 775 April 25, 1903
Fairbanks 1,400 March 22, 1906
Matanuska 240 September 20, 1915
1

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

own particular function. For example, the Sitka station was established as
headquarters and at that place horit horticultural work was emphasized. Many
trials were made of fruit trees and small fruits. Thus hybridization word with
strawberries was performed there, as a result of which Alaskans, for a third
of a century, have been enjoying strawberries grown in their own gardens. The
“Sitka hybrids,” as they are termed, were widely disseminated and proved hardy
even above the Arctic Circle without winter protection other than the covering
of snow - an outstanding achievement in the annals of plant hybridization.
Independently, in the early spring of 1912, John Charley, a market gardener
in Fairbanks, shipped in 10,000 strawberry plants from Seattle. These had to
come by boat to Valdez and from there over the trail by horse stage. The plants
were well wrapped in blankets and fur to protect them from cold; nevertheless,
many of them perished. The few thousand that survived were planted and bore
fruit that summer. Several hundred boxes were sold at $2.00 each. A few plants
wintered over and Charley cross-pollinated some of the survivors with pollen from
thd the native species of the interior. Some of the resulting hybrids produced
desirable fruit and have been frown commercially since then by H. M. Badger,
a farmer near Fairbanks.
Considerable work was also done with potatoes, many new varieties being
created and tested. Here the results were not so favorable as with the strawberries,
for none of the hybrids proved superior to existing varieties.
From the headquarters station, seeds of grains, grasses, and vegetables were
distributed. Prospectors and trappers in remote areas planted these seeds,
particularly those of vegetables, and many of them showed their appreciation by
writing, at the end of the season, a report of results. These accounts were
published in the annual reports of the experiment stations from year to year and

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

provide, even to this day, an excellent record of vegetables grown by the pioneers.
The special task assigned to the Kodiak station was in connection with live–
stock. The possibilities for such work were evident enough because of the mild
climate and abundant grass throughout the coastal region. At many points one or
more head of cattle were kept. Some of these were of Russian origin. The Russian
animals were small, slim in all proportions, and had narrow heads with upright
horns. The average weight of the cows was about five hundred pounds. Color of
the stock was brown and dark red, occasionally mottled. The milk yield was low,
with a fat content of about 3% (14).
Because of the deterioration of the cattle of Russian origin, there was much
need of the introduction of a better class of livestock, both for beef and milk.
The Galloway was selected because of its hardiness and excellent beef qualities.
In 1906, the first Galloways, two males and nine females, were shipped to Kodiak.
During the next ten years it was demonstrated that cattle could be maintained
on native feed. In 1916, some stock of the Holstein-Friesian breed were brought
to the station and a crossbreeding program was set up for the purpose of combining
the hardiness of the Galloway with the milk-producing ability of the Holstein.
This crossbreeding produced animals of excellent qualities from the standpoint
of both beef and milk. In 1925, the Holstein-Friesians and the crossbred Holstein–
galloways were transferred to the experiment station in the Mantanuska Valley to
determine how they would thrive there.
In 1920, several head of Milking Shorthorns were brought to the Matanuska
station with a thought that, as they combined good beef qualities and a fair milk
production, they would be well adapted to the conditions that prevailed there.
This proved to be true in considerable measure, and some very fair milk records were
secured from several of these cows. Thus the records for 1926 show that the herd

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

of seven Shorthorn cows on test averaged 4,649 pounds of milk with a butterfat
content of 3.81%, showing an average of 177 pounds of butterfat. Four Holstein
cows gave an average of 4,261 pounds of milk, with a butterfat content of 3.53% —
equivalent to some 150 pounds of butterfat each. The Galloway-Holstein crossbred
herd of thirteen cows averaged 4,015 pounds of milk, with a butterfat content of
3.88%, equivalent to 155 pounds of butterfat per animal (14).
At this time a considerable number of homesteads were set up in the Matanuska
Valley in anticipation of the Alaska Railroad passing through it. Also, enough
farming had been done to demonstrate that the valley was destined to be major
agricultural area within the Territory. When the experimental station was estab–
lished near the town of Matnuska, it was with the knowledge that farming could be
carried on successfully and that the chances that a considerable farm settlement
would develop locally were unusually good. The work of the Matanuska station was
varied to meet the forthcoming requirements of diversified farming. Much work
was done with dairy cattle, hogs, and sheep. The testing and production of cereals
and grasses and work with hardy vegetables were emphasized. Also, extensive plantings
of fruit trees, berry bushes, and ornamentals were made.
Owing to World War I and the depression which followed, farming in the
Matanuska Valley declined. Homesteads which had been established were abandoned
by the owners, who moved elsewhere. Then, in 1935, the Federal Government under–
took to establish a farm colony in the valley. A project was set up to move two
hundred colonists into that area. Land was cleared, buildings erected, machinery
and livestock purchased, all being financed under a long-term repayment plan (1).
Palmer, located on a branch line of the Alaska Railroad, is the civic center of the
valley with a flourishing business section. It is unique at least in one respect,
namely, that its entire resources are agricultural.

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

An experiment station was established at Kenai, an old Russian settlement
on the Kenai Peninsula, in 1899. It was expected at the time that further settle–
ment would soon take place, owing to advantages of climate, abundance of grass,
and other facilities such as hunting and fishing. The one great drawback was the
lack of convenient trans x portation and harbor facilities. However, a road com–
pleted in 1949 traverses the length of the Kenai Peninsula on the Cook Inlet side
and connects that region with Anchorage and its road systems.
Work at the Kenai station was devoted entirely to dairying. During the few
years the station was operated (it was closed in 1908), it was fully demonstrated
that dairy cattle could be maintained there on native feed, and butter and other
dairy products of high quality could be produced (5).
Other settlement areas on the Kenai Peninsula are centered at Kasilof, Hope,
Anchor Point, Homer, and Ninilchik. Records show that at the last-mentioned
point, the Russians used to raise large crops of potatoes for their own use and
for sale. At present Homer is the only area that is appreciably developing agri–
culturally. It has a good farm population, and indeed in the immediate vicinity
of the town all desirable homesteads have been taken. Not only are these settled
areas considered well suited to dairying but small fruits and a variety of
vegetables of excellent quality are being produced. In the region of Hope, there
is good possibility that apples can be grown; in fact, several trees are there
now which have been producing apples for a number of years.
At the time of establishment of experimental stations it was obviously
impossible to know just where settlement would take place, and to what extent
homesteads would be located at any given point - if at all. The best that could
be done was to be guided by the trend of settlement due to mining, trapping, and
fishing. In the early days, the Yukon River was the main artery of commerce.

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

It is natural, therefore, that Dr. C. C. Georgeson, in coming down the Yukon
River, would look along its course for a location suitable for experimental
work. The town of Rampart gave considerable promise of becoming a large mining
center. Across from the town, only about sixty miles south of the Arctic Circle,
an excellent piece of land with a south-facing slope, and here a reserve was made
in 1900. The next few years were devoted to the construction of buildings and
the clearing of land.
Grains, grasses, and vegetables were grown at the Rampart station very
satisfactorily. It was used as a proving ground to test the hardiness of various
kind of crop plants, while seeds of many kinds collected y by the U.S. Government
of Agriculture from northern countries found their way to it. Among the great
numbers of plants tried is a yellow-flowered alfalfa, native of Siberia which
Alaska uses today. This alfalfa has demonstrated its hardiness and has survived
under the most trying circumstances. At the Rampart station, a field of yellow–
flowered alfalfa has persisted since 1916 although the station was discontinued
in 1925, since which time the alfalfa has had to contend with native grasses
and willows without any help. Thus it has clearly shown not only its hardiness
but also its ability to cope with the aggression of native vegetation (15).
In addition to testing the adaptability of a great number of grains, grasses,
and legumes, a main feature of the work at Rampart was the hybridization of grains
and alfalfa. One of the hybrid barleys produced there has been grown quite
widely in Alaska. Siberian wheat, Chogot, was introduced there.
The expected land settlement in the region of Rampart did not materialize,
nor did the gold mines on nearby creeks contin y u e production on the scale that
was anticipated; and then the building of the Alaska Railroad drew the attention
of would-be settlers to the Fairbanks and Matanuska valleys. Steamboating on the

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

Yukon declined sharply because of the competition with the railroad. For these
reasons the Office of Experiment Stations decided to discontinue the Rampart station;
it was closed in 1925, the equipment being transferred to the Fairbanks station.
Before the advent of the railroad, one of the main routes of travel from the
coast to the interior was overland from Valdez to Fairbanks (371 miles). This
route, in earlier years little more than a trail, is now called the Richardson
Highway. One of the principal valleys through which it passed was the Copper
River valley, which was a promising-looking area and, as it was on the main route
of travel, one considered appropriate for an experimental station. Accordingly, a
reserve for that purpose was made in 1903 at Copper Center, 105 miles from Valdez.
The work was largely devoted to testing grains, grasses, and vegetables; but
results at the station proved disappointing, the chief drawbacks being low
precipitation and untimely frosts. During the five years the station was in operation,
there were frosts every month of the summer sufficiently severe to injure grain
crops (9). There was also no encouragement in the way of settlement; and furthermore,
owing to transportation difficulties, the station was costly to maintain. It was
discontinued in 1908 and the equipment transferred to the Fairbanks station.
In 1902, gold had been discovered on Pedro Creek. The following year the
town of Fairbanks was established on the banks of the Chena River. These two
events attracted the attention not only of miners but also of farmers to the
broad valley of the Tanana River and creeks in that vicinity (12).
Dr. Georgeson, realizing the importance of the Tanana Valley from an agri–
cultural standpoint, had set aside by Executive order, on March 22, 1906, fourteen
hundred acres, four miles northwest of Fairbanks. Work was begun at once, some
buildings being erected and land clearing undertaken. At that time no large
power machinery was available, and most of the clearing had to be done by hand

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

or with the aid of horses. Nevertheless by 1908, forty-five acres of land had
been cleared and thirty acres were planted with crops. Further land clearing gave
sufficient acreage to establish a cropping system on a rather extensive scale.
As there was considerable demand for potatoes, much attention was given to the
growing of this crop. In 1911, the station reported a yield of thirty tones,
and Mr. Neal, the superintendent, set forth some figures on the cost of the pro–
duction of the potatoes. His figures are given here to show what farming in
Alaska could look forward to at that times (6):
“Three acres of Eureka, Early Ohio, and Gold Coin averaged six tons per acre
on unfertilized ground. Allowing one-sixth for loss in sorting and grading, this
would leave five tons of marketable potatoes per acre, which were worth 6 cents
a pound at digging time this year, or $600 per acre. These same 3 acres produced
3 tons of marketable potatoes per acre last year, which were sold in March at 9 cents
a pound, bringing over $500 an acre on the first breaking. A heavy stand of timber
had been out from this ground two years before it was cleared of the stumps. A
careful estimate of the cost of clearing and putting the land in fit condition for
the first planting indicates it did not exceed $200 per acre. In estimating the
cost of the two crops, allowing 6 cents a pound for seed and $7.50 a day for labor,
it will not exceed these figures, which include the cost of clearing.
Clearing and breaking $200 per acre
Plowing and cultivating 50 per acre
Seed 90 per acre
Planting 20 per acre
Digging and sacking 140 per acre
Total $500
“It will be noticed that this cost is exactly recovered from the sale of the

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

first crop, leaving the whole of the second crop as a profit, which was worth
$600 per acre at digging time, making a return of $300 per acre per year, over
and above the clearing, for the first two crops, and in addition to this a tone
of culls each year, which was worth something for feed.
“It goes without saying that the above yields can be more than doubled by
using fertilizers liberally.”
In addition to this pioneering work with potatoes, many experiments were
carried on with grain, regarding both variety and cultural methods. The results
were so favorable that a flour mill was purchased by farmer’s association and
operated at Fairbanks for several years, producing both white and whole-wheat
flours of excellent quality.
Another interesting experiment undertaken at the Fairbanks station was the
introduction of the yak and its crossbreeding with Galloway. The first cross gave
a fine-looking animal, resembling the Galloway more than the yak. Some hybrid
cows produced a fair quantity of milk of high butterfat content. One difficulty
encountered was similar to that in crossing cattle and buffalo, namely, sterility
in the male hybrids. Nevertheless, the results were most interesting and, over
a long term of years, a type of animal valuable to this northern climate might
have been produced. This crossbreeding was, however, discontinued at the time
the station was released to the University of Alaska (8).
Several projects initiated in 1927 by the Bureau of Biological Survey were
subsequently carried on for several years with headquarters at the Alaska Agri–
cultural College and school of Mines, College, Alaska, which in 1935 became a
part of the University of Alaska. This was part of a proposed threefold program
of livestock development for the Territory, namely: ( 1 ) development of the reindeer
industry, incorporating investigation and use of the native caribou; ( 2 ) introduction

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

and domestication of the musk ox and; ( 3 ) domestication and development of the
mountain sheep.
A project of domestication of mountain sheep was made possible when Harry
Liek of Mount Mckinley Park donated five sheep. These animals were captured
early in the spring of 1929 by Park rangers who found them in a semistarved
condition, floundering around in deep snow. The animals took kindly to domesti–
cation and in 1930 several lambs were dropped. In 1933, there sets of twins were
born, resulting from initial lambs crossbreeding between the native mountain ram and
domestic ewes. At that time, the future of the project was considered promising
because observation indicated that these crossbreds possessed immunity against
insect attack. They had a good hair-wool coat for winter, grew to good size,
and were easily handled (13).
During early 1930 some crossbreeding work was begun by the Biological Survey
using domesticated reindeer and native caribou. This project was carried on both
at the college and on Nunivak Island. The cross fawns at birth were three to four
pounds heavier than the average reindeer fawn. On Nunivak Island mature animals
resulting from crossbreeding weighed fifty to one hundred pounds more than the
average reindeer. A series of digestion tests with the reindeer were made at the
college using different kinds of forage (16). Crossbreeding work with sheep and
reindeer was discontinued when the Biological Survey changed its headquarters from
College to Juneau, Alaska.
In 1928, twenty-three bison were moved from the Flathead Reservation, in
Montana, to the Big Delta region, in Alaska. From the very first these buffaloes
showed complete ability to care for themselves. The severest winter weather never
fazed them, and the herd, now consisting of over three hundred animals, is increasing
at a gratifying rate (13). The Big Delta region lies fairly high up between the

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

junction of the Big Delta and the Tanana rivers, and is sparsely timbered.
Consequently, the winter winds keep the snow from accumulating to a depth which
would prevent feeding on the native grasses and browse
On November 4, 1930, thirty-four musk oxen arrived at College, Alaska, from
Greenland. In earlier years musk oxen were native to Alaska, but, according to
information secured at Point Barrow in about 1885, the last of them were killed
by Eskimos on the priar prairie fifty or seventy-five miles south of Point Barrow
in the late 1860’s early 1870’s. There was no doubt that these animals were
suited to the Alaska climate anr range plants. The purpose of the project was
to introduce an animal capable of converting luxuriant forage in many parts of
Alaska, into meat and wool without intervention of stock barns. These animals
were corralled and their feeding habits observed for four years, at College, under
supervision of the Biological Survey. Digestion trials were made of the various
kind of native forage available.
In 1934, thirty-one musk oxen were transferred to Nunivak Island, Bering Sea,
just north of the mouth of the Kuskokwim River. Reports in 1947 indicated that
the animals on the island then numbered well over one hundred. They are now
under the supervision of the Alaska Game Commission (13).
During the Russian regime, fur constituted the main source of revenue of
Alaska. Trapping and hunting then, and, even now, has reduced the number of
fur bearers to such an extent that strict regulations are necessary to prevent
their extermination. This condition has encouraged the settlers to establish
fur farms, particularly along the southeastern coast and on nearby islands. In
recognition of the need for help in this relatively now enterprise the Territorial
Legislature, in 1931, authorized the Governor to employ one or more veterinarians
to study the problems incidental to fur [: ] farming. Accordingly, J. B. Loftus, D.V.S.,

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

was appointed October 1, 1932, and attached to the extension service of the
University (10).
It had long been realized that the most effective way to assist the fur farmers
would be through research done in Alaska. By public Law No. 524, Congress, on
May 17, 1938, conveyed by grant to the University of Alaska a tract of land to be
used as the site of a fur farm experimental station. This tract of 36.93 acres
lies in the Tongass National Forest, eight miles from Petersburg. By purchase in
June 1945, the University acquired an adjoining tract of 3.91 acres of land, making
the total acreage 40.84. Buildings were erected in 1938 and experimental breeding
and feeding were begun with 15 pairs of mink, 4 martens, 30 blue fox, and 4 silver
fox. On December 12, 1941, the University of Alaska and the Alaska Fish and Game
Commission signed an agreement whereby the operational expenses of the fur farm
would be shared jointly. Details of the experimental work with fur animals are
given in reference (2).
These sketchy accounts of the experiment stations and their work have been
given because they are intimately connected with agricultural development. As
stated heretofore, it was impossible at the time the seven stations were established
to know just where and when settlement would take place. Expectations as to mining
and other industries were often not realized. The shift of mining and transportation
changed the trend of settlement. In the course of a few years, therefore, all
but two of the stations were discontinued, as they were no longer actually needed.
The two remaining were the one near Fairbanks, which served the Tanana Valley,
and the one at Matanuska, serving that valley: in 1932, the Federal Government
turned over these two stations to the Agricultural College and School of Mines.
In 1947 the Congress of the United States passed an act know as Public
Law No. 266 whereby the Alaska stations were by lease under the jurisdiction of

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

the Secretary of Agriculture. This plan of operation was terminated July 1, 1949.
During this period comprehensive program of agricultural research was inaugurated
under the joint supervision of the Agricultural Research Administration of the
United States Department of Agriculture and the University of Alaska. Three
stations are now in operation: one in the Matanuska Valley; one in the Tanana
Valley, one mile west of the University; and a fur-breeding station at Petersburg
in southeastern Alaska. The head offices and laboratories are located at Palmer
in the Matanuska Valley.
Much has been written and many guesses made as to the number of acres of
land in Alaska suitable for agriculture; there is no accurate answer even today
(1950). The Soil Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in
July 1945, issued a map entitled “Basic Land Resource Areas of Alaska.” Carefully
compiled estimates give the following figures: 7,098,000 acres of land suitable
for cultivation after b being cleared and 58,605,000 additional acres suitable for
grazing and cropping although some drainage would be required. At present (1950)
there are about 20,000 acres under cultivation. Much of the land listed as suitable
for agriculture is more or less inaccessible owing to lack of roads, and consequently
there would be difficulty in marketing farm products. Only a few areas are now
being developed and settlement is naturally directed to such areas
The Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior, has made an estimate
of the number of additional farm families that could be reasonably accommodated in
the several areas suitable for group settlement: on the Kenai Peninsula, a total
of 310 families; in the Matanuska Valley, 75 failies. Most, if not all, of the
level land along the Chilkoot Barracks, there may be a limited acreage of arable
lands, though elsewhere the mountainous character of the country largely limits
agricultural settlement. But there may be added Ruby and Nulato (10 families),

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

Naknek (10 families), and McGrath (10 families); these are relatively isolated
sections with only the local markets, canneries, and mining camps as outlets for
the products of agriculture.
In southeastern Alaska the areas suited for agriculture are relatively small,
as most of the land is mountainous and clearing costs are excessively high.
Increased industrial developments, based on timber, water power, and minerals, may
pave the way for more farms. The estimate for this area was 20 additional families,
mainly around the mouth of the Stikine River.
In most of the areas mentioned, very little soil survey work has been done.
But in the Matanuska Valley the Soil Conservation Service has made a careful survey,
issuing soil maps covering a considerable local areas. There is immediate need for
further work in soil surveys in the various areas listed as suitable for land settlement.
Dairying bids fair to become a major farm industry in Alaska. The total number
of cows and heifers in the Territory was approximately 1,500 in 1950. Around 600
of these were in the Matanuska Valley, distributed among 36 farmers who had 5 or more d
dairy cows each. Elsewhere, dairies have been established near 20 towns. Some of these
herds are fairly large, including 50 to 100 cows; examples may be seen at Fairbanks,
Juneau, and Ketchikan. The demand for fluid milk far exceeds the production. The
price per quart ranges from 25 to 45 cents.
There are about 1,200 head of beef cattle, all of which are located on Chirikof,
Sitkalidak, and Kodiak Islands, except for a few at Homer. In these places, grasses
are plentiful and the climate is mild, enabling the livestock to range out the
entire year.
One of the major problems in connection with beef productions on the islands is
that of marketing, owing to irregular and infrequent transportation. In the interior
valleys practically no beef is produced. However, it is possible that beef can

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

be produced at a profit even where the winters are long and where yard and stable
feeding would be necessary. There is much interest in beef production, and un–
doubtedly within a few years more beef will be raised in Alaska to utilize the
abundant native grass and established meadows of domestic grasses.
On a few of the islands, considerable numbers of sheep have been kept from
time to time. Owing to the abundant feed and mild climate, no great expense of
feeding and wintering is involved; even so, sheep raising has not been very
profitable. Sheep were once raised in the Matanuska Valley, but other types of
farming have proved more profitable and very few sheep are raised there at the
present time. In the Homer area there are a few sheep but few indications of any
increase in sheep raising there or in any of the interior valleys.
During World War II there was a considerable increase in the number of swine
in Alaska. Army camps offered large amounts of garbage that was utilized in the
production of hogs. A number of farmers are branching out into this type of
farming and are finding it profitable. Hogs can be run on pasture for three
or four months each year and then finished on locally grown grain. This has
proved economical under careful management. There is every reason to believe
that the number of hogs could be greatly increased, to the advantage of the
Alaskan farmers.
At the 1950 prices of $1.10 to $1.35 per dozen for eggs, there is good profit
to be made in keeping hens - even when it is necessary to ship all the feed from
the States at $100 or more per ton. Adequate housing must be provided, but that
is also true of many places in the States where poultry is kept commercially.
The interest in poultry raising has increased recently. During 1949-50, approxi–
mately 52,560 chicks were shipped in, most of which were raised for fryers. These
sold for from $1.00 to $1.25 per pound.

