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Full text of "Man In The Modern World"

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As we are now beginning to see, man's difficulties about grassland
and the products of grassland are not merely due to local and natural
deficiencies. They are due too to deficiencies of his own making, and
these artificial deficiencies are cumulative and world-wide. In old
days, the cattle of mineral-deficient areas would make periodic jour-
neys to salt-licks, where the instinctive cravings for the elements they
lacked would save them from disease and death. It is interesting to
find the same instinctive cravings in man. In some parts of Africa,
where mineral deficiency is serious, the black children spend their
pennies, not on sweets, but on lumps of unpurifiecl salt, imported from
distant salt-pans and full of all the elements for which their systems are
crying out. To-day, fencing has often made the cattle's annual ' cure5
impossible. In one part of Kenya, for instance, the settling of the
country happened to put an important salt-lick on to land allocated
to whites, to the great detriment of the native cattle, which either
could not get at their necessary supply of minerals, or strayed and
trespassed in search of it, and were lost to their owners. Economic
restrictions may have the same efFect. In the old days of the heavy
French tax on salt, you could tell without a map when you crossed
the boundary in the Jura from France to Switzerland by looking at
the cattle. The French cows looked poorly, the Swiss beasts fine and
The next step was the discovery that the amount of mineral which
would prevent disease in a pasture was not enough to give the best
results. By adding more, up to a definitely asccrtainable point, sheep
and cattle could be made to grow faster, to yield more milk, and
especially to be more fertile.
Thus what began as a study of local cattle diseases has turned into
a problem of the soil chemistry of grasslands. The problem is one of
first-rate importance. Cereals may be the staff of life; but the pro-
ducts of grass are more varied. Grass gives us not only nacat, but also
wool, leather, milk, butter, cheese, and various valuable by-products
from bones and hides and horns. The value of the products of grass
consumed annually in Britain alone is over 400,000,000, and the
quantity of this which is imported makes nearly a quarter of the
country's total imports. And some countries, like New Zealand, live
almost wholly by grass.
The question at issue becomes the question of the future of the
world's grass. We have spent an enormous amount of energy on
improving wheat and maize, and have hardly given a thought to grass;