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

Specializing in crop production has the advantage of economy of operation
due to lessened cost of equipment, but there is always the possibility of
overproduction if many farmers in any community specialize in just a few crops.
For this and other reasons, diversified types of farming over a term of years
will produce steadier sources of income. The farmer’s labor is distributed
more evenly throughout the year, which gives an assurance of better distribution
of income. There are a number of crops that can be grown successfully in the
main agricultural regions - for example, all hardy types of vegetables (including
potatoes), grains and grasses, and small fruits such as raspberries, currants,
and strawberries. If, in addition to these crops a farm had a flock of poultry,
two or three hogs, and one or more dairy cows, there is a complete setup enabling
the farmer to produce the larger part of his food requirements and to sell accord–
ing to the demands of the market.
Where just one or two kinds of crops are produced there is hazard in that
the season may be unfavorable or the market demand low. Early Alaska pioneer
farming was not along diversified lines. Livestock, in particular, was not a part
of the program. Now that it is batter know what crops can be grow and sold
and families are established on the farms, there is indication that a more rounded
type of farming will be carried on to the betterment of the farm income and the
welfare of the farmer and his family.
Ever since farming was established in Alaska, there has been a definite
marketing problem. No doubt this condition will remain indefinitely, as the
market available to farmers is of a local nature only. Hence great care must be
exercised to prevent a glut of any one or more of the crops produced - particularly
of those of a perishable nature, such as lettuce, cabbage, and celery. The
growing season is comparatively short and there is a tendency in the fall of the

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

year to hurry crops to the market as cold weather approaches. Adequate storage
facilities are among the prime requisites it marketing is to be carried on systema–
tically and progressively.
The Alaskan farmer is always faced with the problem of competing with products
shipped in from the states. In recent years the volume of perishable items air–
borne from the outside has been increasingly large. Many of these items could well
be produced in Alaska, in equal or better quality, to sell at competitive prices.
The cooperating associations, one in the Matanuska valley and one in the Tanana
Valley, are attempting, to meet these difficulties by leveling out the supplies
flowing to the markets and thus preventing a glut. As stated above, diversified
types of farming will naturally help in this. However, such items as eggs and
milk have not yet met with any sales difficulty, and the prices paid have justified
their production locally.
The over-all picture is that the demand for farm products which can be raised
in Alaska is far greater than the local supply. In other world, tons of potatoes,
thousands of cases of eggs, quantities of cabbage and celery and meat, to name just
a few items, are shipped to Alaska needlessly in the sense that they could be pro–
duced locally. As yet there are not enough farm acres in production to take care
of the needs of the people. Occasionally there is an overproduction of one item
simply because it has to be rushed to the market, but careful planning and selection
of crops, with systematized marketing, will, in large measure, prevent such losses.
The evidence, therefore, indicates that more producing farmers could find a
profitable living in Alaska.
Finally, how much capital is required to establish a farm home in Alaska?
Obviously it is impossible to state a definite sum because a number of factors
are involved. A house must be built, land cleared, some machinery purchased, as

EA-PS. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

well as seed and fertilizer. All these items cost much more than in the States.
The living coats are also higher. The per-annum costs of a family for food, heat,
light, and incidentals in the Tanana Valley are estimated to be $2,000. The
minimum capital must be sufficient to provide for these essentials. The true
pioneer will proceed from there. In that respect, at least, pioneering in Alaska
is similar to the experience of the early settler in the States.
In conclusion it may be emphasized that there are thousands of acres in Alaska
suitable for farming, though practically all of them have to be cleared of timber
and other surface growth. The cost of clearing land is high, running from $50 to
$200 per acre, and because of the high cost of and clearing, and the high living
expenses, it was generally considered in 1950 that prospective settlers should
have from $5,000 to $10,000 to get established. Many homesteads have sufficient
timber to be used for building purposes, but not all.
Much of the land is fairly fertile, but present practice is to supplement with
commercial fertilizers. In the central valleys the precipitation is at times
insufficient to produce maximum yields, and here and elsewhere there may be summer
frosts severe enough to damage potatoes. The length of the growing season is
sufficient for all hardy crops, even in some areas above the Arctic Circle. Indeed,
with the exception of fruit trees, corn, tomatoes, and melons, the crops grown
are very similar to those of the northern United States. Farm work is almost
exclusively mechanized. Dairying and beef cattle production bids fair to become
a lending industry. Indeed, at present the market demand is in excess of the local
production. This is particularly true of dairy products.

EA- [: ] P.S. Gasser: Agriculture in Alaska

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Alaska. Agricultural Experiment Stations. Progress Report …1935.
College, Alaska, (1936) Its Free Bull . no. 5.

2. ----. ---- … 8th, 9th, 10th, 1938-1939-1940-1941, 1942-1943,
1944-1945. College, Alaska, 1943-47.

3. ----. Report … 1898. Wash.,D.C., G.P.O., 1899.

4. ----. ---- … 1899. Wash.,D.C., G.P.O., 1900.

5. ----. ---- …1909. Wash., G.P.O., (1910).

6. ----. ---- …1911. Wash., D.C., G.P.O., 1912.

7. ----. ---- …1925. Wash., D.C., G.P.O., 1927

8. ----. ---- …1929. Wash., D.C., G.P.O., 1930.

9. ----. ---- …1931, 1932. Wash., D.C., G.P.O., 1933.

10. Alaska. Governor. Annual Report … 1933. Wash., D.C., G.P.O., 1933.

11. Alaska. Statutes. Compiled Laws of the Territory of Alaska, 1933.
Wash., D.C., G.P.O., 1933, Sec. 622.

12. Alaska Planning council. General Information Regarding Alaska. Juneau,
Alaska, The council, 1941.

13. Dufresne, Frank. Mammals and Birds of Alaska . Wash., D.C., G.P.O., 1942.
U. S. Fish and wildlife service. Circ . 3.

14. Georgeson, C.C. Brief History of Cattle Breeding in Alaska . Wash., D.C.,
G.P.O., 1929. Alaska. Agriculture Experiment Stations. Bull . no. 8.

15. Irwin, D.L., comp. Forty-seven Years of Experimental work with Grasses
and Legumes in Alaska. Wash., D.C., 1945. Ibid . no. 12.

16. Palmer, L.J. Progress of Reindeer Grazing Investigations in Alaska .
Wash., D.C., G.P.O., 1926. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Bull . 1423

17. Rockie, W.A. Physical Land Conditions in the Matanuska Valley, Alaska .
Wash., D.C., G.P.O., 1946 U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Soil
Conservation service. Physical Land Survey. Bull . no. 41.

18. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some Economic Aspects of Farming in
Alaska. Washington, Govt. Print. Off., 1950, p. 83.

G.W. Gasser

Agriculture in North Canada

(EA-Plant Sciences. William Dickson)

AGRICULTURE IN NORTH CANADA

CONTENTS
Page
Geographical Relations 3
Climate 4
Mackenzie River Basin 5
Yukon Territory 9
Physiography and Soils 11
Farming in the Far Northwest 17
Agriculture Investigations 19
Possibilities for the Future 21
Bibliography 22

EA-Plant Sciences.
(William Dickson)

AGRICULTURE IN NORTH CANADA
During recent Years, developments in northern Canada have stimulated
a growing interest in the natural resources and settlement possibilities
of that region. This is particularly true as regards the period after World
War II, following such events as the construction of the Alaska Military High–
way and of the Canol Project. Evidence of this growing interest will be found
in increased governmental activities, including scientific investigations, in
Far Northern regions. In some measure, and common with other countries
having arctic and subarctic interests, Canada is experiencing in its northern
territories the effects of modern transportation methods and of population
pressure from more thickly populated regions.
Among other subjects of inquiry in northern regions, particularly in the
Northwest, the possibilities for agricultural settlement and production are
receiving attention. Unfortunately, while there are numerous references to
agriculture in the literature on northern Canada, reliable information, based
on scientific investigations, is somewhat meager.
At the outset it is well to observe that the settled agricultural dis–
tricts of Canada are distributed in a relatively narrow band along the southern
boudaries. In the east these farming districts lie mostly south of latitude
50° N.; in the prairie Provinces the developed agricultural land occupies
a broad triangle with its base on the international boundary and its apex

EA-PS. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

reaching an extreme northerly position at Fort Vermilion in latitude 58° N.;
while west of the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia practically no agricul–
ture has been developed north of latitude 50° N.
Northward beyond these settled regions, the possibilities for agricultural
development become progressively less. Practically all of northeastern
Canada is climatically unsuitable for agriculture, and few serious attempts
at it have been made. Much the same is true of horticulture, at least on a
worth-while scale in the eastern arctic and subarctic regions. Such oppor–
tunities as exist for farming in northern areas of Canada occur chiefly in
the west, in the Mackenzie River valley and in some parts of the Yukon Ter–
ritory. Consequently it will be most convenient to confine the present discus–
sion to northwestern Canada, that is, to the region comprising the District of
Mackenzie, the Yukon Territory, and the adjacent northern fringes of Alberta and
British Columbia, but excluding the more favorable and recognized agricultural
areas of the upper peace River. In Table 1, are presented some selected census
data (1941) on the agriculture of the region with which we are now mainly concerned.
Table 1. Agricultural Land Use in Northwestern Canada .
Region Popu–
lation
Improved farm
land, acres
Number
of farms
Improved land
per capita, acres
District of Mackenzie 7,035 250 a 10 a 0.04
Yukon Territory 4,914 1,050 26 0.20
Northern Alberta and
northern British Columbia
outside of Peace River
district
9,389 7,352 154 0.78
Total 21,338 8,652 190 0.40
2

EA-PS. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

As indicated in Table 1, the total population of this region in 1941 was
21,338, including about 9,000 Indians and some 850 Eskimos. The correspond–
ing figures for the present time (1950) are not known, but the total popula–
tion, increased by an influx of mine workers, may be in the neighborhood of
30,000.
Throughout the entire territory under review, covering some 730 million
acres of land, there were, in 1941, not more than 190 fra ar ms, including about
150 farms in the Alberta settlement at Fort Vermilion. The average area under
cultivation per head of population was about four-tenths of an acre, and only
about one-tenth of an acre north of latitude 60° N. Outside of the Fort Ver–
million settlement, most of the farms were small, bei n g little more than gardens.
some increase may be expected to have taken place since 1941, in some localities
at least, but a significant increase in acreage per capita is not likely.
The current paucity of agricultural enterprise in the Canadian Northwest
may be attributed to a combination of adverse factors, including remote ge–
ographical situation, rigorous climate, and physiographic conditions. The
racial characteristics of the population is also a factor. Such factors must
be considered in some detail in arriving at a sound appraisal of the agricul–
tural possibilities of the region.
Geographical Relations
The fact that, aside from the fur trade, the economic development of
northwestern Canada has lagged behind similar developments in such northern
countries as Norway, Sweden, and Finland is in large measure owing to geograph–
ical remoteness. Practically inaccessible from the north, barred by mountain
ranges from the Pacific Ocean, and separated from the Atlantic Ocean by wide

EA-PS. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

expanses of barren land, much of this region can be reached only a long over–
land journey from southern Canada. The distance are impressive even by air;
for example, 2,464 miles by rail from Montreal to Waterways, Alberta, plus a
river journey of over 1,600 miles to the mouth of the Mackenzie River, includ–
ing one heavy portage. Prior to the railway era, the shipment by the Hudson’s
Bay Comp a ny of trade goods from England to the Yukon River area, via Fort McPher–
son, the exchange of these goods for furs, and the shipment of the furs to Eng–
land, occupied a period of seven years. Even today, otherwise than by air,
the shipment of freight to northern points is a slow as well as a costly busi–
ness. This remoteness from large centers of economic activity, which preserved
the region for the fur trade for over two hundred years, itself acts as a deter–
rent to other enterprises, including agricultural settlement. Furthermore it should
be noted in this connection that the agricultural settlement of the Prairie
Provinces, which was in full swing in the early part of the twentieth century,
has not yet reached its saturation point in the northern fringes. The main
farming areas of Canada are still a great distance south of the Canadian North–
west.
Climate
The physical fact that climate in general becomes progressively colder with
increasing northern latitudes has a profound influence on conditions affecting
agriculture. Not only do declining temperatures modify (and in the extreme pre–
vent) plant growth, but they exert a corresponding influence on the process of
soil formation. Soil, as recognized by the agriculturist, is the result of
climatic and biological forces (plants, animals, and microorganisms) acting
together on geological material, this process being modified by topography

EA- Zoo. P.S. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

and drainage. This fact should be borne in mind when we consider the growth
of plants and the development and occurrence of soils for crop production.
In Table 2 are presented selected meteorological data for a number of
points in the Mackenzie River basin in comparison with Ottawa, Ontario,
and arranged in order of latitude from north to south. Similar data are
presented in Table 3 for the Yukon Territory.
Mackenzie River Basin . The climate of the Mackenzie River basin, as
shown by Table 2, is of the continental type, being characterized by long,
cold winters, short summers which in some districts are mo d erately warm,
and low precipitation. Unfortunately, the data in Table 2 are not as com–
prehensive as might be desired, as most of the stations are located on the
Mackenzie River or on its tributaries. This river system, flowing from south
to north, might be expected to exert a modifying influence on temperatures
along its course, as compared with points at corresponding latitudes which
lie at some distance from the river. The relatively low average summer and
annual temperatures at Herschel Island and Coppermine, both points on the
arctic shore line, as compared with Aklavik on the Mackenzie, would tend to
confirm this assumption.
The general decline in average temperatures from south to north, with
some exceptions, is well illustrated in Table 2. One interesting point is
the almost uniform average summer temperatures, as compared with wide ranges
in the average winter temperatures, at points along the Mackenzie River system.
The effect these relatively warm summers is to enable some crops to be
grown, in kitchen gardens at least, at points along the Mackenzie River to
beyond the Arctic Circle (lat. 66°30″ N.). As regards commercial farming,
however, conditions seems to become progressively less favorable with increasing
Table 2
Selected Meteorological Data for Locations in the
Mackenzie River Basin

In comparison with Ottawa, Ontario
Location Latitude Elevation
above
Mean
Sea
Level
Average Temperature Average
Front–
free
Period
Average Precipitation Total
Hours of
Daylight
June to
August
Years
in
Record
Winter
December
to
February
Summer
June
to
August
Year May
to
August
Year
° feet °F. °F. °F. days inches inches hours
Herschel Island 69 30 - 7 −16 40 11 28 - - 2028
Aklavik, N.W.T. 68 14 25 12 −17 51 15 65 4.12 10.28 1998
Coppermine, N.W.T. 67 49 13 13 −18 45 11 58 4.58 10.72 1956
Fort McPherson N.W.T. 67 26 150 28 −17 55 17 70 4.52 10.06 1921
Fort Good Hope, N.W.T. 66 15 214 31 −21 56 17 52 4.93 10.63 1859
Fort Norman, N.W.T. 64 54 300 31 −16 56 20 44 6.45 11.22 1791
Fort Simpson, N.W.T. 61 52 415 42 −14 58 24 84 6.29 12.96 1669
Yellowknife Airport, N.W.T. 62 28 515 6 −14 57 22 112 3.52 8.65 1733
Fort Resolution, N.W.T. 61 10 520 24 −12 55 23 93 4.53 11.56 1639
Hay River, N.W.T. 60 51 529 45 −11 55 24 87 5.31 11.77 1630
Fort Smith, N.W.T. 60 0 680 26 −11 57 25 56 6.72 13.01 1600
Fort Nelson, B.C. 58 50 1230 10 − 2 60 31 103 7.62 15.41 1575
Fort Chipewyan Alta. 58 43 714 50 − 6 58 27 74 5.99 12.55 1571
Fort Vermilion, Alta. 58 23 950 30 − 8 58 27 68 6.73 12.13 1563
Keg River, Alta. 57 49 1402 8 − 1 58 31 - 8.75 16.32 1553
Fort McMurray, Alta. 56 44 829 35 − 4 58 30 66 9.06 17.71 1531
Beaverlodge, Alta. 55 10 2484 31 10 58 35 91 7.77 17.19 1502
Ottawa, Ont. 45 24 260 65 14 67 42 148 11.94 34.33 1374
Meteorological data by Courtesy of the Meteorological Division, Department of Transport, Canada.
Hours of daylight by approximate graphical method.

EA- Zoo. P.S. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

latitude. Beaverlodge, Alberta, at latitude 55°10′ N., lies in the fertile
farming district on the upper Peace River. Here, with inter and summer aver–
age temperatures of 10° and 68°F. respectively, large-scale farming, is well
established. Farther north, at Fort Vermilion, in latitude 58°23′ N., farm–
ing, including wheat production, is successfully practiced, and with access
to markets this would become a thriving agricultural community. At For Ver–
milion the winters are somewhat colder than at Beaverlodge, but summer tempera–
tures are about the same at both places. Fort Simpson, with a much colder
winter temperature (average −14°F.), has also practically the same summer tem–
perature as Beaverlodge. Here temperature conditions seem to be suitable in
most years for wheat production, as well as for other hardy crops such as barley
and potatoes. North of Fort Simpson, with lower summer and much lower winter
temperatures, ordinary crop production becomes more difficult. Barley matures
in occasional years at Fort Good Hope (lat. 66°15′ N.) but seldom manage to
do so at Aklavik (lat. 68°14′ N.). The foregoing statements apply only to
areas having good soils. So far as temperature conditions are concerned, with
other factors favorable, successful cereal production would seem to be possible
in places having temperatures similar to those of Fort Simpson.
In this connection it is interesting to recall that in 1912 J. F. Unstead
estimated that, on the basis of weather records them available, the northern
limits of wheat production in the Great Central Plain of North America would
extend in a narrow loop along the Mackenzie River as far north as Fort Wrigley
(lat. 63°17′ N.) about 142 miles downriver from Fort Simpson.
Summer frosts are a constant hazard to agriculture in northern districts,
as indicated by the average frost-free periods for the various locations. Ac–
tually, these figures may be somewhat misleading, as occasional killing frosts

EA- Zoo. P.S. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

may be expected in some spots where local topography favors rapid air drainage.
Extremes of temperature, not referred to in the accompanying tables, are
a notable feature of the northern climate, especially in the Mackenzie Valley.
Here maximum summer temperatures of from 80° to 85°F. may be expect ed , while
absolute maxima vary from 88°F. at Aklavik to 103°F. at ForthSmith. The
reverse is true of winter minima which may drop to below −70°F., the low
record for the Mackenzie Valley being −79°F. at Fort Good Hope. Such extreme
conditions have to be considered in relation to the housing of livestock and
the storage of vegetables.
One possible limitation on crop production in the Mackenzie Valley may
be imposed by the low precipitation, which nearly as far south as Keg River
(lat. 57°49′ N.) does not on the average exceed 13 inches annually, excepting
at Fort Nelson. (Incidentally, the relatively favorable climate of Fort Nelson
for agriculture, as shown in Table 2, has been frequently noted by travelers),
At many points north of Keg River crops have occasionally suffered from summer
drought, and watering has been necessary or desirable. Indeed, on the Experi–
mental Sub-Station at Fort Simpson, arrangements have been made for the irriga–
tion of farm crops. In some localities, small gardens may receive some mois–
ture from the gradual summer thaw of permanently frozen subsoil. On the whole,
however, and despite the greater precipitation-evaporation ratio as compared
with more southerly regions, low precipitation in the North is a limiting fac–
tor in continued crop production.
Many references have been made to the beneficial influence on plant growth
in the North of the long hours of summer daylight. The increase from south
to north in the total hours of daylight for June, July, and August is indicated

EA- Zoo P.S . Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

in Table 2, the figures being approximate, but sufficiently accurate for
the present purpose. As will be observed, the summer daylight is from 200
to 600 hours longer in the northern territories than at the latitude of Ottawa.
This longer period of daylight, which increases with increasing northern lat–
itudes, is believed to compensat e , in some measure, as regards the effect of
light on plant growth, for the declining efficiency of the sunlight as the
angle of incidence of the sun’s rays becomes less and less. In short, sun–
light [: ] passes through the air for a greater distance, and is weaker, but
continues for a longer period each day, in northern as compared with southern
latitudes.
One of the effects of long hours of sunlight is reported to be a tendency
for certain plants to run to excessive leafiness, potatoes having larger tops
but smaller tubers, and cabbages producing larger outside leaves but smaller
and less compact heads. This condition has been reported at many points on
the lower Mackenzie.
Yukon Territory . Meteorological data for the southern portion of the
Yukon Territory are presented in Table 3. Data for Fort McPherson, Aklavik,
and Herschel Island, presented in Table 2, are probably fairly representative
of climatic conditions in the northern Yukon. Available records, however, have
been secured only in river valleys where average temperatures would tend to
be much milder than on the uplands and moun [: ]tains which occupy a great portion
of the Territory. In general, the climate of the Yukon River basin, where a
limited amount of farming is practiced, is similar to that of the District of
Mackenzie.
As a matter of interest, meteorological data for two points in Alaska
have been included in Table 3. Of these, Fort Yukon, just north of the Arctic
Table 3 .
Selected Meteorological Data for Locations in
The Yukon Territory and for nearly points in British Columbia and Alaska
Latitude
North
Elevation
above
Mean
Sea
Level
Average Temperature Average
Frost–
Free
Period
Av. Precipitation Total
Hours of
Daylight
June to
August
Years
in
Record
Winter
December
to
February
Summer
June
to
August
Year May
to
August
Year
° feet °F. °F. °F. days inches inches hours
Dawson, Y.T. 64 4 1062 41 −16 57 23 74 5.27 12.61 1749
Mayo Landing, Y.T. 63 35 1625 17 − 9 56 26 66 5.83 11.23 1720
Whitehorse Experimental Farm, Y.T. 60 45 2000 5 − 1 51 27 4.42 12.38 1648
Whitehorse Airport, Y.T. 60 43 2289 9 6 54 32 80 4.90 10.83
Carcross, Y.T. 60 11 2171 31 3 53 29 43 3.15 8.96 1609
Watson Lake, Y.T. 60 7 2248 9 − 2 56 29 -- 7.03 15.85 1606
Atlin, B.C. 59 35 2240 34 7 53 32 84 3.29 11.11 1593
Fort Yukon, Alaska 66 34 417 16 −20 58 20 81 3.63 6.88 1875
Yakutat, Alaska 59 33 5 17 30 52 40 152 30.36 129.13 1591

EA- Zoo. P.S. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

Circle, experiences a climate of continental character, with a wide range
of temperatures from winter to summer, and very low precipitation. This
point lies northwest of Dawson, Y. T., and lower on the Yukon River. Yakutat,
on the Pacific coast seven degrees farther south than Fort Yukon, and separated
from the latter point by massive mountain ranges, has a climate marked by
moderate, equable temperatures and very high rainfall. This interception
by coastal mountains of air-borne moisture from the Pacific, evident in
British Columbia and Alaska, constitutes an outstanding climatic control of
the inland regions of northwestern America.
The foregoing somewhat detailed treatment of the climate of northwestern
Canada has been deemed desirable because of the definite limitations imposed
by climate on crop production and related settlement possibilities. Further
limitations are found in the physiographic conditions of land relief, topography,
and drainage, which together with climate, govern the formation, character,
and distribution of soils.
Physiography and Soils
The principal physiographic features of northern Canada are: ( 1 ) the
Canadian Shield, occupying most of the mainland east of the Mackenzie lowlands;
( 2 ) the Mackenzie lowlands, extending in a northwesterly direction from the
Alberta plains to the Beaufort Sea; and ( 3 ) the broad band of mountains and high
desert-like plateau, extending from British Columbia through the Yukon Territory
to Alaska, and known as the Cordilleran Region.
The Canadian Shield, a great peneplane composed largely of altered sedi–
mentary and igneous rocks, the surface of which has been subjected to severe
glaciations, affords poor conditions for soil formation. Much of the surface

EA- Zoo. P.S. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

consists of bare rock, interspersed with poorly drained, coarse-textured
glacial deposits. The nonagricultural character of this region in more
southerly parts of the Shield, as encountered just north of the St. Lawrence
and Ottawa rivers, is well known. In northern parts the existence of per–
manently frozen subsoil, or permafrost, further retards drainage and soil
formation. On both climatic and physiographic grounds, therefore, the
Shield in northern Canada may be largely written off as regards agricul–
tural possibilities. This region occupies more than one-half of the District
of Mackenzie.
In the Mackenzie lowlands the occurrence of potential agricultural soils
is subject to a complicated group factors. This region is the northern
extension of the Great Central Plain of North America. The occurrence of
many small lakes and some large ones, notably Lake Athabaska, Great Slave
Lake, and Great Bear Lake, is a notable feature of this region. The relief
of these lowlands is relatively undisturbed, being broken only occasionally
by hill masses and mountains. Much of this region seems to be covered by
glacial deposits, but there are also alluvial and lacustrine deposits, some
of quite large extent. Lacustrine deposits, for instance, are quite general
in the district from Lake Athabaska to Great Slave Lake, while alluvial
deposits occur on the deltas of the Slave and Mackenzie rivers, and at other
points. Under a warmer climate these water-lain soils might be extensively
developed for agricultural purposes, and this is possible in some districts
of Mackenzie. Unfortunately, little definite information has been secured
on soil conditions — at least, away from the large river channels.
Poorly developed surface drainage seems to be one of the principal adverse
conditions affecting the development of agricultural soil in the Mackenzie low–
lands. Topography and climate are major factors in this respect; drainage

EA- Zoo. P.S. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

develops very slowly on the plains, being further severely retarded by the
long, cold winters, and in more northerly districts by permafrost. As a result,
lakes and marshes are prevalent, while the almost universal growth of mosses
favors the development of muskegs, the lower depths of which are in many cases
permanently frozen. Tree growth is affected by these conditions. In the
southern part of this region, merchantable timber is reported to exist in the
valleys of the Slave and Liard rivers, but over much of the flat country the
growth is somewhat scrubby, becoming smaller to the north and disappearing on
the tundra facing the Arctic Sea. Drainage and vegetation are often much
better along the banks of the larger rivers.
The upper level of permafrost in the Mackenzie lowlands varies in depth
according to average air temperatures, type of vegetation, and drainage. No
definite southern boundary can be assigned to the permafrost area, but this
boundary would seem to run from the lower Slave River in a west-by-north direc–
tion to about Camsell Bend on the Mackenzie River. Along this line permafrost
is reported at intervals; farther north it is increasingly general. As
already indicated, the depth of summer thaw in permafrost is governed to some
extent by vegetation, being greatest on open or cultivated land, less under
tree growth, and least under the apparent insulation of heavy moss. This
point, as well as the general distribution of permafrost, is illustrated by
data secured by questionnaire in 1943, and presented in Table 4.
In view of the foregoing circumstances it would seems that any large-scale
exploitation of soil resources in the Mackenzie lowlands would be attended by
serious difficulties, amounting in more northerly districts to positive ob–
stacles. Some areas might be improved by tree and moss removal, which would

EA-PS. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

Table 4. Average Depth to which the Subsoil Thaws in Summer
at Various Points in the Mackenzie River Basin .
Location Open soil, ft. Wooded soil, ft. Muskeg, ft.
Aklavik 3.0 1.5 1.0
Fort McPherson 3.0 1.0 0.8
Arctic Red River 3.0 2.0 1.0
Fort Good Hope 7.0 - 0.5
Norman Oil Wells 3.0 1.5 1.0
Fort Norman 6.0 2.5 1.0
Fort Wrigley 5.0 - 2.5
Fort Simpson 10.0 8.0 3.0
Fort Liard Not permanently frozen
Trout River Not permanently frozen
Fort Providence 5.0 3.0 1.0
Hay River (outlet) 6.5 3.5 -
Buffalo River (outlet) Not permanently frozen
Yellowknife 3.5 2.0 2.0
Snowdrift 3.5 3.0 -
promote deeper summer thawing of the soil, and by drainage. Definite informa–
tion can be derived only for a few small farm or garden enterprises, mostly
subsidiary to other lines of work.
Not even an approximate estimate can be ventured as to the acreage of
agricultural land in the Mackenzie lowlands. Possible areas of good soil
have been reported along the course of the Slave River, at points along the

EA-PS. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

Hay River, and along the Mackenzie between Fort Providence and Fort Simpson.
Almost the entire valley of the Liard, form above Fort Simpson to Nelson
Forks, and thence south along the Fort Nelson River and its tributaries, has
agricultural possibilities. Certainly climate conditions at Fort Nelson,
on this watershed, would seem to be well suited to agriculture (see Table 2).
Mention might also be made of the Fort Vermilion district where preliminary
soil surveys indicate a total cultivable acreage of some two and one-half
million acres, as yet only scantily settled. Both the Fort Vermilion and
the Fort Nelson districts are located on the Alberta plateau rather than in
the Mackenzie lowlands. One estimate of all potential agricultural land
in the Mackenzie River basin north of latitude 57° N. is four million acres.
So far as is yet known, cultivable land in the Mackenzie lowlands north of
Fort Simpson, or latitude 62° N., is limited to small acreages in well-drained
situations on river banks.
The principal obstacle to agricultural development in the Northwest is
that arable lands occur in widely scattered locations, along river valleys,
far from the centers to which products would be transported. In no known
place north of latitude 60° N. is there any concentration of good soils com–
parable to the farming district on the upper Peace River, where some two and
one-half million acres of land suitable for crop production are located in
a fairly compact block.
West of the Mackenzie lowlands, the Cordilleran Region is composed
largely of hills and mountains deeply scored by a network of valleys. The
Mackenzie Mountains, following the [: ] Yukon-Mackenzie boundary for a distance
of some six hundred miles, are said to be the greatest single group of moun–
tains, as well as among the most inaccessible areas, in all of Canada. Between

EA-PS. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

these mountains and the Pacific Coast ranges, in the basin of the Yukon
River, flowing into Alaska, and that of the Liard River which flows east–
[: ] ward between the south end of the Mackenzie Mountains and the north end of
the Rockies to join the Mackenzie River, a number of deep, valley [: ] bottoms
afford some opportunities for agriculture. These valleys are deeply
trenched with valley floors ranging in altitude from 2,000 to 2,500 feet
in the Whitehorse district to about 1,000 to 1,500 feet in the Dawson dis–
trict. Within these valleys the occurrence of agriculturally useful soils
depends on texture of soil material and on drainage. Poorly drained or
permafrost areas usually have a heavy covering of moss, while the better–
drained areas, relatively free from permafrost, may carry a covering of
grass or trees. Owing to the relatively light snowfall, grasslands in
parts of this region are used for the year-round grazing of horses.
One estimate of the acreage of cultivable land in the Yukon Territory
is 500,000 acres, to which could be added an undetermined acreage of land
suitable for grazing. Similar estimates for the Liard Basin of northern
British Columbia place its cultivable acreage at 865,000 acres plus 635,000
acres of rough grazing land. These figures are basedon brief exploratory
surveys of the territories concerned, and on reports of geologists, foresters,
and others. Definite soil surveys might reveal new areas of potential farm
land, and would enable a more accurate estimate of soil resources to be made.
The main point is, however, that in the Yukon Territory and the adjacent
areas of northern British Columbia, physiography and climate impose definite
limitations on the potential agricultural acreage. At the present time, as
indicated in Table 1, known soil resources in this region are being exploited
to only a very slight extent.

EA-PS. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

Farming in the Far Northwest
Early attempts at framing or gardening in northwestern Canada were almost
entirely carried on by fur traders, who sought to augme n t a diet of game and
fish by cultivating a few vegetables, and perhaps some barley. In 1808,
Daniel William Harmon, in charge of the North West Company post at Dunvegan
(now in northern Alberta) wrote: “Our principal food will be the flesh of
the buffalo, moose, red deer and bear. We have a tolerably good kitchen gar–
den.” Incidentally this statement is one of the first records of agriculture
in the Peace River district. Ventures of this nature accompanied the spread
of the fur trade down the Mackenzie Basin.
In 1779, Peter Pond, who in the previous year had opened up the fur trade
on the upper tributaries of the Mackenzie, planted a garden on the forks of
the Athabaska, which was said to be the first garden in the present Province
of Alberta. Thereafter, as the fur trade moved north, gardens began to appear
at fur-trading posts. By 1826, these early experiences were summed up by Sir
John Richardson as follows:
“Wheat has not been raised within the Arctic Circle in America nor indeed within
six degrees of latitude of it … Barley ripens well at Fort Norman on the 65th
parallel … All attempts to cultivate it at old Fort of Good Hope, two degrees
farther north, have failed … Oats do not succeed so far north as barley here …
At Fort Good Hope (the new fort) … a few turnips and radishes and other culinary
vegetables are raised in a sheltered corner … but none of the cerealia will
grow, and potatoes do not repay the labour.”
By 1851, cattle, fed on natural hay, had been introduced as far north as
Fort Simpson, but in 1893 the practice of maintaining cattle on Hudson’s Bay

EA-PS. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

Company posts was discontinued owing to the cost involved. In the meantime,
about 1860, various missions established in the Mackenzie District engaged
in agriculture, including the keeping of cattle, partly as oxen for draft
purposes.
For many years, all food imported to these regions had to be carried by
river and portage for great distances. Steam navigation was started on the
Slave River in 1886, and on the Mackenzie River in 1887. It was not until
1926 that the railway from Edmonton reached Waterways at the confluence of
the Athabaska and Clearwater rivers, thereby giving almost continuous car–
riage, interrupted only by the Smith Portage, by rail or steamboat from
southern part of Canada to the full length of the Mackenzie River. Previ–
ously, heavy transportation costs had placed severe restrictions on the
import of food. For this reason, a few early farming ventures were undertaken,
particularly at missions, to provide certain items of European diet such as
vegetables, potatoes, barley, and milk, not otherwise obtainable. It is
recorded that such agricultural work did not receive the wholehearted support
of the fur interests. To quote from the writings of Henry John Moberly, one–
time factor of the hudson’s Bay Company: “it was well understood among both
officers and servants of the Company that they were employed in the interests
of the fur trade and not as agricultural agents or mining experts, and when
we observed fine vegetables raised on a few spots by the missionaries we knew
they were to be regarded simply as small ‘oases’ in a vast desert in which, by
great [: ] care and a wonderful dispensation of Providence, such cultivation was
made possible.”
As would be expected, early farms and gardens in the Mackenzie Basin

EA-PS. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

were more numerous and productive in the southern districts, and some shipments
of agricultural produce were made by boat to the lo [: ] we r Mackenzie. In this con–
nection it is interesting to note that the agricultural development of the
Peace River district began in 1878, when a mission farm was started at Fort
Vermilion to overcome the high cost of importing flour at L 5 per bag from the
Red River settlement. Wheat grew well in this district, and the Hudson’s Bay
Company built a flour mill at Fort Vermilion, whence flour could be shipped
down the Peace to its trading posts on the Mackenzie River.
No estimate is available as to the extent of early agricultural develop–
ment in the Mackenzie District, but it seems to have been somewhat greater
than at present. With the completion of the railway to Waterways in 1926,
it became easier to import food from “outside,” and the need for local produc–
tion became less urgent. At some points at least on the Mackenzie the acreage
of cultivated land dwindled. Just what effect World War II and later develop–
ments may have had in this respect is not known, but it is not likely that
the picture indicated in Table 1 has been greatly changed.
In the Yukon Territory a small farming industry was created by the gold
boom of 1898, but this appears to have declined. Data for earlier years are
not available, but from 1931 to 1941 the number of farms registered by the
census fell from 41 to 26, [: ] w ith a slight decrease in the area of cultivated
land, while the population of the Territory showed a slight increase from 4,230
in 1931, to 4,914 in 1941. Here again the effect of wartime developments is
not clear, but some farming ventures may be undertaken along the route of the
Alaska Highway.
Agricultural Investigations
Information on the possibilities and methods of producing field and

EA-PS. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

garden crops north of latitude 58° N. in northwestern Canada has been
secured from occasional reports of residents and travelers in that region,
from the results of a few cropping trials conducted at the instance of the
Dominion Experimental Farms Service, and to some extent from the reports of
botanists, foresters, and entomologists who have conducted field studies.
As only one point in this region, on the Dominion Experimental Sub-Station
at Fort Vermilion, has experimental work in agriculture been done on a long–
term basis, and under expert supervision. Similar experimental work, started
on the Dominion Experimental Sub-Stations at Whitehorse (in 1944) [: ] and at
Fort Simpson (in 1946), has not been in progress for a sufficiently long
period to provide reliable information. Elsewhere in the Northwest, small
co-operative trials, conducted by local residents with seed provi [: ] d ed by the
Experimental Farms Service, have been made at a few points.
In the Mackenzie District small co-operative trials in growing cereals,
hay crops, and vegetables were undertaken on the Roman Catholic missions at
Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, and Fort Providence from 1911 to 1940, and at
Fort Good Hope from 1917 to 1940. Trials were also made by a local resident
at Fort Simpson from 1941 to 1944. Similarly, in the Yukon Territory, some
co-operative farming and gardening trials have been conducted at Swede Creek
(near Dawson) from 1932 to 1938, at Carmacks from 1932 to 1934, and at Carcross
from 1936 to 1938. Unfortunately, the remoteness of these points from railway
communication rendered expert supervision impracticable, so that the informa–
tion secured as regards yields, etc., was rather incomplete. Some information,
however, was secured which largely confirmed previous observations that hay
crops and hardy vegetables can be grown as far north as Fort Good Hope on the
Mackenzie and as far north as Dawson on the Yukon, but that cereals, especially
wheat, are difficult to mature.

EA-PS. Dickson: Agriculture in North Canada

Possibilities for the Future
Sufficient information has been presented in the foregoing discussion
to indicate that any future agricultural development in northern Canada will
be subject to definite physical limitations. Such development as may be
possible will be governed largely by economic and social conditions. The
principal economic factor will be the relative cost of local agricultural
production as against the cost of importing supplies. On the social side,
the beneficial effect on morale and health of fresh locally grown foods,
especially those of high vitamin content, in comparison with imported canned
foods may offset economic considerations to a large degree.
On the whole, however, there would seem to be slight prospects of
greatly expanded agriculture in northern Canada until such future time as
production in more favored regions is fully developed and fully in demand.

Agriculture and Horticulture in Greenland

EA-Plant Sciences
(K. N. Christensen)

AGRICULTURE AND HORTICULTURE IN GREENLAND

PHOTOGRAPHIC ILLUSTRATIONS
With the manuscript of this article, the author submitted 15 photo–
graphs for possible use as illustrations. Because of the high cost of
reproducing them as halftones in the printed volume, only a small proportion
of the photographs submitted by contributors to Encyclopedia Arctica can
be used, at most one or two with each paper; in some cases none. The
number and selection must be determined later by the publisher and editors
of Encyclopedia Arctica. Meantime all photographs are being held at The
Stefansson Library.

EA-Plant Sciences
(K. N. Christensen)

AGRICULTURE AND HORTICULTURE IN GREENLAND
Farming in Greenland dates back to the first settlement of the country.
When, in about A.D. 986, the discoverer of Greenland, the Viking Erik the
Red with his followers set out for Greenland in a large number of ships, they
carried with them cattle, horses, and sheep. Three years earlier Erik the Red
had investigated the southernmost parts of Greenland and selected the places
most suitable for settlement.
In the course of the next few centuries all the best sites between the
southern point of the main island (about lat. 60°30′ N.) and the Godthaab
District (about lat. 65° N.) were colonized. The intermediate Frederikshaab
District has had only sporadic settlements. Even today conditions in that
district are not particularly favorable for animal husbandry. North of the
Godthaab sites no permanent settlements have existed.
It is presumed that in the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries about
4,000 persons were living in southwestern Greenland, and numerous ruins of
the Norsemen’s stables and dwellings are to be found in the Julianehaab
and Godthaab Districts. The ruins of large cow byres are evidence that
cattle husbandry was of great importance - probably far more common than
today - but sheep and horses were also important farm animals. The farms
were surrounded by small, manured fields, but beyond the tilling of these
small “home fields” there was evidently no agriculture.

EA-PS. Christensen: Agriculture and Horticulture in Greenland

In the best period of the Norsemen’s era, that is, about the eleventh
and twelfth centuries, the climate seems to have been milder than in our
days and the animals were apparently able to live in the open for the greater
part of the year. The many large ruins of byres indicate that in thi e s period
stocks of cattle must have been very considerable. There is some evidence
that the climate subsequently deteriorated, and this, in conjunction with
failing communications with the mother country, presumably contributed to the
decline of the Norsemen’s settlements in the fifteenth century. Eskimos had
by then immigrated into the country from northern Greenland, and apparently
feuds between the two peoples also contributed to the disappearance of the
Norsemen.
When, in 1721, Hans Egede came to Greenland and inaugurated a renewed
colonization of the country, he did so with the object of seeking out the
Norsemen and baptizing them. He found, however, only the ruins of their
dwellings. Eskimos were living in the old settlements of the Norsemen, and
Hans Egede took up his ministry among them.
Even in those early days the idea arose of reintroducing agriculture
to these districts, for and for that purpose several young farm hands were
sent to Godthaab; but nothing came of it. The young men became instead
assistants in the mission and in the trading company. One of them, however,
became of lasting (although only local) importance as regards a renewal of
farming, and that was Anders Olsen, who founded the settlements of Sukkertoppen
and Julianehaab. When about 1780 he retired as a trader, he settled down at
the Norsemen’s ancient episcopal residence, Gardar, which now is called
Igaliko, and which lies at the head of a fjord inside of the present settle–
ment of J U u lianehaab. Olsen, who had married a Greenland woman, lived there

EA-PS. Christensen: Agriculture and Horticulture in Greenland

for the rest of his days as a cattleman. His descendants have continued
this trade until the present time. Later on the population of Igaliko took
up sheep breeding as a trade, so that the settlement may be considered the
center of the growing Greenland farming activities in the first half of the
twentieth century.
Throughout an entire century Igaliko seems to have been the only Greenland
settlement in which the population had animal husbandry as their main trade,
though a few milch cows were taken to other settlements by people moving away
from Igaliko. During this period some Danish civil servants, however, made
private attempts with animal husbandry on a small scale. Thus it is known
that about the year 1850, a Danish trading-post manager in the neighborhood
of Julianehaab had a small herd of Danish sheep. Civil servants at Julianehaab
in many cases kept cows and goats, and poultry keeping was general a mong the
Danish inhabitants.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the number of seals dropped
considerably, and sealing which had been the principal trade of Greenland,
thus deteriorated. Danish civil servants as well as farsighted Greenlanders
were therefore anxious to have rational experiments made to find a suitable
rac d e of sheep which might flourish under the conditions obtaining locally.
A Greenland native clergyman in the Julianehaab District in 1906 received
permission to make an experiment for the Government with 30 Faeroese sheep.
This experiment proved successful, the Faeroese sheep being more suitable
for Greenland conditions than the Danish sheep previously imported. A few
reliable Greenlanders in the district borrowed some sheep from this experi–
mental post and the results of their husbandry were so promising that the
Government of Greenland decided to take up the matter on a more extensive
scale.

EA-PS. Christensen: Agriculture and Horticulture in Greenland

In 1913 Lindemand Walsøe was sent to the District of Julianehaab to
investigate conditions. He had had experience in sheep farming in Australia
and Iceland. In his subsequent report he stated that conditions in southern
Greenland were at least as good as those obtaining in Iceland.
The Government then decided to establish a research station for sheep
breeding at the settlement of Julianehaab, and placed Walsøe in charge of
the station — a position which he kept until his death in 1936. In the
autumn of 1915 Walsøe obtained 175 ewes and rams which had been b r ought in
northern Iceland and herded across the country to Reykjavik whence they were
shipped to Julianehaab. Fodder had been collected for the coming winter. At
the same time the Faeroese sheep from the previous experiment were taken over
by the new station, so that the total stock was then about 235 animals. Subse–
quently six stud rams were imported from Iceland, and from this stock originated
the entire Greenland stock of sheep which in 1948 amounted to about 22,000
ewes and rams.
Roughly the following tasks were assigned to the sheep-breeding station
at Julianehaab: ( 1 ) employment and training of young Greenlanders who intended
to take up sheep farming as their principal work. The apprenticeship was fixed
at 3 to 4 years according to age and maturity; ( 2 ) the lending of ewes to
persons who had finished their apprenticeship, and to other Greenlanders to
whom it might be deemed advisable; ( 3 ) jointly with the authorities of this
the country, to grant house-building loans to persons who had finished their
apprenticeship and to other Greenlanders of equal status; ( 4 ) to give advice
with regard to sheep farming, agriculture, and horticulture. The station
still works along these lines although further developments have caused
many other tasks to be assigned to it.

EA-PS. Christensen: Agriculture and Horticulture in Greenland

The products of the new trade — consisting of live animals, wool, and
skins — were, like all other commercial products in Greenland, a government
monopoly, and were sold to the station. In 1929 an up-to-date slaughterhouse
was built at Julianehaab. This undertaking came under the administration of
the station and its manager, and the sheep and lambs sold to the station were
killed there. In 1943 a small sausage factory was established for the preser–
vation of the meat and slaughterhouse products, partly because of the failing
supplies of foodstuffs from abroad during World War II. These undertakings
were in 1950 undergoing consid [: e ] rable extension.
In 1924 the first trained Greenlander received a Government loan and
settled down as an independent sheep farmer at Erik the Red’s old settlement
near the head of the Tunugdliarfik Fjord. Being a mature and reliable man,
he received a relatively large loan, namely 3,000 kroner and 140 ewes. He
is now (in 1950) Greenland’s leading sheep farmer, having about 750 ewes
besides a couple of milch cows, several ponies, and other domestic animals.
After him many young Greenlanders were given a start in a similar manner.
The house-building loans granted have varied from 400 to 3,000 kroner,
but recently they have been somewhat higher owing to the heavy increase in
prices of building materials. Trained apprentices as a rule receive a house–
building loan [: ] and in addition a loan of about 75 ewes — sometimes fewer
sometimes more, but in no case more than 100. Furthermore, well-recommended
Greenlanders who have not been trained at the station may borrow a small herd
of sheep, commonly 10 to 25 head. All loans are granted free of interest
and are to be repaid within ten years, but generally they are repaid within
a shorter time.
Originally it had not been considered possible to g train born hunters

EA-PS. Christensen: Agriculture and Horticulture in Greenland

like the Greenlanders to become animal breeders, and at any rate it was
taken for granted that animal husbandry would be only a subsidiary trade for
a minority, and be based on fodders that might be gathered without actual
tilling of the soil. Matters turned out better than was anticipated, however,
and when sheep breeding began to develop on the lines of a trade supporting a
considerable number of Greenlanders, it became, to an increasing extent, neces–
sary to take up cultivation of the soil and agriculture on a fair scale. In
1926 an expert in this field was attached to the Julianehaab statg station,
and active work was commenced toward interesting the population in the culti–
vation of home fields and gardens.
The climate is not suitable for all-round agriculture. Although south–
western Greenland is at the same latitude as southern Norway, the climate is
more or less arctic owing to the cold polar current. The mean temperature in
the summertime is low, and especially the night temperature at that time is too
low to allow the more exacting cultivated plants to give satisfactory yields.
No cereals can ripen entirely, although in the warmest situations it may
occasionally be possible to produce a little barley almost ripe.
Cultivation is made difficult by the mountainous character of the country.
Erosion has been slight and the areas available for cultivation are small and
extremely stony. Large, continuous areas capable of cultivation are of extremely
rare occurrence. The land is in many cases covered with willow coppices which
in conjunction with the many stones make cultivation difficult and costly.
On the whole, only grasses which thrive in the cool and of f t en wet weather may
be grown. The annual precipitation is about 800 to 1,000 millimeters (27 to 40
inches). In the summer there are, however, frequent periods of drought which
are highly detrimental to the grass; in particular, x dry winds (foehn storms)
may des s i c cate the soil within a very short space of time.

EA-PS. Christensen: Agriculture and Horticulture in Greenland

As a rule imported grasses cannot winter. A few can last two or three
years, but if a good, lasting grass field is desired it must consist of
Greenland grasses — mainly varieties of m d e adow grass ( Poa [: ] pratensis ),
red fescue ( Festuca rubra ), and reed grass species ( Calama g rosti c s ). In the
natural pastures along the coast, these grasses are frequently found mixed with
lyme grass ( Elymus ) and beach pea ( Lathyrus maritimus ). This mixture gives a
good and nutritive hay, and is much used as a winter fodder. Moreover, in
the winter, sea wrack, lichens, and crake are gathered for use as additional
fodder. A small fish, the capelin ( Mallotus villosus ), is caught in the
springtime, when during spawning it enters the fjords in large shoals. It
is taken up in landing nets or caught in seines and dried ashore. It contains
large quantities of albumin and fat and constitutes an excellent concentrated
fodder for the animals. Dried codfish is also being used as a fodder.
Some years ago, by way of experiment, some swampy areas were drained and
cultivated as pastures. The y eil x yield has been good in warm summers, less
satisfactory in cold summers. It has proved more effective to cultivate
sloping areas at a higher level where the expensive drainage and maintenance
work may be avoided. The sheep farmers have cultivated some small fields by
clearing them of stones and leveling them, but so far they have done little work
of this kind. Of late years some attempts have been made at their settlements
to apply artificial fertlizer, and this has already shown good results. In
time to come the Government will take more active steps to promote cultivation
and thereby the possibility of providing more winter fodder.
It has been somewhat easier to make the Greenlanders take an interest in
horticulture. Most sheep farmers and many fishermen and hunters have rather good,
small gardens. Early potatoes, edible beets, and other fast-growing vegetables

EA-PS. Christensen: Agriculture and Horticulture in Greenland

are produced. The crops of both hay and vegetables vary considerably accord–
ing to weather conditions of the individual year and location. Potatoes
may yield about 25 tons, beets 40 to 60 tons per hectare. Spring cereals which
are harvested green and dried or made into silage yield large crops. Home
fields with mixed Greenland grasses yield 4 to 6 tons of hay per hectare.
Of late years some experiments have been made with hotbed and hothouse garden–
ing, which bids fair to become of great importance also for northern and
eastern Greenland. Results so far have been excellent and promise well for
the future.
Really good mountain pastures and favorable conditions for cultivation are
to be found only within strictly l o i mited areas. As far as the Julianehaab
District is concerned, facilities are confined to four fjords distributed
north and south of the settlement. The southernmost part of the district is
rugged mountainous country in which vegetation is indeed quite plentiful but
where the sheep are easily lost in almost inaccessible areas. It is possible
that this part of the country will assume greater importance when the population
learns to herd the sheep more efficiently.
The approximately 20,000 sheep in the Julianehaab District are scattered
over about 25 settlements, the greater number and the largest of which are
situated along the four fjords already mentioned. Most of these places are
inhabited by people carrying on sheep farming as their principal trade. Within
the area covered by the four fjords, it may in time be possible to quadruple
the number of sheep. In the District of Frederikshaab there are only a few
hundred sheep in the southernmost part. In 1932 a small experimental station
was established at Godthaab. In 1950 there were only some 1,000 sheep in this
district, which, however, presents rather good facilities along two large fjords.

EA-PS. Christensen: Agriculture and Horticulture in Greenland

The development of sheep farming in Greenland is summarized in Table I.
Table I. number of Ewes and Value of Sales (1925 to 1948).
Year No. of ewes Value, Danish
kroner
Year No. of ewes Value, Danish
kroner
1925 1,600 5,893 1945 15,203 95,233
1930 5,691 26,917 1947 20,324 147,428
1935 7,005 28,635 1948 22,000 160,000 (est.)
1940 9,457 46,282
In addition to these amounts paid out for the purchase of products, the
Government pays 20% to the Greenland public funds (municipal funds, district
funds, and the provincial fund). Besides, the sheep farmers have a considerable
home consumption of mutton, amounting to some 10 to 12% of their sales. A
direct comparison of the sales for 1947 and 1948 with the figures for the previous
years is scarcely possible, as prices have increased by about 30%, but nevertheless
the table shows the considerable progress that has been made by sheep farming in
Greenland through about 20 years.
The distribution of ewes as of November 1, 1947 is shown in Table II.
Table II. Distribution of Ewes, November 1, 1947.
No. of ewes
per farmer
No. of farmers Total
ewes
No. of ewes
per farmer
No. of farmers Total
ewes
less than 25 241 1,955 200-300 11 2,623
25 - 50 54 1,792 300-400 9 2,990
50 - 100 29 2,051 more than 400 9 4,809
100 - 200 29 3,704

EA-PS. Christensen: Agriculture and Horticulture in Greenland

Stocks of less than 5 sheep and the station’s stock of about 400 are
not included. The 241 small sheep farmers are mainly hunters, fishermen,
and day laborers who are keeping a few sheep as a subsidiary occupation. The
district has in addition about 50 milch cows, 50 head of young cattle, about
100 Icelandic ponies, and a few thousand hens. In the herding of the sheep,
Scottish sheep dogs are used.
The approximately 20,000 sheep in the Julianehaab District are all
privately owned, except for those lent to the sheep o farmers by the Government,
which amounts to only about 1,500 head. Lambs and sheep for meat are delivered
to the abattoir at Julianehaab in September and October. From the small posts
the animals are taken by boat, but from the larger settlements they are herded
across country, in many cases 50 to 70 kilometers. When the herds have to pass
fjords, they are ferried across at the narrowest place. Veterinary control has
been established at the abattoir. About half the meat animals are used in
Greenland, the remainder being exported. When in the course of time transport
facilities in Greenland are improved, the entire production will presumably be
used in Greenland.
The capacity of abattoir is too small; but in 1950 a new, modern
abattoir and meat-packing plant with refrigeration system were under construction
at the new “industrial town” of Narssak a little to the north of Julianehaab.
The station at Julianehaab will be converted into a farm research station and
farm machinery pool, and attempts will be made to promote cultivation inter alia
by lending the farmers suitable tractors.
The Jul a i anehaab District has about 5,000 inhabitants. There are thus
4 sheep per inhabitant, or almost the same proportion as in Iceland. It is
therefore evident that farming is of great importance for the Greenland

EA-PS. Christensen: Agriculture and Horticulture in Greenland

population in that district, and, no doubt, the importance of the trade will
increase in future.
The social, political, and economic structure of Greenland is at present
undergoing radical changes and improvements. The country which has hitherto
been closed will now be wholly or partly opened to initiative from abroad.
The main trade of fishing, and the secondary trade of sheep farming, will be
assisted and modernized through investments from Denmark in conjunction with
a more effective education of the population through children’s and young
people’s schools and also through vocational training. The modernization and
industrialization of the fishing trade will involve the building of fishing
towns and industrial centers, where increasing quantities of meat, vegetables,
and other farm products will be required. The previous extensive and one-sided
farming trade may be expected to be intensified, as the great home market for
many years to come will be able to purchase all the agricultural products.
An improvement in refrigeration technique both ashore and on board the coasters
will make it possible to ship the products without risk to remove northern
Greenland, where a pronounced shortage of meat frequently prevails, particularly
in the winter season. Modern cultivation methods and machinery from a farm
machine pool will come into use. A farming trade may be expected to be
created for the purposed of supplying the towns with potatoes, vegetables,
milk, eggs, and cheese.
When prices are allowed to find their own level more freely than at present,
it is to be anticipated that the killing of lambs and sheep will no longer be
confined to two or three autumn months but will be distributed over a longer
period in accordance with the demand. The present sheep farms are all located
along the coasts, but gradually, as it becomes possible to build roads, new

EA-PS. Christensen: Agriculture and Horticulture in Greenland

farms will be established in sheltered valleys, where very good conditions
obtain. Experience so far seems to indicate that within a reasonable time
the Greenlanders will be able to keep pace with this development.
Owing to an unusually severe winter with glazed ice and blizzards in 1948-49,
great numbers of sheep were lost in the Julianehaab District; but in the course
of the past two summers stocks have again increased and on many farms these
losses have been made good.
K. N. Christensen

Plant Cultivation in Norway at 70-71° N. Lat. (Finnmark)

EA-PS: A.H.Bremer

PLANT CULTIVATION IN NORWAY AT 70-71° N. LATITUDE (FINNMARK)

Introduction 1
GROUP I (Ornamental Plants) 2
Woody Perennials 2
Perennial Herbs 3
Ferns 3
Tubers and Bulbs 3
Weedy, Self-propagating Annuals 3
Garden Annuals 4
GROUP II 5
Perennials 5
Ferns 5
Self-propagating Annuals 5
POTATO, ROOT, AND OTHER CROPS 6
Potatoes 6
Roots 7
Other Vegetables 8
Berries 9
Cereals 9
Natural Meadows and Cultivated Rotational Hayfields 10
Plant Cultures Under Glass 11

EA-Plant Sciences
(A. H. Bremer)

PLANT CULTIVATION IN NORWAY AT 70-71° N. LATITUDE (FINNMARK)
Introduction
Looking at the map you will find that the parallel of 70° N. latitude
touches the northern part of Alaska; to the eastward it passes through the
southern part of Victoria Island; it cuts through the northern half of Baffin
Island, crosses Greenland about 1,100 km. (690 miles) north of Cape Farewell,
and passes about 1° of latitude south of Jan Mayen, the Norwegian meteorological
station in the Arctic Sea. In Norway we find the 70th parallel about 1/3°
of latitude north of the town of Tromsø 2/3° south of Hammerfest in the west,
and a little south of Vardø and Vadsø in the east. Latitude 70° N. does not
touch Finland and European Russia but it does cross the tundra of northern
Siberia.
Between 70-71° N. latitude there are in Norway about 40,000 inhabitants,
and their main occupations are fishing and farming.
To explain the quite intensive farming you will find here, we have to take
into account the Gulf Stream, which carries relatively warm water northward up
the coast and into the bays and fjords. The temperature along the coast,

EA-PS: Bremer: Plant Cultivation

especially in winter, is far higher than one might expect. The effect of the
Gulf Stream on the summer climate is less considerable, but still it is the
most important factor for plant cultivation in the northernmost part of Norway.
If you look at the isotherms you will find that the temperature conditions are
not extreme. For instance, the 12°C. isotherm of July passes along the north–
west coast of Norway to about 70°N., and then turns into the country southeastward
through Finland and Russia. Generally speaking, the temperature in Norway is
higher than in any other part of the world at the same latitude; and the tempera–
ture is relatively highest in the most northern part of Norway. This, of course,
exerts a great influence upon the flora at 70 to 71° N. latitude.
As for the cultivated plants, it is, according to Ytreberg, convenient to
classify them into two groups:
I. Plants that grow well near the Arctic Sea when they are sheltered from
cold winds by hills, houses, fences, walls, and so on.
II. Plants that seem to stand the climate wherever the country is settled.
Many of these would most likely also do well at Svalbard.
GROUP I. (Ornamental Plants)
Woody Perennials
Betula pubescens Rosa cinnamomea
B. verrucosa Salix caprea
Caragana arborescens S. lapponum
Crataegus sanguinea Sorbus aucuparia
Lonicera coerulea Spiraea chamaedryfolia
Myricaria germanica S. flexuosa
Prunus padus S. sorbifolia

EA-PS: Bremer: Plant Cultivation

Perennial Herbs
Achillea millefolium Filipendula palmata
Aquilegia (several kinds) F. ulmaria
Aruncus Sylvester Heliosperma alpestre
Aster alpinus Hesperis matronalis
Astrantia major Humulus lupulus
Bellis perennis Levisticum officinale
Bergenia cordifolia Linaria alpina
B. crassifolia Myosotis sylvatica
Campanula medium M. sylvatica robusta grandiflora
Centaurea Montana M. scorpioides , for instance, “nixenauge”
Chrysanthemum x cultorum Phalaris variegate
Delphinium x cultorum Potentilla x hybrida
Dianthus barbatus Ranunculus aconitifolius
Doronicum caucasicum Rheum palmatum
Erigeron coultere Tanacetum vulgare cirspum
Ferns
Asplenium viride Blechnum spicant
Tubers and Bulbs
Anemone coronaria Tulipa
Weedy, Self-propagating Annuals
Acroclinium roseum A. gracillis
Anchusa capensis Atriplex hortenses
Antirrhinum [: ] majus Beta vulgaris
Artemisia annua Brassica asephala crispa

EA-PS. Bremer: Plant Cultivation

Callistephus chinensis Malope trifida
Cheriranthus cheiri Matricaria maritime
Chrysanthemum coronarium Matthiolav i. annua
[: ] C. parthenium Matthiola bicornis
Cineraria Mimulus tigrinus
Dianthus chinensis Nemesia strumosa
Eschscholtzia californica Petunia hybrida
Lathyrus odoratus Phlox drummondi
Linaria aporinoides splendens Senecio
Lupinus hartwegii Silybum marianum
Tropaeolum peltophorum
Garden Annuals
Asperula azurea setosa Omphalodes linifolia
Gypsophila elegans Papaver glaucum
Iberis coronaria empress P. rhoeas
Linaria maroccana and reticulata P. somniferum paeoniflorum
Nemophila insignis Rededa odorata

EA-PS. Bremer: Plant Cultivation

GROUP II.
Perennials
Achillea ptarmica Melandryum rubrum
Aconitum napellus Papaver nudicaule
Antennaria diorica Polemonium coeruleum
Arabis alpina Primula auricula
Campanula glomerata Sedum roseum
Chrysanthemum laucanthemum Saxifraga
Dryas octopetala Tanacetum vulgare
D. octopetala argentea Thalictrum adiantifolium
Epilobium Chamaenerian T. Aquilegifolium
Heracleum panaces Trollius (several kinds)
Viscaria alpina
Ferns
Dryopteris filix mas . Cystopteris fragilis
Cryptogramma crispa C. montana
Self-propagating Annuals
Viola tricolor Wittrockiana

EA-PS. Bremer: Plant Cultivation

POTATO, ROOT, AND OTHER CROPS
Potatoes
The potato is the main agricultural crop in Norway. So also is it at 70°
to 71° N. latitude, where it yields a satisfactory crop in protected places.
The director of the agricultural experimental station near Tromsø estimates
a crop of 16,000 kg. per hectare as the average. But it is possible by intensive
farming to obtain a far better yield, up to 25,000 kg. per hectare. Such a result
can be achieved only by forcing the tubers before planting, and, near 70° N. lati–
tude, only at the most favorable places. Prior to World War II, potatoes had
been raised on a farm in Tana for a period of twenty years on an area of approxi–
mately 9 hectares, the average yield per hectare being 17,500 kg. The yearly crop
varied between 12,000 and 32,000 kg. per hectare. The determining factor in potato
growing is frost. With an early freeze in mid-August, the growing period becomes
too short. Under such conditions an early and high-yielding variety (Le Vernon)
must be planted to obtain the above crop, and all cultivating must be properly per–
formed at the right time. The dry-matter content varied considerably from one
year to another, from a low of 16% up to 23%. The potatoes were often low in
mealiness, of a firm consistency, and had an exceptionally fine flavor, which is
true of all plant food grown in Finnmark. But even up to the Arctic Sea near 71°
N. latitude potatoes are cultiva l ted, where the yield is approximately 10,000 kg.
per hectare. The content of dry matter is a little lower than normal l . Grown
on light, warm, and sandy land the potatoes have a content of vitamin C nearly
as high as those grown in the southern part of Norway.

EA-PS. Bremer: Plant Cultivation

Roots
Turnips and carrots are the main root crops. As the agricultural experi–
mental station at Tromsø (69° 40′ N.lat.) the yield of three Norwegian turnip
varieties, for an average of nine years (1932-40), was:
Variety Root yield,
kg./ha.
Dry matter, % Leaves,
kg./ha.
Brunstad 54,000 8.2 30,000
White May from Forus 37,000 12.8 27,000
Petrowsky (Målselv) 47,000 8.4 21,000
These turnip varieties are generally used for food. The quality is good,
and the two last-mentioned varieties keep very well in storage during the winter.
The carrot ( daucus carota ) is not generally grown on a large scale, but in
small gardening it is an important crop. In carrots the tendency of bolting is
not very great, and carrots are, therefore, sown as soon as it is possible to cul–
tivate the land. The time of sowing, however, differs greatly from one year to
another and also from the coast line to the inner parts of the country. I mention
from two experiments made in 1937: On [: ] one plot near Hammerfest (western Finn–
mark) the date of sowing was May 4, and the date of harvesting was September 28.
Another plot was at Sandnes in South Varanger (eastern Finnmark), and the dates
of sowing and harvesting were, respectively, June 1 [: ] and September 20. In both
cases the variety Mantes gave the best result. It was, indeed, a satisfactory
result — in the first case 39,000 kg. roots per hectare and, in the latter,
35,000 kg. per hectare.
Naturally, the yields differ greatly. The experimental plots have produced
anything from 5,000 up to 40,000 kg. per hectare. At 70° N. latitude, with good

EA-PS. Bremer: Plant Cultivation

growing conditions, we can count upon 20,000 kg. per hectare as an average. The
storage of the carrots in this part of the country is not a great problem. They
are easily kept in cellars until mid-summer of the next year. They are still
fresh and crisp and have an excellent taste when they have been stored in moist
sand.
There are examples of satisfactory yields of rutabag ( Brassica napus rapifera )
and beets ( Beta vulgaris rubra ) directory sown. After being forced in frames and
then transplanted in the field, the plants develop better and more evenly.
Radishes ( Raphanus raphanistum ) are, of course, the earliest root crop and in
open land may be ready for harvesting about July 10.
Other Vegetables
The vegetable most in demand which can be grown at 70° N. latitude is summer
cabbage ( Brassica oleracea ). The varieties used are Erstling (conical), Early
Ditmarsker (globular), June Giant (globular), and Copenhagen Market (globular).
The earliest strains of cauliflower ( Brassica botrytis ), such as varieties of
Erfurter dwarf, do well, and so does green curled kale ( Brassica o. acep y h ola).
Heads of summer cabbage of 2 to 3 kgs. weight are not unusual. Cauliflowers
may be quite heavy, too, 1/2 to 1 kg. By growing the plants in soil pots before
planting one may get a good crop of the cabbage variety King of July, which
is a later variety than those [: ] mentioned above. King of July is well suited
for storing during the winter.
Salad and spinach crops also grow well in the land of the midnight sun,
where for a period of 10 to 12 weeks there are 24 hours of daylight. The follow–
ing crops are easy to grow:

EA-PS. Bremer: Plant Cultivation

Lettuce ( Lactuca sativa ), spinach ( Spinacea oleracea ), mangel ( Beta vul
garis cicla ), parsley ( Petroselinium hortense fol. cirspum ). The quality of
these crops is very good.
Sugar peas ( Pisum sativum ) will give some yield, but only the very earliest
ones, such as the Norwegian variety Early sword.
As for the perennial vegetable crops, some are very hardy and useful in
this part of the country. To be mentioned in this connection are: chives
( Allium schoenoprasum ), Welsh onion ( A. fistuloseum ), caraway ( Carum carvi ), and
rhubarb ( Rheum cultorum ).
Berries
Berries that grow wild in this region are: Crowberries ( Empetrum nigrum ) and
blueberries ( Vaccinium uliginosum and V. meptillus ). Molte ( Rubus shamaenorus ) is
a very important wild fruit. Red currant ( Ribes rubrum ) may be found growing wild,
and it is also the only berry cultivated to some extent. Red current ripens usually
during the first days of September. Wild raspberry is quite frequent ( Rubus idaeus ).
Garden varieties of raspberry are so far being planted only experimentally.
Cereals
The growing of cereals is limited to the most favorable districts. From
the last agricultural statistics we find that the area of barley is only 2.9
hectares. Early barley, raised for grain, was formerly grown to some extent in
the western parts of the province. Experience gained during the last 30 years
or so, show that about every third year a freeze prevents the grain from maturing
to viability. In good years the yeidl yield is generally between 2,500 and 3,000 kg. per
hectare. Most likely the growing of cereals will be extended when new Norwegian

EA-PS. Bremer: Plant Cultivation

early varieties are [: ] released for the market. The most common crop grown for
green forage is oats, giving 25,000 to 30,000 kg. green matter per hectare or
20 to 25% dried green feed.
Natural Meadows and Cultivated Rotational Hayfields
Along the coast there is little sunshine, and there people make their living
chiefly from the sea, occasionally, however, gathering feed for one cow, a few
goats or sheep. The hayfields are generally small stretches of natural meadows,
cleared and leveled, and intensely fertilized with seaweed, fish offal, and other
fertilizer. These meadows have a very close turf, yielding 4,000 to 5,000 kg. per
hectare of first-grade hay. The predominant plants are either meadow [: ] grass
( Poa pratensis ) or bent grass ( Agrostis tenius ), more or less intermixed with weeds,
mostly Ranunculus spp.
Most of the soil, and also the best quality soil, as well as the most favor–
able climatic conditions are found in the innermost parts of the fjords and in
the lower parts of the valleys, from ebb-tide mark up to the marine border 20 to
30 meters above sea level. Most important is the raising of hay. As more pro–
gressive farming is being introduced, the natural meadows are gradually being
replaced by cultivated, rotational hayfields.
Timothy ( Phleum pratense ) is the most important cultivated grass. The best
types are high-yielding and winter-hardy. When cut at time of blooming they
produce, without fertilization, crops of 7,000 to 8,000 kg. per hectare for a
period not exceeding 4 years. With adequate fertilization every year, the yield
may be kept at a satisfactory level for up to 6 years. Red clover and alsike

EA-PS. Bremer: Plant Cultivation

clover do well on warm clay slopes, but do not thrive in the flatlands, pre–
sumably because the soil is too cold. The native white clover often grows
abundantly in the meadows and in cultivated pastures.
Indigenous grasses are inferior to timothy and the other types used in
cultivated hayfields. In natural meadows, on the other hand, they are of great
value. On a farm in Tana, an average annual crop of 3,800 kg. of hay per hectare
was harvested on approximately 150 hectares in the period 1918-39, the crop
varying between 3,000 and 5,000 kg. per hectare. All fields are cut only once,
the precipitation generally being insufficient for a rapid regrowth. Late in
the autumn, however, they may provide some pasturage.
Plant Cultures under Glass
In those districts where the summer is short, cultivation under glass in useful.
By means of frames and glass houses it is possible to get early vegetables and flowers
while the snow is still deep outside. Near the towns the gardeners are building more
and more modern greenhouses for cultivation in summertime of tomatoes and cucumbers;
in wintertime of tulips, convalles, and scalear; in springtime, roses, stocks,
pelargonia, hortensia, and later on carnation, gladiolus, lathyrus mm.; and in autumn,
after the tomatoes are harvested, chrysanthemum, primula, cyclamen, and begonia. The
tomato plant is, of course, most important. It thrives well in the land of the mid–
night plant is, of course, most important. It thrives well in the land of the mid–
night sun and produces crops almost as large as farther south, yielding up to 12 to 14
kg. of ripe fruit per meter.
The town of Tromsø had formerly only two small nurseries. Now there are six nur–
series, mostly with modern greenhouses heated by coal, oil, or electricity. The
towns north of 70° N. latitude will soon follow the example of Tromsø.
A. H. Bremer

Polar Agriculture and Horticulture in the U.S.S.R.

EA-Plant Sciences (V. J. Tereshtenko)

POLAR AGRICULTURE AND HORTICULTURE IN THE U.S.S.R.

CONTENTS
Page
Introduction 1
Boundaries 2
Natural Zones 6
Tundra 8
Taiga 11
Trasbaikal Region 14
Far East Mountain Zone 16
Mountain Region of Northeastern Siberia 17
Sakhalin 19
Kamchatka 21
Characteristic Features 23
Agriculture Before the Revolution 28a
Agriculture After the Revolution 33
Contribution of Soviet Science and Recent Developments 43
Early Experiments 43
Soil Theories 45
Michurin Theory 46
Lysenko Theory 50
Effect of Theories 54
Policy of the Government 60
Conclusions 64
Bibliography 67

EA-Plant Sciences
(V. J. Tereshtenko)

POLAR AGRICULTURE AND HORTICULTURE IN THE U.S.S.R.
MAPS
With the manuscript of this article, the author submitted one map
for possible use as an illustration. Because of the high cost of repro–
duction, this map will be retained with the original manuscript at The
Stefansson Library.

EA-Plant Sciences
(V. J. Tereshtenko)

POLAR AGRICULTURE AND HORTICULTURE IN THE U.S.S.R.
Introduction
Three different connotations may be attached to the term “polar agri–
culture” as used in the U.S.S.R. at present (1950). According to the first
one, the demarcation line between polar and nonpolar agriculture is drawn by
geographical factors only. Accordingly, any development in the agriculture
of the Soviet Far North may be related to the subject of Soviet polar agri–
culture even if it is not rooted in the specifically polar conditions.
The second interpretation of polar agriculture places the main emphasis
on recent developments in agrobiology and agrotechnique, which evolve new
methods and tools of developing and extending agriculture in those northern
regions in which it could not formerly be practiced. Under this concept of
polar agriculture, the experiments on, say, frost-resisting fruit trees
conducted in agricultural stations in central Russia, and at a given moment
having no direct bearing on actual spreading of this or that variety in the
North, may also be referred to as work on problems of polar agriculture.
In a third connotation which may be attached to the term polar agricul–
ture, it may be regarded as one of the phases of the Soviet Government’s
crusade for economic adaptation of the northern territories of the U.S.S.R.

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

to the agricultural needs of the country. The series of political, social,
economic, and cultural measures undertaken by the Soviet Government for
such developmental purposes constitutes the basis of an analysis of polar
agriculture as so understood.
Strictly speaking, no matter from which one of these three possible
angles polar agriculture is approached, the term as such makes for confusion.
However, once the data from all three possible approaches are collected and
integrated, the concept of polar agriculture evolves as a specific field of
knowledge and development, to which perhaps more importance is attached in
the U.S.S.R. than in any other country in the world.
Boundaries
The problem of polar agriculture is made so important in the U.S.S.R.
by, first of all, geographical factors. About 23% of the entire area of
the Soviet Union lies beyond the Arctic Circle — not that this has, of
itself, any particular significance for us. The territory of the permafrost,
if its southern frontiers are extended to included also the area with per–
petually frozen “islands” within the territory of annually thawed ground,
covers about 47% of the area of the U.S.S.R. The southern boundary of the
permafrost runs approximately, from west to east, from north of the town of
Mezen to Beresovo on the Ob, thence to the mouth of the Nizhniaia Tunguska;
there it turns southward along the east bank of the Yenisei and into Mon–
golia; it reenters the U.S.S.R. in the region of Blagoveschensk and proceeds
into northern Kamchatka. In some places the boundary of permafrost has re–
treated northward in recent years: for instance, a retreat of about 25 miles

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in the U.S.S.R.

was recorded near the city of Mezen, formerly located on the southern border
of the permafrost region.
Any attempt to determine the exact geographical area of polar agricul–
ture by including in it only the agriculture beyond the Arctic Circle would
be ill-founded, as would delineation of its frontiers in the south by the
southern boundary of permafrost. On one hand, the application of the term
polar agriculture to agriculture only beyond the polar circle would narrow
its concept contrary to established practice; on the other hand, the extension
of the term to cover agriculture in the whole area of permafrost would mean
the inclusion of regions which are not spoken of in Soviet literature as
regions of polar agriculture. As to the northern boundary, a early as 1944
J. Eikhfeld, head of the All-Union Institute for Plant Growing, made the fol–
lowing statement [translation]: “In the time of the Soviets the boundary of
agriculture in some sectors of the Far North moved a few hundred kilometers
to the north of its boundary prior to the Revolu a tion. In some places a
start was made in the cultivation of potatoes and vegetables at 70° N. lati–
tude, and of grains at 68° N. latitude. The so-called “northern boundary
of agriculture” has disappeared at present. Agriculture develops, in one form
or another, everywhere the Soviet people appear: in the taiga, the tundra,
and even on the islands of the polar seas. Hothouse cultivation and even
animal husbandry develop on the well-known polar island of Dickson …
At the bay of Tiksi (the Lena), vegetables are cultivated not only in hot–
houses but also in the open. On the peninsula of Taimyr, at Dudinka and
Norilsk, not only cabbage and turnips, but also potatoes, carrots, and beets
are successfully grown.”

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in the U.S.S.R.

With ever-changing frontiers in the north, and the lack of a precise
natural demarcation line in the south, the area of polar agriculture may be
identified more accurately with the area of the Soviet “Far North.” It is
true that the southern boundaries of this Far North, especially in its far–
eastern part, reach so far to the south that not only natural conditions but
also administrative policies are clearly seen behind the Decree of the Coun–
cil of People’s Commissars of the R.S.F.S.R. of September 8, 1931, which
dealt with the economic development of the northern regions, segregated
under the name of the Far North a number of regions and territories, and
drew its frontiers. According to the decree, an area of about 2,224,000,000
acres with a population of about 1,000,000 (including 160,000 aborigines)
was included in the Far North. In terms of administrative jurisdiction of
1931, the territory included the following:
In the Leningrad Region: Murmansk district.
In the Northern Region: Nents National Area and the districts of Mezen
and Leshukonsk.
In the Komi Region: districts of Udorsk, Troitsko-Pechorsk, Ozhomo–
Pechorsk, and all islands of the Arctic in that section.
In the Ural Region: Iamal-Nents National Area.
In the Western Siberian Region; districts of Porabelsk, Karachagozh,
Kolpashevsk, and Alexandro-Vakhovsk
In the Eastern Siberian Region: Taimyr (Dolgano-Nenets) National Area;
Turukhan Area; Khatanga National Area; Baunt and Severobaikalsk districts of
the Buriat-Mongolian A.S.S.R.
In the Far Eastern Region: Chukchi, Koriak, and Okhotsk National Areas;

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

Kamchatka and Sakhalin districts; Nizhne-Amursk, Giliak, Goldo-Samagir,
Sikhota-Alinsk, Dzhentulak, Sudzharo-Tok, Verhne-Selemdzinsk, Verkhne–
bureinsk, Sovieto-Tuminsk (Oroch), and Amuro-Tungus National Areas.
All of Yakutskaia A.S.S.R.
All islands in the Arctic, Okhotsk, Bering and Kamchatka seas.
In 1932, the Gosplan (Central State Planning Agency) reckoned the area
of the Far North, excluding the islands, at about 2,453,000,000 acres. Numer–
ous changes in the boundaries and administrative subdivisions of the above–
mentioned regions have taken place since 1931. In 1944, J. Eikhfeld estimated
the area of the Far North at “over 40%” of the territory of the U.S.S.R. —
that is, over 2,157,000,000 (The area of the U.S.S.R. after 1939 was
21,837,900 square kilometers (5,393,700,000 acres).) acres, while Khrapal
in one of the publications of the Bureau of Economic Research of Glavsevmor–
put in 1940 indicated 2,520,000,000 acres (or 47% of the U.S.S.R.) as the
area of the Far North of that year. The boundaries of the Far North crossed
regions which constituted larger entities for agricultural statistical
reports; yet the territory of the Far North constitutes the nearest entity
around which it is possible to center any over-all statistical survey of
Soviet polar agriculture.
While considerable information is available on agriculture in various
sections of the Far North, and also a rather detailed picture of the dynamics
of some of the individual phases of its development, there are no complete
over-all agricultural statistics available which pertain to the Far North as
a whole. After 1939 the Soviet Government ceased to release regularly any
detailed statistics in absolute figures. As for earlier periods, the Far
North has never constituted a separate region within the system of accepted

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

agricultural statistics; therefore, the statistical grouping of its various
subdivisions often varied from one report to another. Under these conditions
the task of comparing and summing up available data for the Far North as a
whole becomes [: ] extremely difficult, if not impossible, to any foreign student
of Soviet polar agriculture who has no access to the unreleased data of the
Central planning Agency of the U.S.S.R. (Gosplan).
Natural Zones
Stretching as it does over an area larger than the United States, Great
Britain, Belgium and Japan all put together, the Soviet Far North does not
present a picture of a homogeneous region from the standpoint of the natural
factors which are important to agricultural production. But if one applies
the term “natural region” or “natural zone” to areas characterized by certain
combination and interactions of topography, soil, climate, vegetative cover,
and fauna, one may find in the Far North the following regions into which
L. S. Berg, President of the All-Union Geographical Society of the U.S.S.R.,
divides the territory of the Soviet Union:
The lowlands: —
the tundra and the taiga (a subzone of the temperate forest
zone) and,
The mountain zones: —
the Transbaikal region, the mountains of the Far East, the
mountains of northern Siberia, Sakhalin, Kamchatka, and the
mountains of the Arctic
The tundra may be subdivided into arctic, shrub, and southern tundras
(the three together being referred to by Berg as “tundra proper”), and
a transitional subzone of wooded tundra. Considered from east to west,
the southern boundary of the tundra proper runs from the southern end of

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

Kola Inlet to the lower course of the Ponoy. The Kanin Peninsula is covered
with tundra as far as 67° N. latitude, beyond which the boundary crosses the
Pechora River at Pustozersk, the Gulf of Ob and Tax Bay at 67° N. latitude,
and the Yenisei north of Dudinka. Thence it proceeds to the mouth of the
Khatanga, the delta of the Lena, Nizhne-Kolymsk, and about the middle of the
Anadyr, where it turns toward Gizhiga and the Parapolski Vale which connects
Kamchatka with the continent. North of this boundary are, at most, only
local timbered tracts.
The territory between the tundra and the southern boundary of the Far
North is occupied by the taiga. Its eastern frontier starts at the Lena River
at about 60° N. latitude. From here it follows its course at a distance of
almost 100 to 500 miles east of the river, crosses the Aldan at approximately
135° W. longitude, then follows first the Aldan River and then again the Lena
at a distance of about 100 miles to their east.
As for the Transbaikal region located east of Lake Baikal, only its
northern and northeastern parts are found within the Far North. The natural
mountain region of northeastern Siberia includes the Verkhoiansk, Cherski,
and Kolyma (Gydan) ranges as well as the Chukotsk Peninsula heights. Although
the Far East mountain zone covers the Amur Basin territory (except for the
Shilka and Argun basins), only its northern part is within the Far North’s
boundary. Also, the system of ranges in the upper reaches of the Aldan River
and its tributary Maia belong to this region. Franz Josef Land, northern
Novaya Zemlya, Severnaya Zemlya, and Bennett Island are in the natural mountain
region of the Arctic.
Together with Sakhalin and Kamchatka, each one of the natural zones offers

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

different conditions for agricultural development. The “ice region” of
the arctic mountains, with an average temperature of 32°F. (0°C.) in the warmest
month, the New Siberian Islands, other northern island, the arctic tundra in
the delta of the Lena, the Ob-Yenisei Peninsula, and the northern parts of
Taimyr and Iamal peninsulas all present obstacles of great dimensions so far
as the northward march of agriculture is concerned. Either these barriers
have not been surmounted as yet, or they have been surmounted in only a few
isolated instances which are important from a theoretical viewpoint but of
no great significance from the standpoint of immediate prospects for rapid
development of polar agriculture in these regions. However, the tundra’s vast
territory and the variety of factors to be considered therein do not allow any
similar generalization to be made regarding polar agriculture in the tundra
as a whole.
Tundra . This zone, including the transitional subzone of forest tundra,
occupies 14.7% of the U.S.S.R. Its soils are extremely diverse. Peaty gley
(gray mineral soil), peat bog, and podsolic soils are the most widespread,
and the peat cover is never very thick. Considerable areas are overspread
with low earth hillocks. The annual precipitation in the tundra is small;
owing to the lower temperature, the rate of evaporation is low, and a negli–
gible quantity of moisture passes into the atmosphere. Permanently frozen
subsoil limits surface water drainage during the thaw, and vegetative decom–
position proceeds very slowly. While the bog-type soil formation is most
characteristic of the tundra, the numerous boggy areas are intermingled with
large dry ones.

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

The chief features of the tundra’s climate are long cold winters, short
summers, and low precipitation. Climates of the European tundra as well as
of the tundra east of the Kolyma River are milder than the climate of the tundra
lying north of central Siberia. Moreover, in many places in the tundra the
winters are less cold than in central Siberia. For instance, Sagastyr at the
mouth of the Lena, is about 25°F. warmer in January than Verkhoiansk. Never–
theless, temperatures below 40°F. have been recorded in the tundra. The
average period of time with temperatures below freezing point increases from
six months in the west to nine months toward the east. In northeastern Siberia
a mean daily temperature below 14°F. is maintained from the middle of October
to the middle of April. The ground is frozen during most of the year and the
subsoil is permanently frozen. In summer it is warm enough to thaw the surface
for a month or two and then the ground becomes waterlogged. During two months
only, the summer temperature approaches 50°F.; on the northern Taimyr Peninsula
only ten days have a temperature over 41°F. in an average year. The yearly
temperature range in the tundra is relatively small. The frost period, a time
when no thawing takes place, lasts from a half year in the European to eight
months and longer in the Asiatic part of the tundra.
The average mean annual precipitation in the tundra in most areas ranges
between 8 and 12 inches. It decreases from about 16 inches on the Kola penin–
sula to between 8 and 12 inches for the rest of the tundra, with only 4 inches
at the delta of the Lena. Maximum precipitation occurs in the later part of
summer and the minimum in February through March. Despite spares precipitation,
it rains often. Snow may fall during any month but the small quantity does not
prevent the ground from freezing. Snow covering is slight, partly owing to

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

very strong winds which occasionally attain speeds of 90 miles per hour in
some parts of the coastal areas. Throughout the year the sky is rather
cloudy and there is little sunshine, although during summer the maximum in–
tensity of direct insolation of the earth’s surface in the tundra is no less
than in the tropics. In general there is plenty of light during the growing
period to support vegetation, but not enough heat.
From the standpoint of vegetation, the tundra represents a huge unforested
expanse with a covering predominantly of mosses and lichens. The tundra
proper’s southern boundary coincides approximately with the 50°F. (10°C.)
July isotherm, beyond which trees are usually unable to survive. The total
number of all tundra vascular plants is relatively small, most of them being
perennial, low, dwarfed herbs or shrubs. There are few bulbous or tuberous
plants. Summer temperature is the basic factor which controls plant life in
the tundra. The vegetative period in the typical tundra lasts about three
months; it decreases to only two months in the west Siberian arctic tundra.
Except for the Kola Peninsula, permanent ground frost is found throughout
the tundra even in summer, at depths down to 2 meters. Despite this, the
soil’s upper layer is heated sufficiently to permit plentiful plant growth.
As peat is a less effective heat conductor than mineral soils, permafrost
is found in the peat bogs much farther south than in the clays and sands.
However, permafrost provides an advantage for vegetation in the tundra by
preserving moisture in the soil. Furthermore, some Soviet specialists
point out that ice water, or ice dissolved in water, has the property of
stimulating plant growth.
Some natives of the tundra also utilize permafrost to conserve their

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

food stocks, often for a considerable period of time. For example, in the
Indigirka Basin, they dig food storage cellars which easily maintain a tem–
perature of 23°F.
The reindeer is the most important representative of the animal kingdom
of the tundra. It is used as a draft animal, it provides a highly nourishing
meat, and its hide is utilized for tent covering, clothing, and footwear.
Taiga . In contrast to the tundra, the natural features of the taiga
zone offer much better opportunities for agricultural development. The soil,
climate, vegetation, and fauna along its southern frontiers, which run well
south almost everywhere, are highly diverse. The taiga’s predominant soils
are podsols in different stages of development, and are diverse in physical
composition. Soils of the bog type (particularly peat and bog soils combined
with podsolic soils), clay and clay-loam, and sandy soils are important. Some
are poor, acid soils, usually associated with sands, and these present an
important problem in agriculture. Bog and marsh soils are found most fre–
quently north of 60° N. latitude, but are rare in eastern Siberia, where the
higher land is better drained. In the Lena’s middle valley and its tributary
from the west, the Vilyui, saline soils are common. The taiga’s forest cover
impedes evaporation, which keeps the ground moist and provides sufficient
water to cause leaching. The forest gives rise to a very acid “raw humus”
which decomposes slowly and accumulates as a layer of peaty material above
the mineral soil.
As a climatic region the taiga of the Far North covers such a great area
that considerable subdivision is possible. Two broad areas, divided by the
Yenisei, may be distinguished: the western taiga and the eastern taiga.

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

The taiga as a whole is characterized by cold, long winters, with January
averaging 20°F. in the west (Kola peninsula) and −50°F. in the Lena region,
and warm summers with July and August temperatures averaging between 50° and
60°F The severity of the winters increases from the west. In the major
portion of the Far Northern taiga, the dates on which the mean daily tempera–
ture passes above 32°F. are not earlier than May 1, while in its very northern
parts this date falls on June 1. In the western taiga sudden temperature
changes are frequent in winter. East of the Urals, readings of −40°F. are
often recorded. The rivers are frozen for long periods and rarely thaw
before April. For example, the Yenisei is free at Turukhansk for only 186
days in the year.
In the eastern taiga clear skies and frequent calm conditions intensify
winter frigidity. On the northern Taimyr Peninsula there are only ten days
a year with a temperature over 41°F. In northeastern Siberia a mean daily
temperature below 14°F. is maintained steadily from the middle of October to
middle April. Nowhere does the temperature in January exceed 15°F., while
−58°F. is not unusual at Yakutsk. The lowest temperature ever observed,
−90°F., was recorded at the Cold pole near Verkhoiansk in February 1892.
Under the intense frost, with 231 days a year having temperature below
freezing, at Verkhoiansk deep fissures open in the ground and trees are
frozen “as hard as iron.” Nevertheless, man finds this winter quite sup–
protable because of the dryness and purity of the air, clear skies, and only
very light winds. Away from the Cold Pole the temperature rises in all di
rections and the January isotherms from a circle in the Verkhoiansk region.
The average July temperature of 66.2°F. at Yakutsk is the highest for

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

any place of that latitude; at Verkhoiansk it is 59.7°F. In both places
the absolute range is greater than anywhere else in the world. Moreover
in one day a temperature of 95°F. may be reached, with a drop to 41°F.after
sunset. In the eastern taiga as a whole, July temperatures often exceed 86°F.
The summers, however, are short, lasting only about 70 days at Verkhoiansk.
The [: ] insolation is high and increases northward, the cloud cover being
much less than in the western taiga . During the day, the sun’s rays may be
so hot in Yakutai and the nights so clear that haymaking is often done after
sunset.
Precipitation in the eastern taiga is generally sparse, from 6 to 14
inches per year. But the rate of evaporation, owing to the cold climate, is
also low. The precipitation averages 7.3 inches at Yakutsk, 5 inches at
Verhoiansk, and between 6 and 10 inches in the basin of the middle Lena,
with a maximum everywhere in July and August. However, in the Olekminsk
District, the summer rains are so scarce that irrigation is necessary for
agricultural plantings. The snowfall in the eastern taiga is much less than
in the western. In Yakutia, from November to April, the snowfall is only from
7 to 12 inches a month, while in western Siberia, along the lower Ob, the
depth of snow cover may reach 35 inches and more. The severe winter with
bare ground permits the soil to be frozen to very great depths, while in
the short summer it thaws out only in the surface layers. The presence of
the frozen layer in dry places during summer provides humidity for plant roots
and permits crop-growing in central Yakutia.
Vegetation of the Far Northern taiga is characterized by predominance

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

of coniferous forests. In the European part, spruce are the dominant trees.
In western Siberia, the basic forest-forming species are cedar, Siberian
larch ( Larix sibirica ), fir, Siberian spruce ( Picea obovata ) and Siberian
stone pine ( pinus cembra sibirica ). The urami , a mixture of marsh and
forest, covers large areas. In the eastern taiga, where forests extend
farther north than in any other part of the U.S.S.R., the basic species is
the Dahurian larch ( Larix dahurica ). Also there are forests of pure pine,
pine with larch, and Japanese stone pine ( Pinus pumila ). The ground is
often covered with mosses and lichens.
Squirrel ( Sciurus ), marten ( Martes ), elk ( Alces alces ), sable ( Martes
zibellina ), wild reindeer ( Rangifer tarandus ), varying hare ( Lepus timidus ),
fox ( Vulpes ), and brown bear ( Ursus arctos ) are characteristic of the taiga
animal kingdom.
Transbaikal Region . In its relief the natural mountain zone of the
Transbaikal does not consist of elevations in the form of clearly expressed
crests. Instead, the mountains of this region usually have the appearance
of flat and wide watershed plateaus, dissected by erosion into peaks and ridges.
In the Patom River basin lies the Patom upland with a mean elevation from 850
to 1,050 meters. Northwest from the Yablonovyi Range spreads the Vitim Plateau,
composed chiefly of granites and gneiss granites.
The climate and vegetation of the Transbaikal region are diverse and un–
usual, as this is an area in which the taiga lies adjacent to the Monogolian
steppes. Warm summer with maximum precipitation in July are characteristic
of Transbaikal. The summer, with an average temperature over 50°F., continues
for about 120 days; the winter, with a mean temperature below 32°F., from 160

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

to 180 days. The annual precipitation is around 12 inches, of which from 80%
to 90% arrives in the warm period. The duration of the vegetation period is
140 days on the average.
The winter is characterized by clear skies and calmness. No other place
in the U.S.S.R. has such clear winter skies as Transbaikal. Transparency of
the air is such that in some places the contours of mountain crests can be
clearly distinguished from a distance of 37 miles. The duration of insolation
is very great. For instance, in Akatui it is 72% of the duration possible
annually, the sun shining 85% of the number of hours possible in March and 59%
in July. Here there are only 23 days a year on the average when the sky is
covered with clouds all days long. Abundant insolation contributes greatly to
good grain harvests in the years when the annual distribution of precipitation
is favorable. At the same time, the lack of a sufficiently thick and long–
staying snow cover makes it impossible to plant and grow winter crops or peren–
nial herbs, since their roots are usually frozen by the end of the first winter
Here, also due to the peculiarities of the climate, it is considered highly
unadvisable to plow fallow land in the fall since the tilled soli easily loses
all its moisture in the dry air of a snowless winter. July and August rains
contribute to successful cultivation of vegetables and tu b erous plants.
The differences in the altitude of mountain ranges create the vertical climatic
zones of steppes, forests, and alpine vegetation in the Transbaikal region.
At [: ] elevations of 1,600 to 3,300 feet there are usually steppes; from 3,000
to 4,000 feet there is forest steppe; higher up is mountain taiga; the sub–
alpine zone extends from 6,000 to 7,000 feet, where it is replaced by the al–
pine zone. Agriculture does not extend beyond 3,000 to 3,600 feet. While in

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

the southern part of the Transbaikal region larch ( Larix ) and Japanese stone
pine ( Pinus pumila ) are characteristic of the forests, in the region’s
northern part, located within the Far North, forests of Dahurian larch ( Larix
dahurica ) predominate, often with undergrowth of Dahurian rhododendron ( Rho
dodendron dahuricum) reaching 8 feet in height. Forests of birch, pine, and
aspen are also found. The herbaceous cover consists mostly of cowberry ( Vac
cinium vitis - idaea ) and crystal tea ledum ( Ledum palustre ). In the steppe
zone p olyn grass ( Artemisia ), capillary feather grass ( Stipa capillata ), and
wheat grass ( Agropyron pseudagropyron ), which is a very valuable fodder crop,
are among the most prominent plants. Lichens and herbaceous plants of al–
pine type from dry meadows in the mountains.
The fauna of the Transbaikal region is characterized by the same inter–
mixture of forms as is the vegetation. Wolf ( Canis lupus ), suslik ( Citellus
spp.), mountain sheep ( Ovis nivicola ), reindeer, elk, squirrel, sable, and
bear are common.
Far East Mountain Zone . No detailed climatic knowledge of this region
has been acquired as yet. Also, many of its geomorphologic features are
obscure. The monsoon type of climate characterizes the region, with moist,
cool winds from the sea in summer and cold winds from the land in winter.
The temperature drops considerably when the ice melts in the Okhotsk Sea.
At Aian, the July temperature reaches 63°F. (According to Berg, the warmest
month is August with a mean temperature of 54°F.)
In part of the mountain zone in the far east, located within the Far
North area, slightly podsolic stony soils predominate in some places with

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

patches of peat-bog soils. Bog and half-bog soils are common in the water–
shed plateau of the Stanovoi Range at elevations of 4,000 to 5,000 feet.
As to flora in the far-eastern mountain zone, there are found both
the east Siberian vegetation with predominance of Dahurian larch ( Larix
dahurica ), and the so-called Okhotsk vegetation, characterized by Yeddo
spruce ( Picea jezoensis ), Erman’s birch ( Betula ermani ), and [: ]Khingan fir
( Abies nephrolepsis ), Oak is developed east of the Bureia River. The
Asiatic white birch ( Betula platyphylla) is also found. Along the Amur,
the Korean pine ( Pinus koraiensis ) and deciduous forests extend approx–
imately to latitutde 50° N. The ocean’s proximity, scarcity of winter
precipitation, and cool summers do not allow the forest vegetation to rise high
up into the mountains
[: ]Himalayan black bear ( Selenarctos tibetanus ussuricus ), sable ( Martes
zibellina ) and musk deer ( Moschus moschiferus ), in addition to a number of
Manchurian animal forms in the southern part of the far-eastern mountain
region, are fauna representative of this zone.
Mountain Region of Northeastern Siberia . In the last twenty years, many
changes have been made in former conceptions of the topography in this part
of the Far North. According to S. S. Vaniushin, the summits of many moun–
tanis in the Verkhoiansk Range, between the viliui and Aldan rivers, have
the character of plateaus of table mountains The Oimekon Plateau in the
upper Indigirka does not exceed about 5,000 feet in elevation. The Cherski
Range is still not sufficiently known. The Kolyma or Gydan Range, along
the shore of the sea of Okhotsk, has an average elevation of about 5,000 feet.
Little is known of the soils in this region. Also, not much climatic

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

knowledge is available regarding the mountains of northeast Siberia. During
1917-18, according to meteorological observations conducted at the Mangazeisk
silver-lead deposit, at latitude 64° N., at an elevation of about 3,350 feet,
a large-scale inversion of temperature took place in winter. That year January
had a mean temperature of −20.2° F., while the mean for Yakutsk was −45.4°F.,
and the mean for July was around 47°F. There were 6.4 inches of precipitation
during the year of observation, with a maximum fall of 1.7 inches in August.
In the upper reaches of the Indigirka, on the Oimeken Plateau, temperatures
lower than −76°F. have been recorded.
Regarding vegetation, the Dahurian larch predominates in the Verkhoiansk
Range, with Mongolian, poplar ( Populus suaveolens ) in the foothill river valleys,
and small pine woods in some places. At higher levels is forest tundra of
recumbent birches ( Betula middendorfii and B. subtilis ), recumbent Japanese
stone pine ( Pinus pumila ), and a series of flowering herbaceous plants. In the
Chereki Range, where some Erman’s birch ( Betula ermani ) is also encountered,
the timber line, near the Arctic Circle, is at an elevation of around 2,100
feet. East of the Kolyma Basin, mountains are unforested, with the exception
of the upper course of the Anadyr and the middle course of the Main, where
larch forests are found. The northernmost outposts of the forests, in the
zone under consideration, [: ] are found along the right tributaries of the
Malyi Angui, where Dahurian, larch is encountered at latitude 69°N. Scat–
tered woods of Mongolian popular ( Populus suaveolens ), relict Korean willow
( Salix macropolepis ), white birch ( Betula cajanderi ), and Japanese stone pine
( Pinus pumila ) are found along the river valleys of the Anadyr Krai. Lichen
tundras and lands covered with talus predominate on the Chukotsk Peninsula.

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

There are many indications that, despite the severe natural conditions
in the zone as whole, considerable agricultural possibilities exist in the
valley lowlands, where a farmer can utilize the warm, long, sunny days in
summer to rear cattle and cultivate crops. Hear cattle are reared even in
the Indigirka and Kolyma valleys. An explanation for the possibility of
stock raising in there valleys of high latitudes is the occurrence, in many
places, of “islands of steppe” on slopes facing south with their surface soils
of chestnut-brown color, and a drier and milder climate than elsewhere. The
animals reared hear are usually a sturdy type of horse and the shaggy Mon–
golian yak ( Bos ( Poephagus ) grunniens ). The animal kingdom in this zone has
had scant study. Mountain sheep ( Ovis nivicola ), musk deer ( Moschus moschiferus ),
Kolyma suslik ( Citellus buxtoni ), black-capped bobac ( Marmota kamtschatica
bungei ), fox, squirrel, ermine, and the Amur lemming ( Lemmus amurensis ) are
known.
Sakhalin . A depression runs meridionally through the center of this
region while on both sides of it a mountain range rises, attaining 6,500 feet
in the east. The ranges decrease in elevation in the north, exposing this
part of Sakhalin to cold winds from the sea of Okhotsk. The ranges recede
from the shore toward the north and areas of lowland up to 19 miles wide are
found along the shore on the northern part of the island. South of latitude
52° N. in the middle of the island lies a lowland that is sheltered from winds,
has a relatively more continental climate than the coasts, and is drier and
better suited for agriculture than any other part of the island. Nevertheless,
even here the cold winter is adverse to the cultivation of winter grains.
Spring wheat, however, yields an excellent harvest.

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

The soils of Sakhalin belong to the podsolic, bog, and alluvial types.
The latter soils have a granular structure, are very fertile, and are under
cultivation in the central lowland of Sakhalin. They yield an excellent
wheat harvest. Permafrost is widespread on the island but is not continuous.
Considering the geographical position of the island, the climate of Sak–
halin is more severe than would be expected. The winters are frosty, windy,
and accompanied by heavy snowfalls. Summer is cold and foggy in the north
and east, while it is comparatively warm in the west, center and south. Gen–
erally the climate is milder in the central lowland, but even here tempera–
tures as low as −58°F. occur in winter, while the summer temperature may ex–
ceed 86°F.
In summer south and east winds are persistent; in winter the winds blow
from the cold continent. Skies are mostly, cloudy, and fogs are so frequent
that more than eight days of sunshine between June and September is considered
unusual on some parts of the island. The Sakhalin coast is famous for its
fogs which often last for weeks, but fogs are uncommon in winter. The yearly
precipitation is between 12 and 20 inches, the larger portion of which is
snow, much of it remaining on the mountains until the middle of August. In
spring there is a period of drought, while in summer and autumn there are
monsoon rains.
A large part of the island is covered with forests. The fallen, rotting
trees, the tangle of undergrowth, and the tall grass often make them impene–
trable. Spruce-fir forest predominates, often with an admixture of birch.
In places where climatic conditions are more favorable, fir, spruce, aspen,
birch, ash, maple, elm, poplar, and willow are common. In the north is a

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

mossy peat-bog tundra. Western Sakhalin is the only places in the U.S.S.R.
where bamboo in its wild form ( Sasa kurilensis ) is encountered. In the
flood plains herbaceous plants, such as groundsel ( Senecio cannibifolia ),
Kamchatka meadowsweet ( Filipendula kamtschatica ), Sakhalin knotweed ( Poly
gonum sachalinensis ), reed grass ( Calamagrostis ), reach heights of 10 to
13 feet.
Kamchatka . In surface structure Kamchatka is divided into two parallel
ranges extending in a north-northwest direction throughout the peninsula and
separated by a lowland through which the Kamchatka River flows. Between
the western range, sometimes called the central range, and the sea of Okhotsk
lies an unforested region which rises to elevations of 2,000 to 2,300 feet.
In the eastern range and along the shore of the Bering Sea there is a row
of active volcanoes, while some fifteen extinct volcanoes are on the western
side of the peninsula. Hot springs and geysers are associated with the vol–
canic zone. Where the peninsula joins the mainland, at latitude 60° N., is
a low tundra plateau, the Parapolski Dol. The entire peninsula is greatly
eroded. The soils of Kamchatka are of the podsolic, sodded meadow, and bog
types. The sodded-meadow soils in the Kamchatka River valley are the most
fertile. There is permanent ground frost in the northern part of the penin–
sula.
Because of the length of Kamchatka form north to south, there are con–
siderable differences in climate. In the peninsula’s interior the climate is
much more continental than along the coasts, and the west coast has a more
severe climate than the east coast. Due to the influence of the cold Kuril
current, winters are severe with heavy snowfalls and strong winds. Summer

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

weather is very changeable. Average yearly temperatures are low, with as
many as 199 days a year below the freezing point. At Petropavlovsk, on the
coast, the temperature ranges from about 54°F. in August to approximately
14°F. in February. In the peninsula’s interior summer is warmer and winter
colder, absolute maxima exceeding 86°F. and absolute minima reaching −58°F.
in the Kamchatka River valley. The vegetative period lasts from the end of
May or the first days of June to the first days of October, beginning in
the middle of May in the central part of Kamchatka.
Due to southern and eastern monsoons, southern Kamchatka has one of
the largest total annual precipitations in the U.S.S.R. — up to 40 inches
a year. Generally, the east coast is wetter than the west coast. While
the annual precipitation reaches 35 inches at Petropavlovsk, it is only 18
inches on the west coast at Bolsheretsk. In Petropavlovsk more than half
of the annual precipitation falls from August through October; January is
the driest month. There is relatively little precipitation in the valley
of the Kamchatka River. At Milkovo it toals about 14 inches a year. In
the interior of the peninsula there is also less cloudiness; for instance,
in summer there are almost no fogs in Milkovo, while along the coasts there
is snow, rain, or fog on most days of the year. Snow depths of seven feet
are not unusual on Kamchatka.
The flora of Kamchatka is poor, with only 800 to 850 species to be
found. Here, there are no forests like those of the Siberian taiga. Except
for the Kamchatka River valley and the west coast, Erman’s birch ( Betula
ermani ) is especially characteristic of the peninsula’s vegetation. It
covers the slopes up to 2,000 to 2,300 feet. In the valley of the Kamchatka

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

River are forests of Yeddo spruce ( Picea jezoensis ) and Dahurian larch ( Larix
dahurica ). At higher zones Japanese stone pine ( Pinus pumila ) and alder
( Alnus spp.) are common. Sweetberry honeysuckle ( Lonicera edulis ) is abundant;
its dark-blue edible fruits are gathered in large quantities by the local
population during July and August. Large thickets of Kamchatka meadowsweet
( Tilipendula kamtschatica ) are found in the valleys. This is a herbaceous
plant which grows 6 1/2 feet high in one month; its roots used to be stored
for the winter. Also, Kamchatka fritillary ( Fritillaria kamtschatcenis ) is
widespread. Its bulbs are rich in starch and sugar, with a taste resembling
chestnuts, and are cooked and eaten by the local population. In the central
valley of Kamchatka there are some excellent meadows with tall, luscious grass.
Agriculture, and especially the rearing of cattle and horses, is limited
mostly to the southern part of Kamchatka, although the inner valley of the
peninsula is said to be suitable for farming.
The fauna of Kamchatka has been studied very little and, while not rich
is rather diverse. Bear, wild reindeer ( Rangifer tarandus ), red fox ( Vulpes
vulpes ), ermine, and sable are encountered, as are herds of wild mountain
sheep ( Ovis nivicola ).
Characteristic Features
Climate . As may be seen from the description of the natural regions,
the conditions for the development of agriculture in the Soviet North are
diverse and vary from region to region. There are, however, a number of
problems which agriculture in this region faces everywhere, or at least in
the major portion of the territory. The chief natural obstacles that must

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

be surmounted are climatic difficulties associated with long cold winters,
short summers, and unseasonable frosts, and the comparatively high elevations
of considerable portions of the area.
Soils . The soils of the soviet North, taken as a [: ] whole , are not rich.
Ash-gray soils predominate; these are called podsols, from the Russian word
zola , meaning ash. The main [: ] feature of such soils is their upper layer,
which consists of ash-gray, sandy particles. A great deal of the darker sub–
stances, such as iron hydroxides and humus, have been carried downward to the
lower layers (soluble substances are carried down since the main movement
of the soil water is downward); this makes the soil acid. In the forest
zone the acidity is increased by an accumulation of pine needles. Acid soils
present an important problem for agricultural development in the Far North.
Humus accumulates slowly above the frost level and decays slowly owing to low
temperatures, and decomposition of organic matter is not extensive; hence
the need for rich manuring and liming of soils, as well as for mineral fer–
tilizers, especially potassium and phosphorus. With proper application of
mineral fertilizers, the drained marshland soils in the lowlands here proved
to be extremely fertile, yielding up to 500 centners of cabbage per hectare,
50 to 60 centners of hay. In the tundra, moss helps to maintain the frozen
soils, and in order to increase the thickness of the active soil the first
task is to strip off such coverings of moss and lichens.
In the northern forests, conifers often spread their roots horizontally.
This makes them unstable and accounts for the many fallen trunks which make
it difficult to traverse the forests.
The physical structure of the soils of the North is poor, hence the need
for more laborious tillage, great quantities of organic fertilizers, and the

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

planting of perennial herbs. The soils of the most northern parts are also
very deficient in those bacteria which produce in great quantities the
carbonic acid needed by plants. While in one cubic centimeter of the
soils in central Russia 3,000,000 and more of such bacteria are available
only a few scores of them, sometimes even less, are found in the soils of
the New Siberian Islands, thus slowing microbiological processes in the
soil of the islands.
Permafrost hinders the normal development of plants in spring and at
the beginning of summer; also it causes formation of bogs adversely influences natural drainage and deformation
of the soil. Nevertheless, in the regions with insufficient precipitation,
permafrost may serve also as a positive factor.
Light . Direct insolation decreases in a northward direction, but to a
certain extent this decrease is compensated at higher latitudes by indirect
insolation. Tests made at the experimental station in Khibiny, Kola Penin–
sula, indicated that plants absorb and utilize light during the dark hours
of the night. For instance, grains which were completely isolated from day–
light formed ears in the normal time, although the size of plants subjected
to “night light” only was below normal. In fact, the night light as an ad–
dition to daylight contributes to the development of many plants and the
increase of organic substance.
Long insolation during the summer at high latitudes is important for
polar agriculture. At latitude 55° N., the insolation increases from 13
hours, 2 minutes on April 1 to 16 hours on August 1. At latitude 65° N.,
the respective figures are 13 hours, 30 minutes and 19 hours, 25 minutes.
The sun does not set at all at latitude 67° N. from June 2 to August 12,

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

and between May 20 and July 24 at latitude 69° N. Long insolation raises
temperature, accelerates the development of numerous agricultural plants,
compensating for the short summer in the Far North, and shortens the length
of the normally required vegetative period. This is especially true in
regard to all cereals, carrots, certain types of lattuce, and some other plants.
On certain plants, such as spinach, winter rape, and Japanese turnip, the
effect of the long insolation is negative. Also the extensive insolation
has a bad effect on the formation of the subsurface parts of the plant.
Plant Growth . Some plants grow very slowly in high latitudes. For in–
stance, the polar willow on Novosibirskie Islands grows no more than one to
five millimeters a year and produces only two or three leaves a year. On
the same islands, however, the flowering plants grow rather fast. The long
rays of the solar spectrum (the orange rays in particular) produce a stronger
effect on the plant when the sun stays near to the horizon. In high latitudes
this speeds up the ripening of plants. Also, the low temperature of the soil
in spring may have a good effect on that stage of the plant development which
T. D. Lysenko calls the “thermic” or “vernalization” stage. As a result,
cereals ripen in the North in a shorter period and at temperatures under which
similar plants in the south do not ripen at all. Experiments have shown that
a few southern types of spring wheat and rye ripen at Khibiny, Kola Peninsula,
earlier than the same grains planted at exactly the same time in the valley of
the Kuban River in the south. Some varieties of oats which did not mature in
the Leningrad region began to yield in Khibiny.
Plants which grow in a creeping form are better adaptable to the conditions
of the North, since they are better protected against the cold by snow cover,

EA-PS. Tereshten t ko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

can better withstand strong winds, and vaporize less. Dwarf trees are common
in some parts of the North [: ] where birches as much as 200 years old may be
only a few feet in height.
So-called “physiological dryness” characterizes plants growing in the
most northern regions. The low temperature of water interferes with its cir–
culation; therefore, plants cannot have a normal vaporization, despite the
fact that there is plenty of water available — a condition similar to the
one found in deserts.
Under conditions of the polar regions some plants are liable to rather
unpredictable changes, transformations, and mutations. In 1944, J. Eikhfeld,
head of the All-Union Institute for plant growing, reported that strange
things happened with some of the vegetables planted at the experimental
station in Khibiny: some varieties of potatoes produced luxuriant tops but
no tubers; radishes, beets, and cabbages flowered but formed no roots; spinach
flowered but did not yield any leaves; some of the biennial tuberous vegetables
turned into one-year plants; and so on. The nature of the North thus shatters
the normal pattern of development of plants and produces material valuable for
the creation of desired types — a fact of far-reaching importance for the
selectionist. Cases were reported when the changed varieties combined charac–
teristics of mutually excluding species as, for instance, indications of
bearded and beardless grains at the same time.
Technology . Tilling land in the North often requires agricultural machines
of a different type than in other sections of the U.S.S.R. In particular,
special tractors are required to work on boggy soils in various regions of
the Far North. Some of the agricultural machines produced in the U.S.S.R. for

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

the needs of polar agriculture are reported to be unique - for instance,
the trench excavator for the work on marshes. Nevertheless, the quantity
of such machines is limited, and sometimes further improvement in their con–
struction is required. Also, transportation difficulties connected with the
delivery of fuel to some of the most northern regions are still insurmountable.
Availability of Lands Suited for Agriculture . The area of cultivated
land of the Far North had been so small in the past that, strictly speaking,
the whole present program of agricultural conquest is based on reclamation
of lands which have never been tilled previously. In the U.S.S.R. the area
of such lands is practically unlimited. In the Iamal o ø -Nenets region, for
instance, only 0.5% of the land suitable for agriculture is used at present,
and in the Igarka region only 2%. Not many such lands, however, can be
plowed immediately; in most cases reclamation work is first required. The
meadows and pastures along some of the great Siberian rivers render excel–
lent opportunities, although a great portion of them is flooded year after
year. Territory suitable for agriculture but occupied by Siberian forests
is immense, but first it must be cleared of those forests, the trees uprooted
and the shrubs cleared away. The area covered by burned forests — the
so-called gar — in the Berezov region of the Ostiako-Vogul district was
almost 2,500,000 acres in 1940, and in the Narym sk district more than 7,500,000
acres in 1936.
And yet, no matter how small, in comparison with the huge territory
which might be available after reclamation, the area which can be plowed
immediately, was found to be very large. For instance, recent land surveys
indicated about 225,000 acres of land available for immediate use in Ostiako-Vogul

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

district in 1940; about 1,500,000 acres in Narymsk district; 60,000 acres
in Turukhansk; about 50,000 acres in the middle course of the Aldan River;
27,000 acres in Sakhalin; around 167,000 acres in Kamchatka; and more than
3,500,000 acres in central Yakutia. If all this land were utilized, the
whole problem of agricultural self-sufficiency of the Far North could be
solved without waiting for the results of any reclamation works, especially
considering the sparsity of the population. It should be added that in the
general belief of Soviet specialists the decisive factor in the Far North
is not the physical properties of the soil, but the facilities afforded by
science for its cultivation. Idle lands on the Kola Peninsula formerly
considered unfit for polar agriculture have been made fertile and produc–
tive, as at Khibiny.
Agriculture Before the Revolution
As a specific phase of national economy and a branch of agricultural
science, polar agriculture did not exist prior to the Revolution of 1917.
At the same time, the question of the welfare of the local population (at
least as far as the revenues of the state treasury depended upon it), mili–
tary considerations (after the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 in particular), and
especially the problem of the colonization of Siberia, sporadically aroused
the interest of the government in the development of agriculture in the
northern and far-eastern provinces of the Russian Empire. Also, from the
beginning of the twentieth century, private initiative in the form of rapidly
growing dairy cooperatives in western Siberia opened new horizons to agri–
cultural development of the adjoining parts of the Far North.

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

The story of the first efforts to develop agriculture in the north and
northeast of Russia is centuries old, although none of the available accounts
treats the Far North in its present entity. Fishing and hunting were occu–
pations of inhabitants of the tundra from time immemorial. For centuries
reindeer breeding has been one of the main occupations of the people living
there and at the northern borders of the taiga, and the reindeer was con–
sidered an “all provider” by the natives. Almost 68% of the tundra is con–
sidered suitable for deer pasture in the summer; of this, 39% is also suitable
for winter grazing. At the end of summer the reindeer migrate southward
toward the forest border, and in spring a northward migration takes place.
Overgrazing presented the chief difficulty to reindeer breeders since lichens,
which are extremely slow-growing plants, may take ten years before re–
establishing themselves on the overgrazed land. Hence the frequent loss of
reindeer, dying from starvation in winter.
Cattle rearing in the Far North is much older than plant growing. The
Yakuts appear to have been pioneers both in cattle raising and in agriculture.
According to some historical records, they were driven from the rich grasslands
near the Caspian and Aral seas by the Mongols of Genghis Khan, and brought
with them the language and mode of life of steppe dwellers to the present land
of Yakutia. Their domestic animals were horses and cattle, and they continued
with their traditional type of animal husbandry in contrast to the reindeer
breeding of other peoples of the Far North. Yakuts for a long time have been
renowned for their production of bay. Apparently they started to till small
fields in the steppe islands of the river terraces much earlier than the 1730’s
when “Russian agriculture” in Yakutia is said to have begun. In 1731, fifty

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

Russian peasant families were sent there for settlement and were ordered by
the government to till the land; local monasteries were later urged to establish
and maintain farms. Many more peasants were sent Yakutia in the second half
of the eighteenth century to engage in agriculture, and some of the local of–
ficials started to experiment with various plants. By the first half of the
nineteenth century such experimental agriculture had acquired a mass character.
More than 2,300 acres were under cultivation in Yakutia in 1836, although the
major portion of crops was killed by frosts that year. In the 1890’s the plow–
land exceeded 61 16,000 acres. The yield, however, was irregular, reflecting
the fact that agriculture was dependent each year upon the severity of frosts.
The government forced the Yakuts to till the land constantly and made no
exemptions, even for the northern parts of the region. In 1842, for instance,
an order was given to the local Kolyma administration “to take vigorous measures
in order to urge Russian peasants and Yakuts to consider the cultivation of
potatoes obligatory.” Attempts to sow grains as far north as Sredne-Kolymsk
(not far from 66° N. lat.) were made as early as 1848. Erman mentions the
existence of agriculture at Oimekon which he visited in 1928. In 1812, the
administration ordered vegetable planting in Verhoiansk, where by the beginning
of the twentieth century fifteen vegetable gardens were recorded; not a trace
of them, however, was found by the time of the Revolution. Attempts to grow
vegetables were made even beyond the Arctic Circle, for instance, at Siktiakh and
Zhigansk on the lower Lena. The total area under tillage in Yakutia had
reached 100,000 acres by the time of the Revolution in 1917.
In Narymsk region, conquered by Russia in 1598, the sowing of grains is
traced back to about 1620. In the second half of the eighteenth century the

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

local administration began to keep records of the production. According to
these records, 1,350 acres were under cultivation in 1762; by 1898 the
acreage had increased to 6,400 acres, of which about 5,200 were in cereals
and 583 acres in potatoes.
The territory of the present Ostiako-Vogul district was occupied by the
Russians earlier than Narymsk region. Nevertheless, in the former region
agriculture developed slowly and by the end of the nineteenth century was
still in an experimental stage. The Yearbook of the Tobolsk Regional Museum
for 1907 mentions that the natives liked vegetables but in numerous places
did not plant them at all. The number of cattle, horses, and sheep in some
sections of Ostiako-Vogul district was large.
In Sakhalin attempts of the Imperial Government to implant agriculture
are traceable to the days when Sakhalin was made a place of exile at the begin–
ning of the second half of the nineteenth century. Although the first attempts
were failures, the experiments continued until they were rewarded with success.
Agriculture began to develop, but very slowly. Form 13.5 acres in 1862 the
area in various crops reached 6,097 acres in 1913; then again in decreased to
5,954 acres by 1917. That year a little more than 88% of the cultivated area
was in cereals, about 11% in potatoes, and 1% in vegetables.
In Kamchatka agriculture is traced to 1725-30. In a memorandum to the
senate, V. Bering mentioned attempts to cultivate rye and vegetables on the
peninsula at the time when he was there. The first fields were plowed in the
central valley of Kamchatka where the village of Kliuchi is located at present.
Attempts by natives to cultivate rye and barley on the western shores of the
peninsula were failures. Agriculture was introduced here by Prof. S. Krashenin–
nikov, who participated in the Siberian expedition of the Academy of Science

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

and visited Kamchatka in 1737-41. In 1743 a man named Borisov, who was
Kamchatka’s administrative head at that time, asked the government to send
Russian peasants to Kamchatka, and afterward twenty peasant families were
settled in the central valley of the peninsula. (According to some sources
the first group of peasant was settled in 1738.) In 1853, I. Bulychev
describing agricultural developments of Kamchatka stated that [translation]
“the experiments with agriculture conducted for more than one century showed
it is impossible to have it on Kamchatka.” However, he admitted that the
raising of vegetables at times had been successful.
In 1850, B. I. Zavoiko was appointed military governor of Kamchatka.
His measures to inculcate agriculture there were very energetic and at times
rather peculiar. A story is t o ld that when Zavoiko declared that the cultiva–
tion of plants was obligatory for the natives, his eager military subordinates,
in order to enforce the order effectively, ordered the slaughter of all hunt–
ing dogs in some villages so that the natives would adhere only tilling
the land and cease their traditional hunting. Parallel to such measures, how–
ever, Zavoiko did good work in disseminating the fundamentals of agricultural
knowledge among the natives by supplying them with seeds, etc. Some 1,600
acres were planted with rye in Kamchatka in 1900, yielding approximately
13,000 bushels.
A series of experimental plantings was made and an experimental dairy
farm near Petropavlovsk was established by the 1908-09 expedition, organized
by the Resettlement Administration. In 1913 this farm was provided with
thoroughbred cattle. An interesting account of the status of agriculture in
Kamchatka was made by V. L. Komarov, a member of the Kamchatka expedition of

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

F. P. Riabushinski in 1908-09. Regarding animal husbandry, Komarov, reported
that dairy cattle, brought to Kamchatka in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries, were acclimatized successfully, provided a sufficient quantity of
milk, and were “of good stature,” while horses were regarded by the natives
as a luxury rather than as animals needed for farm work. (It was said that
by spring, the horses were usually walking but “hardly alive.”) Regarding
cereal and vegetable planting in Kamchatka, Komarov felt very pessimistic
[translation]: “In order to make Kamchatka a real agricultural country,
one must drain the huge icebox of the Sea of Okhotsk — not less than that —
which outbalances the summer in Kamchatka by its presence in the neighborhood.”
By the beginning of the twentieth century cultivated land in Kamchatka
slightly exceeded 1,600 acres and remained at that point until 1917. The
extreme scarcity of population was undoubtedly another factor in hindering
the development of agriculture.
Agriculture After the Revolution
After 1917, skepticism at first prevailed as to the possibility of growing
vegetables in the Far North. Later the experiments of the Arctic Branch of
the Institute of Plant Cultivation at Khibiny, established in 1923, proved
that cultivation of vegetables — at least in quantities sufficient of provide
for the needs of local population — is possible even beyond the Arctic
Circle. In 1931 J. Eikhfeld distinguished three zones of possible agricultural
development in the Soviet North: ( 1 ) the zone to the south of the Arctic
Circle; ( 2 ) the southern part of the tundra and the northern part of the
forest-tundra region, permitting the outdoor growth of potatoes and other

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

vegetables, and cattle rearing; and ( 3 ) the arctic islands and the northern–
most part of the continent, where vegetables could be grown only in hot–
houses, and the raising of livestock must be limited to reindeer breeding.
At first, the development of polar agriculture proceeded very slowly;
by the end of the Second Five-Year Plan, however, considerable progress had
been made. The year 1929 may be considered as a turning point, after which
the acreage of the tilled land in the North began to grow rapidly. No
accurate statistical description of agricultural development in the Far
North is possible because detailed reports were not released after 1939.
Nevertheless, the available data given in Tables I and II indicate the
rapid progress. The data given in Table I were reported by the chief of
the Division of the Reindeer Breeding and Agriculture in the Far North,
Commissariat of Agriculture, R.S.F.S.R., at the Conference on Scientific
and Research Work in the Far North, February 27-March 3, 1936. The data
in Table II were taken from A. A. Khrapal, writing for the Bureau of Econ–
omic Research in 1940. The statistical subdivisions given in this publica–
tion of Glavsevmorput differ from those used in other sources. This leads
to a number of discrepancies between the figures in Table II and those
taken from other sources. Khrapal includes in Omsk North the National Areas
Ostiako-Vogul and Iamal-Nents. When he speaks about the Ob region he
includes also Narymsk district, which is a portion of Novosibirsk region
and not of the Omsk region. In Yenisei Sever, Khrapal includes Turukhansk
and Igarka regions, and Evenki and Taimyr National Areas, which are sec–
tions of the Krasnoiarski Krai. Under the “Coast of the Sea of Okhotsk,”
Khrapal combines the Lower Amur Region and Koymski district.

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

Table I. Sown Area in the Far North (in Thousands of Acres)
Major crop
Year Total
Average
Cereals Potatoes Other Vegetables
1926 143.1 120.0 13.5 1.5
1932 510.3 - - -
1933 661.0 551.6 37.4 16.2
1934 855.1 710.4 59.4 20.3
1935 913.1 763.8 71.6 24.3
Table II. Sown Area in the Asiatic Far North (in Thousands of Acres)
Geographical region 1926 1932 1936 1937 1938
Omsk North 1.3 a 7.0 25.9 26.4 28.2
Narymsk district 51.0 198.7 386.0 392.6 391.0
Yenisei district 0.2 3.8 5.3 3.8 5.4
Yakutia 65.9 192.5 253.0 263.0 270.8
Coast of the Sea
of Okhotsk
2.5 b 4.9 12.2 16.7 16.7
Kamchatka Region 0.2 3.8 5.9 6.2 6.2
Sakhalin Region 6.8 12.4 16.5 17.8 15.7
Total 127.9 423.1 704.8 726.5 734.0
3 4

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

As may be seen from Table I, the increase in the area under cultivation
for vegetables was especially rapid, from 1,500 acres in 1926 to 24,300 in
1935. In the case of Murmansk district this increase was from 35 acres in
1926 to 1,122 in 1933, and to 4,020 in 1935. Apatite mine development near
Kirovsk was of great significance to the agriculture on the Kola Peninsula,
since excellent chemical fertilizers are manufactured from this mineral. In
Krasnoiarski Krai the vegetable fields increased from 185 acres in 1929 to
5,582 in 1935; in Kamchatka, from 247 acres in 1928 to 5,399 in 1935. In 1936,
the Chief of the Division of Reindeer Breeding and Agriculture, Commissariat
of Agriculture, R.S.F.S.R., reported that as of that year the planting of
potatoes and other vegetables on the Kola Peninsula reached Murmansk and
Teriberka (69° N. lat.). In the Asiatic portion of the North, more than 742
acres were planted at Salekhard. Some plantings were made at Novyi Port,
Aksarka, Nyda, and Khalmer-Sede, that is, almost at latitude 682° N. Vege–
tables were cultivated also in Ust-Yniseiski Port, at Verkhoiansk, on the
shores of the lower course of the Kolyma River, in Anadyr, and in Markovka.
Among the cereals, oats and barley gave best results. In 1935, grains
were sown at latitude 66° N. in such places as Rodchevo (Zhigansk region in
Yakutia), in the Turukhansk region of Krasnoiarski Krai, on the state farm
Industria on the Kola Peninsula (67° N. lat.), and on the state farm Novy
Bor on the Pechora River (66° N. lat.).
The distribution of the land planted to various crops, varied in time
and place. The farms around Norilsk were planting potatoes, cabbages, beets,
lettuce, and radishes in 1944. At Ostiako-Vogul district in 1931, 50.3% of
the fields were under potatoes, 35% under cereals, and 14.7% under vegetables.

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

In 1938 the area there under cereals increased to 64.3%; the potato acreage
dropped to 4.4%; fodder crops which appeared for the first time in 1936 oc–
cupied 4.2%; also grass was sown for the first time 1938. At Iamal-Nenets
district, the larger portion of the fields was under potatoes and other vege–
tables continually. In the Turukhanski region the grains occupied only 1.3%
of the acreage in 1926, but by 1938 had reached 54.9%.
In Yakutia at the time of the Revolution, 98.9% of the sown area was
under grains. In 1938 potatoes occupied 2.2% of the total acreage; other
vegetables, grasses, fodder, flax, and hemp were introduced. Barley was
the basic grain in Yakutia before the Revolution, occupying 58.7% of the
total acreage in 1917. In 1932 this figure dropped to 22%. The sowing of
spring rye increased from 31.1% to 33.5% in the same period. The spring
wheat acreage, which was insignificant in 1917, occupied 29.9% of the total
area sown in Yakutia in 1937. Special frost-resistant varieties of grain
are sown at present in the valleys of the Yana, Indigirka, and Kolyma.
In Sakhalin cereals occupied 88.3% of the total sown area in 1917, while
10.6% was under potatoes. In 1939, 35.3% was under potatoes; planting of
flax, hemp, and fodders was introduced. Of the area under cereals in Sakhalin,
82.3 was under oats in 1938, and in Kamchatka oats continued to be the basic
grain, occupying 53.2% of the total area under cereals. Buckwheat was sown
for the first time in Kamchatka in 1936. Cultivation of winter rye and oats
has been explanded beyond the Arctic Circle in those sections of the Komi
Republic and the Nenets National Area, where the climate is drier. In these
lands barley occupies the greatest proportion of land devoted to grains.
The Commissariat of Agriculture of the R.S.F.S.R. admitted that as late

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

as 1936 the system of agricultural reporting had not functioned with adequate
efficiency throughout the Far North, and that data regarding the yields
were incomplete. Table III indicates, the yield per acre was considerably
higher than the average; for instance, in Yakutia, the collective farm Voroshilov
harvested 8.7 centners per acre of spring rye and 8.3 centners of oats. At
the All-Union Agricultural Exposition in Moscow the experiment of the state
farm Industria was exhibited. With a short summer and a frostless period
of eighty days this state farm, located near Kirovsk, Kola Peninsula, obtained
an average potato yield of 46.1 centners per acre on an area of 275 acres.
Table III. Average Yields in Centners per Acre
Crop Narymsk district Bauntovsk region
(in Buriat–
Mongolia)
Yakutia Murmansk
district
1932 1933 1934 1933 1934 1935 1933 1934 1935 1933 1934
Winter rye 4.6 6.0 5.2 - - - 2.5 1.7 2.4 - -
Spring rye 3.9 4.7 4.7 3.0 3.2 3.5 2.8 1.7 2.5 - -
Barley 3.2 4.6 5.2 3.4 3.5 3.9 3.0 1.8 2.5 - -
Oats 4.6 5.7 5.4 3.5 3.6 3.9 3.2 2.1 2.5 - -
Potatoes - 42.4 44.2 31.9 34.1 36.3 34.7 23.0 - 33.3 33.5
Other veg–
etables
- - - - 50.0 50.0 31.5 - - 40.7 54.7
In the northern parts of the archangel region a yield of potatoes and other
vegetables up to 185 centners per acre was reported. In Kamchatka the yields

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

of cereals were low — around 2 centners per acre as of 1940. The yields
in Sakhalin were approaching the averages for the U.S.S.R. as a whole.
With the exception of Yakutia, hothouse cultivation did not exist in
the Far North before the Revolution. One of the first places in the Far
North, where hotbeds were introduced was at Salekhard, in 1931. The increase
in number of hothouses and hotbeds in some of the regions of the Far North
may be seen from Table IV (Kharpal) . The total capacity of hotbeds measured in terms
Table IV. Development of Hothouse and Frame Cultivation in Some Regions of
the Far North
Region Number of frames
in hotbeds
Capacity of hothouses
in square meters
1932 1938 1932 1938
Omsk North 1,690 6,760 100 2,120
Yniseisk district 820 2,480 600 2,158
Yakutia 3,180 16,000 - 5,100
Kamchatka - 3,500 - 700
Sakhalin - 4,210 - -
of frames reached 71,000 in 1935, that of hothouses, 29,000 square meters.
For the Asiatic North the figures in 1938 were 44,010 and 14,862, respectively.
Animal husbandry continues to be the main branch of agricultural economy
of the Far North; it is developed rather unevenly from region to region. As
a result of collectivization from 1929 to 1933 and resistance to it by the
wealthier groups of the rural population (kulaks), animal husbandry here at

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

first suffered heavily as it did throughout the U.S.S.R. The decline of
herds was especially heavy in Yakutia and in the Pechora region; also the
reindeer population suffered considerably. The gradual restoration of
herds has been carried on since 1933 and more noticeably since 1934. Tables
V and VI illustrate the status of animal husbandry in the Far North. The
data for Omsk North and Narymsk district in Table VI are for1937; for the
other regions, 1936.
Table V. Livestock in the Far North from 1932 to 1935
Livestock 1932 1933 1934 1935
Horses 248,800 265,600 275,800 311,400
Cattle 796,800 635,800 648,300 758,400
Sheep and goats 119,000 111,700 132,500 161,100
Hogs 33,000 46,600 73,200 114,300
Reindeer 1,800,000 1,615,000 1,703,000 1,785,000
Table VI. Distribution of Livestock by Asiatic Regions in the Far North in 1937
Region Horses Cattle Sheep Hogs
Omsk North 21,967 35,708 18,351 2,590
Narymsk district 35,999 95,222 62,123 37,127
Yniseisk north 3,230 5,433 - 2,780
Yakutia 177,200 448,600 - 11,663
Lower Amur 5,413 6,483 - 7,889
Kamchatka 2,966 7,041 - 7,869
Sakhalin 3,374 4,935 143 5,163

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

In the case of reindeer, the number of animals in the Asiatic part of
the Far North dropped from approximately 1,600,000 in 1926 to 1,200,000 in
1934. By the end of the Second Five-Year Plan (1937), however, the number of
reindeer had increased to 1,800,000. Land surveys of the pastures were made,
sometimes with aviation assistance, and the grazing rounds were divided so
as to avoid overgrazing. The haphazard movements of peoples and herds were
brought under control. The long journeys from winter settlements to summer
feeding grounds were reduced to a minimum and the natives, organized on col–
lective farms, were instructed in the storing of hay and bushes as supple–
mentary winter fodder. The centers of reindeer breeding in the Asiatic part
of the North are the northern sections of the Omsk region and of Khabarovsk
Krai. In 1937 there were 498,000 reindeer in the Kamchatka region and a little
more than 12,000 in the Sakhalin region.
Attempts to transform animal husbandry into a more productive branch of
agriculture have been made constantly. Warm livestock shelters have been
erected on state and collective farms and work has been carried on for the im–
provement of livestock breeds. New branches of animal industry were introduced,
such as goat breeding for milk, rabbit breeding, and poultry raising; a number
of incubator stations were built. The administration of Dalstroi brought mules
and yaks to the eastern regions of the Far North.
While the previous average annual milk yield per cow was from 106 to 117
gallons in Yakutia, the averages for 1935 fluctuated between 132 and 145 gallons,
and for 1937, between 156 and 182 gallows. In 1935, in Narymsk district, the
average milk yield per cow fluctuated between 187 and 214 gallons; in Turukhansk
district, between 214 and 240 gallons, reaching 296 in 1936. In some regions

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

on the Pechora River the annual averages increased from between 320 and 347
gallons in 1832, to between 347 and 374 gallons in 1935. At the Glavsevmor–
put state farm at Igarka, the yearly milk yield per cow reached 525 gallons
in 1938; at the state farm at Norilsk, 642 gallons.
The over-all progress of polar agriculture by the end of the Second Five–
Year Plan may be measured in terms of the agricultural self-sufficiency of
various regions in the Far North. The degree of satisfaction of local needs
of the population by their own products in 1938 may be seen from Table VII . (Khrapal) .
Table VII. Degree of Satisfaction of Local Needs by Own Farm Products
in 1938
Percentage self-sufficiency
Area Bread Potatoes Other Vegetables
Omsk North: - 200 40
Iamal-Nenets - 5 4
Ostiako-Vogul district 28 320 62
Yniseisk North: - 54 13
Turukhansk district 27 177 28
Igarka district - 7 4
Evenk district 2 27 13
Taimyr district - - 1
Yakutia: 74 34 11
Central regions - 37 12
Northern region - 9 7
Aldan district - 38 8
Lower Amur region 0.4 200 52
Kamchatka: 0.6 81 26
Regions subordinated to the
regional executive committee
- 127 40
Koriak district - 13 8
Chukotsk district - 0.1 0.7
Sakhalin 2 200 59

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

The table indicates that a high degree of self-sufficiency, even surplus
production, was achieved in many regions only in the use of potatoes. The
weakest situation was with bread, Yakutia being in a better position with
this commodity than other regions of the Far North. Omsk North, Sakhalin,
and one section of the Kamchatka region made the best progress in the case
of vegetables.
As of 1938, in order to secure a 100% self-sufficiency for bread,
the acreage should have been increased from 12,690 acres to 31,050 acres
in the case of Ostiako-Vogul district; for vegetables, from 1,245 acres to
2,160 acres. A 100% self-sufficiency in bread, potatoes, and other vegetables,
and the possibility of helping out the adjoining Igarka region, could be con–
sidered in the case of the Turukhansk region only if its acreage had been
increased in 1938 from 3,006 to about 9,000 acres. The sparse population
in the Turukhansk region excluded such a possibility for the immediate future.
This was not the case in Yakutia where the central problem was agricultural
reclamation and investment of capital. For example, an acreage increase in
1938 from 2,438 to 13,770 acres was required in Aldan district, and from
234,360 to 325,620 acres in Yakutia’s central region. If Kamchatka could
increase its acreage 4.3 times, it could also harvest the required amount
or agricultural products, even in the case of bread.
For the population’s needs of meat and dairy products, the problem was
better utilization of meadows and pastures, as well as the introduction of
fodder grasses. The meadow and pasture capacity in various sections of Iamal–
Nents district was used only from 0.06 to 4.2%, while in Omsk North as a whole,
it was used only to an extent of 3.1%. It was estimated that the natural

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

resources afforded a 31.2-fold increase of livestock in the case of Omsk North
and 6-fold in Yniseisk district. In central Yakutia the available meadows
and pastures were utilized 88.9%; therefore the introduction of fodder crops
here was the most important task from the standpoint of further increase in
herds. In the case of reindeer breeding, numerous new grazing pastures were
discovered. For the development of hog breeding, the by-products of the
fishing industry were rendering excellent sources of food in many sections
of the Far North.
Contribution of Soviet Science and Recent Developments
The recent development of polar agriculture in U.S.S.R. would hardly
be possible without the significant contribution made by Soviet agricultural
science.
Early Experiments . Historically, the experiments at Khibiny were a
turning point in agricultural progress of the Far North. Credit for these
experiments should be given to Johann Eikhfeld, as Estonian and graduate
of the Leningrad Agricultural Institute. In 1923 he cleared a section of
land near Lake Imandra and opened as experimental station at latitude 67° N.
in order to prove that the poor Khibiny soils could be made fertile, and to
discover under what conditions crops could be grown beyond the Arctic Circle.
Thousands of [: ] different varieties from all over the globe were planted at
Khibiny, and, gradually, Eikhfeld evolved varieties that could withstand
arctic conditions.
The Khibiny marshland was a serious obstacle, for organic fertilizers
were a rarity on the Kola Peninsula; nevertheless, fertilizers were added

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

and bacteria were implanted in the soil. Huge apatite deposits were dis–
covered in the Khibiny mountains at the end of the 1920’s and Eikhfeld ex–
perimented with the influence of apatite on local soils, and phosphate fer–
tilizers made from it proved to be excellent. By the initiative of sergei
Kirov, who was in charge of the settlement on the Kola Peninsula, the tapping
of apatite resources was launched on a large scale and the city of Kirovsk
was built on the banks of Lake Vudiavr.
By the initiative of Eikhfeld, one of the world’s northernmost truck
and dairy farms — Industria — was organized by the Apatite Trust in order
to provide the population of Kirovsk with fresh farm products. In 1931 the
farm planted its first 5 12/ 1/2 acres. By the summer of 1948 the area of this
farm, sown with potatoes, beets, cabbage, etc., reached 5,400 acres. The
originally modest experimental station at Khibiny became the Arctic Branch
of the All-Union Institute for Plant Growing. Pioneer work spread beyond
Khibiny and 21,600 acres of land were cultivated in 1948 in the former tundra
of the Kola Peninsula. The introduction of new vegetables was followed by the
appearance of several common agricultural pests which had not been known there
in the past. These pests, however, behave differently under arctic conditions
than in central Russia, and new methods of combating them had to be devised.
Until 1932 the experiments at Khibiny evolved new varieties by selection.
Subsequently, Palv Gusev, Elizabeth Palchikova, Filat Mankov, and Noil
Veselovski proceeded with developing new sorts by crossing. A frost–
resistant, wild-growing South American potato was crossed with a cultivated
variety that yields good tubers. The seeds obtained were planted, and from
several thousand plants two hundred which possessed the greatest resistance

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

to frost were chosen. This was the story of such high yielding varieties of
northern Soviet potatoes as Imandra, Imandra’s Sister, and others.
In the U.S.S.R. all such experiments in crossing, as well as other cur–
rent developments in Soviet agrobiology and agrochemistry, are closely con–
nected with three names: V. R. Williams, I. V. Michurin, and T. D. Lysenko.
Soil Theories . It is generally recognized that Russian scientists had
been in the forefront of soil study from pioneering days. The fathers of
Russian soil science were V. V. Dokuchaev and P. A. Kostychev, who developed
the so-called climatic theory of soils, basing the process of soil formation
upon two main factors, temperature and moisture. However, the man whose theory
of soil formation constitutes the foundation of modern Soviet pedology is
Professor Vasili Robertovich Williams. His book Foundations of Agriculture is
considered an alpha and omega of agriculture by Soviet citizens having any–
thing to do with soil tillage.
Dokuchaev, in making a study of tundra soils in 1898, predicted that a
time might arrive when it would be necessary to have the soils of that region
“artificially infected by micro-organisms.” Williams, however, [: ] changed the
whole concept of soil as an independent natural body, and Soviet scientists
today consider the soil “a designation and distribution of a continuously
evolving process ruled by certain laws.” In this way he has established a
close connection between soil geography and soil history. The chief property
of the soil, according to Williams, is its fertility, which is not a static
and permanent quality, but a constant dynamic process. Fertility is a com–
plexity of geological, climatological, and bacteriological factors, subject
also to change by man. Williams rejects the law of diminishing productivity

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

of soil; according to his teaching, this law is applicable when only one
of the factors needed for the life of the plant is variable while others
are fixed. If, however, all three main factors of the plant’s life fluctuate —
light, water, and food — and are under planned control of man, then there
is no place for such a law. It becomes “not a law of nature, but an illus–
tration of a wrong approach toward the explanation of the complicated processes
and functions of many factors which are interconnected by the law of mutual
interdependence. “ (V. R. Williams. Works, Vol. IV, p. 181; 3rd Edition. (In
Russian)).
By Williams’ theory of soil formation, agriculture is a factor in creating
and maintaining soil fertility. Soviet agrochemistry of today is an applica–
tion of this theory integrated with Williams’ teaching regarding the gradual
change of natural soil zones within the framework of the Soviet system of
planned economy. The agrochemistry of Williams constitutes the scientific
background against which should be considered some of the recent measures
taken by the Soviet government in the field of agriculture. Among these are
the decision of the Plenum of the Communist Party in February 1947, which
placed special emphasis on the necessity for improving technical methods in
agriculture; the provision of the Fourth Five-Year Plan, according to which a
proper crop rotation, including the sowing of grasses and legumes, should be
introduced or restored on all collective and state farms; and the decree of
October 20, 1948, regarding afforestation, transformation of agriculture,
and soil building on a territory of almost 300,000,000 acres.
Michurin Theory . The foundation for contemporary soviet agrobiology was
laid by Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin. The dreams of his life was to create

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

northern horticulture, “that is, to extend the growing of apples, pears,
plums, and cherries nearer to the polar circle. “ (I. V. Michurin. Works,
Vol. I., p. 425 Selkhozgiz, 1939 (In Russian)).
Michurin is credited by the soviet people with introducing fruitg grow–
ing into the northern provinces and extending the cultivation of southern
plants to the north. According to the interpretation of Soviet scientists,
his theory has opened the broadest possibilities for an alteration of the
nature and qualities of agricultural plants by changing the conditions of
their grown, and has made possible the guidance of heredity into channels
desirable to man. During his lifetime, Michurin bred more than 300 new
varieties of fruits and berries. Among them the most valuable for fruit
growing in the North are the apple varieties Esaul Yermak, Kitaika Anisovaia,
Kitaika Desertnaia, Kitaika Zolotaia, Taezhnoe, and Slava; as well as the
cherry trees Nadezhda Krupskaia, Polzhir, Polevka, Seredniachka, Gerio Ran–
nick, and Plodorodnaia Michurina. An entire series of fruit trees with
better frost-resistant properties than the central Russian varieties was
bred by Michurin, making it possible to move the orchards far to the north.
Michurin’s theory of vegetative hybridization rejects the postulates
of Mendelism and Morganism about the independence of hereditary properties
in relation to conditions of life. According to him, the inner essence of
an organism and its environment, whose elements the organism assimilates
in the course of its life, constitute a unity. There is an interrelation–
ship between the life of varieties and species and the individual develop–
ment of plants. New properties acquired by plants and animals may be
transmitted by heredity. Consequently, man can control heredity to suit

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

his needs and systematically change the natural qualities of plants. “It
is possible, with man’s intervention, to force any form of animal or plant
to change more quickly and in a direction desirable to man,” [translation]
stated Michurin. During the early stages of development, great varia–
bility is gradually reduced until it finally disappears after two or three
(seldom as many as five) years of bearing.
In his experiments, Michurin used young hybrid organisms because
their heredity base is destabilized and they are more pliant. The hybrids
obtained from distant hybridization are particularly favorable material
for further direct training under given environmental conditions because,
having their heredity destabilized, they are more susceptible to external
influences. Hybridization produces organisms with the dual heredity of
the male and female parents; therefore, the hybrid possesses great possibili–
ties of forming its properties in a combination, answering to the conditions
of its individual life. It is important to place a plant with “sheltered
heredity” in such living conditions as would lead to the formation of pre–
viously planned forms and properties. Identical seeds, grown under differ–
ent conditions, will yield forms differing in their qualities. The greater
the difference between the geographical and other living conditions of the
parents and the conditions under which the hybrid is cultivated, the easier
it is to guide the behavior of the hybrid, If two forms of plants are used
in crossing, one of which is adapted to the local conditions, and the other is
not so adapted, then the properties of the local form will predominate in the
hybrid offspring. In cases where both parent forms are equally unadapted to
the local conditions of growth, the hybrids will adapt themselves more easily

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

to the specific features of the environment. The process of “training”
hybrids in the latter cases becomes easier.
As a result of his experiments on vegetative hybridization and the
application of the mentor method (grafting slips from the parent plant onto
the young hybrid plant) elaborated by him, Michurin, it is alleged, proved
that there is no great difference in principle between sexual and asexual
vegetative hybridization and that hereditary properties are not conveyed
exclusively by transmission of the chromosomes, or by the metabolism of
their parts in the gametes, while hybridization is not a purely mechanized
and insecure combination of hereditary factors. By grafting plants with
different heredities, an organism with a dual nature is obtained, and the
plants grown from the seeds of the wilding (or the graft) not only resemble
the species from whose seeds they sprang, but also possess the properties of
the second plant used in grafting. According to Michurin, this demonstrates
that the plastic substances of a plant and all its cells possess hereditary
properties.
Michurin was the first person to obtain an intergeneric hybrid between
mountain ash and pear, between cherry and bird cherry, apricot and plum, plum
and blackthorn, and others. The Soviet Government gave Michurin full support
and all possible assistance. A huge Michurin Horticultural Research Institute
sprang up on the basis of Michurin’s modest experimental nursery and it plays,
at the present time (1950), a great organizational role in the dissemination
of Michurin’s teaching. Numerous experimental fruitgrowing stations were organ–
ized under the auspices of the Institute. In honor of Michurin, the town of
Kozlov, where he worked, was renamed Michurinsk. It grew into a center of

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

scientific horticulture and development of new varieties of fruits and berries
suited to the conditions of the far North.
Lysenko Theory . In January 1929, a young agronomist, Trofim Deniovich
Lysenko, from a selection station in Ganja, Azerbaijan, claimed it was pos–
sible, by subjecting winter wheat seed to low temperatures before planting
and before the germ had sprouted, to plant winter wheat in spring and harvest
its yield the very same year The experiment required planting a whole col–
lection of varieties every ten days for nearly two years and keeping voluminous
records of these innumerable plantings That same year his first work, The
Influence of the Thermic Factor on the Duration of Developmental Phases in
Plants , was published.
In the course of many years of work on the problem of what makes a plant
a spring or winter variety, Lysenko formulated his theory of the stadial devel–
opment of plants. Its quintessence is as follows: The development of a plant
is not mere increase in size, weight, and mass, but also involves qualitative
changes — phases of development — in a transitional form of one qualitative
state of the cells to another qualitative state. The passing from one phase
to another is characterized by a change of the plant’s demands in respect to
[: ] environmental conditions. There are two irreversible stages in the devel–
opment of an annual plant, namely, the vernalization (or thermic) stage, and
the photo stage. The stem of the plant is phasically multiplex: while in
its lower parts the tissues are phasically younger, they are of an older age;
whereas in the upper parts of the stem the tissues being younger in age, are
phasically oder — that is, further on their way toward blossoming and fruit
bearing. The growth of a plant and its development are two different things;

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

a plant may grow without developing. In other words, its development may be
arrested in “infancy” or in the age of “adolescence” when this happens, it
will bear green leaves but neither blossom nor fruit. On the other hand, a
plant may not grow but may remain a mere frail shoot and, nevertheless, be an
adult capable of blossoming and producing offspring.
Equipped with this theory, Lysenko investigated the causes underlying
“springness” and “winterness” in plants and devised a method of vernalization
of (yarovization) of seeds, which is per-sowing treatment usually for a cer–
tain number of days prior to sowing [translation]: “Subject the shoots of
winter wheat to treatment with cold - not in the open filed, but in the
granaries when there shoots just begin to break forth from the grain; then
you can safely plant this seed in the spring.” Lysenko claims that if the
number of days is less than a certain amount, the shoots will grow into low
plants like grass and will not form ears. For instance, for rye, the ver–
nalization period was 32 days. With 30 days’ treatment there would be nothing,
since the period of instability for that plant was between 30 and 35 days. The
Soviet press reported that vernalization is of great importance to polar
agriculture as it guarantees an early [: ] and even germination, shortens the
vegetative period, and sersserves in the U.S.S.R. as a method of breeding more frost–
resistant varities of cereals. The vernalization of spring grains also increases,
according to Soviet sources, the crop yield by approximately two centners per
hectare.
According to Lysenko, the biological role of the cell nucleus and the
chromosomes is “to create in the process of fusion of two sex cells an
integral, biologically contradictory, and yet by the reason of that, a viable

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

body.” This principle is of great importance in growing seeds of cross–
pollinating plants. In June 1950, it was reported that, proceeding from
the above principle, after 2, 3, or 4 years of autumn planting required to
turn a spring into a winter crop, Lysenko succeeded in obtaining grains of
the soft wheat ( Triticum vulgare ) in the spikes of the durum wheat ( T. durum )
and grains of rye were found in wheat spikes; experiments in this regard
were still being conducted in 1950.
On the basis of another group of experiments pertaining to the problem
of difference between the interrelationships of individuals within one
species and those belonging to different species (or intra-and interspecific
relationship of individuals), Lysenko devised methods of growing agricultural
plants which are said to provide the most effective means of weed control
and to be important under the conditions of northern agriculture.
Further developing Michurin’s teaching, Lysenko rejected the existence
in the organism of a separate hereditary substance and the principles of the
theory of heredity which “insinuated idealism and metaphysics into biology.”
According to Lysenko:
“Heredity is the property of a living body to require definite condi–
tions for its life and development, and to respond in a definite way to various
conditions … Heredity is the effect of the concentration of the action of
external conditions assimilated by the organism in a series of preceding [: ]
generations … Changes in organisms or in their separate organs or characters
may not always, or not fully, be transmitted to the offspring, but changed
germs of newly generated organisms always occur only as the result of changes
in the body of the parent organism, as the result of direct or indirect action

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

of the conditions of life upon the development of the organism or its sep–
arate parts, among them the sexual or vegetative germs.”
The controversey between the “materialist and idealist outlook” in bio–
logical science has been going on throughout its history, and the question
of whether it is possible for acquired characteristics to be inherited is
very old. Nevertheless, Lysenko’s theory and his bold experiments provoked
a storm of heated debates all over the world and divided biologists into two
irreconcilable camps: those who attack his theory as faulty and his experi–
ments as unscientific, and those who admire him as a creator of “a science
new in principle.” The controversy became even more heated after Lysenko
made the following statements: “the Michurinian principles are the only
scientific principles. The Weismannists and their followers, who deny the
heritability of acquired characters, are not worth dwelling on at too great
length. The future belongs to Michurin … Mendelism-Morganism is built
entirely on chance … There is no effectiveness in such science. With
such a science it is impossible to plan, to work toward a definite goal; it
rules out scientific foresight … The assertion that variation is ‘indef–
inite’ raises a barrier to scientific foresight, thereby disarming practical
agriculture … Socialist agriculture stands in need of a developed, pro–
found biological theory which will help us quickly and properly to perfect
the methods of cultivating plants and offspring with plentiful and stable
crop yields … The Communist Party, the soviet government, and J. V. Stalin
personally have taken an unlagging interest in the further development of the
Michurinian teaching … Our academy must work to develop the Michurinian
teaching … The Central Committee of the Party examined my report and ap–
proved it.” (Presidential Address, Lenin Academy of Sciences, July 31, 1948.)

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

Effect of Theories . No matter what the repercussions of the Michurin
and especially Lysenko theories are outside of the U.S.S.R., these theories,
together with the teaching of Williams, are having a strong impact on agri–
cultural science in the Soviet Union and on the development of polar agri–
culture. Recent improvements in tilling soils in the North, the removal
of stubble before autumn planting, deep plowing for spring planting, plow–
ing of fallow land, careful weeding with cultivators, proper rotation of
crops, the use of proper fertilizers, etc. — all this is attributed in
the U.S.S.R. to the work of Williams. Michurin’s name mentioned in con–
nection with all progress made in the extension of orchards to the north,
and the number of his followers and pupils is great.
In accordance with Michurin’s teaching, Professor A. D. Kiziurin, suc–
cessfully propagated apple trees in a creeping form which were reported
widely spread in the Urals, Siberia, and the Far East by 1948. According to
the newest methods of growing orchards in the North, the main trunk of a
one- to two-year-old tree is cut down in order to stimulate the growth of
its side branches. These are then spread in all directions close to the
ground and fixed in this position with wooden pegs. Some of the large-sized
apple varieties were able to withstand frosts of −50°C. After twelve years
of work, a special variety of apple tree growing in a creeping form was ob–
tained.
Alexnader Petrov, a pupil of Michurin, started experiments in 1923 by
crossing and recrossing, with other plants, a wild strawberry that could
stand the Russian winter. Five years later he created a few kind of straw–
berry which is grown now in the Soviet North and Northeast. Petrov also

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

bred some frost-resistant trees. Horticulturists Chievelev and [: ] Dobriakov
were reported doing pioneer work in 1948 in the cities of Kotlas (Archangel
region) and Belozersk (Vologda region), respectively.
F. K. Teterev produced fifteen new varieties of sweet cherry (Zorka,
Leningrad Sweet Cherry, Leningrad Yellow, and others), which were remarkable
for their frost resistance, and managed to extent cherry cultivation more
than 620 miles to the north (to the Leningrad region) by the spring of 1950.
The new border line of mass cultivation of the sweet cherry in the U.S.S.R.
was reported, in June 1950, to be to the north of the latitude of Lake Win–
nipeg in Canada. V. V. Spirin produced new apple, raspberry, and currant
varieties adaptable to northern conditions in the town of Nikolsk, Vologda
region, and demonstrated the possibility of growing some of Michurin’s
apple varieties there. P. A. Zhavoronkov headed an expedition in 1934 to
eastern Siberia for the purpose of studying the wild Siberian apple trees
growing in the eastern Siberian taiga. Later he began to cross this apple
with southern vari e ties. In the summer of 1950 it was reported that after
scores of thousands of crossing experiments he had produced about twenty
new hardy winter varieties for the Ural districts.
In the Minusinsk District, Krasnoiarsk region, Siberia, not a single
fruit tree grew before the Revolution. In 1934, 41 acres were in orchards;
in 1948, 3,600 acres; in the summer of 1950, fruit was grown on an area of
8,400 acres, including all of the 50 collective farms of the Minusinsk
District where 2,400 acres are in orchards. In 1940, fruit gardens were
laid out on 47 collective farms of the Nen e ts National District, where the
nomads had never heard of fruits before; recently orchards have been set

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

out in Igarka. The entire area of orchards in Siberia and the Urals hardly
exceeded 720 acres before 1917, whereas, in 1950, orchards and berry planta–
tions were reported to occupy 60,000 acres. Omsk and Cheliabinsk regions
have become large horticultural centers with several thousand acres of
orchards, including those of creeping trees.
If the development of orchards in the Far North is associated with the
name of Michurin, the work on grain and vegetable growth in the North is
never separated in the Soviet press from the name of Lysenko. Winter wheat
in Siberia has always been a problem of national importance. Lysenko found
that as a rule winter crops in Siberia perished not from the direct action
of frost but from mechanical injuries. When the soil is mellow and lumpy,
rain water gathers in the loose spaces during autumn; in the winter it
freezes into ice crystals which, during protracted severe frosts, expand
to form numerous cracks and crevices in the soil, and injure the underground
parts of the plant. The situation is improved by sowing, in accordance with
Lysenko’s advice, with tractor-drawn disk drills over unplowed stubble. The
resulting plants are highly frost-resistant. The stubble, from 25 to 30
centimeters high, protects the parts of the plant above ground from the wind,
and retains the snow cover.
As a result of A Titlianov’s experiments in Kamchatka, a new variety
of frost-resisting wheat, Kamchadalka, was developed, and, in 1939, the col–
lective farmers of the Kamchatka River valley occupied first place in the
Soviet Far East for harvests.
Branched wheat — “the wheat of the past and the future,” as Lysenko
calls it — with large heads containing an average of 150 to 200 grains,

EA-PS. Tereshtenko: Agriculture in U.S.S.R.

which was reported to grow in the fields of an experim