Are you an agronomist or a farmer? If so, I need your help. Related to Miracle Wheat

by ILoveTTATT2 14 Replies latest jw friends

  • ILoveTTATT2


    I am doing some investigation on the Miracle Wheat episode, and I have a question that I don't know the answer to, and I can't find the answer online.

    It seems that, from what I have learnt online, that wheat is a self-pollinating, "perfect flower". This means that once there is a strain that has a quality that's desirable, all you have to do is plant it, and that feature will remain "forever". Essentially the new plants are all clones.

    Given that information, this statement by Penton does not make sense:

    He was evidently quite sincere in selling the famous grain but was more positive about its qualities than he should have been. Miracle Wheat was apparently no more than a mutant strain, a “sport.” It soon lost its outstanding vitality and was not, as he believed, a sign that the earth was soon to be restored to paradisiacal conditions.

    Why did the "miracle wheat" lose its outstanding vitality? Wouldn't it remain if what I understand about wheat is true?

    P.S. I have already asked some agronomists, waiting for their response. But if someone here knows about it, why not?

  • hoser

    It lost it's vitality because it never had any to begin with.

  • Simon

    Ha, I grew up on a farm, picking potatoes and carrots, cabbage, lettuce and harvesting wheat and barley.

    I can't really remember much of the details, LOL. It's hard work, why do you think I got an office job?! (although driving tractors was fun)

    Most modern farming crops are engineered though and don't pollinate on their own (or are harvested before they do / can). They are designed to yield produce and you buy seed for next year's crop.

    The leftover things that spill and grow again the next year aren't the same. I don't know if that's because the ground isn't prepared though or if the strain is diluted.

  • Magnum

    Good question. Wish I could help you. It seems to me that, as you said, the genetics should be preserved. I, too, don't understand why it would have lost its vitality.

    Do you have any opinion yet as to whether Russell was innocent in the Miracle Wheat episode?

  • Simon

    Most farmed crops are annual rather than perennial. They need to be replanted with fresh seed each year in the same way that the nicest flowers in your garden don't magically come back as well as the weeds manage to.


    I doubt the Miracle Wheat claims had anything to do with genuine growing though. It's likely just headline grabbing BS that they specialized in back then.

    Like the adverts in old Marvel comics for amazing things (x-ray specs, balloons as big as a house etc...)

  • Village Idiot
    Village Idiot

    "...It soon lost its outstanding vitality..."

    That is probably a reference to the fact that the wheat would not keep it's attributes after a 2nd generation.

  • talesin

    If you asked google this: "do farmers make their own wheat seed"; you would find this answer. : ))

    .(EDIT: VI, just saw your comment - :-) Twice for emphasis? )

    Isn't it better for farmers to harvest and reuse their own seeds?
    Expert Answer
    By: Bart Schott , Farmer and Past President, Corn Board of the National Corn Growers Association on Thursday, 9/26/2013 4:12 pm
    Most farmers do not choose to save seed because they can be assured that newly purchased seed is free of disease and pathogens, and in the case of hybrids, demonstrates hybrid vigor, with consistent, uniform characteristics.

    “Seed saving” is not really an option with hybrid corn if a farmer wants consistency in his or her crops because saved the seed from hybrid crops (the offspring) does not “breed true” in successive generations, i.e., it does not deliver the quality and uniformity that farmers need. In soybeans, studies have shown that farmers get better yields when they buy new, “certified” seed rather than saved or “bin-run” seed. As Successful Farming magazine pointed out:

    “Shawn Conley, a University of Wisconsin Extension agronomist, analyzed data that North Carolina State University researchers published in 1991 comparing bin-run to professionally grown seed. The researchers analyzed 204 comparisons across 6 years in 16 locations with 35 varieties. They found a 1.9 bushel per acre advantage to certified seed over bin-run seed. In some cases, they were higher. Conley notes Wisconsin data showed a 2.2 bushel per acre advantage for certified over bin-run seed. Today, this difference would likely be magnified due to improvements in seed technology, he adds.”

    ("Why it doesn't pay to plant bin-run soybean seed," Successful Farming, February 12, 2013)

    Hybrids can be explained easily by revisiting high school Mendelian genetics 101:

    When you cross two "true-breeding" parental varieties you create a hybrid. To be "true breeding,” the plants’ genes would have to be homozygous for whatever traits are desired. That means both alleles of a given gene would be either dominant (AA for example) or recessive (aa for example). For example, in looking at three genes, A, B and C, the genes in true breeding parent 1 could be AAbbCC and parent 2 could be aaBBcc. Each parent would be genetically different.

    The hybrid offspring of these parents (crossing AAbbCC x aaBBcc) would be AaBbCc: one allele from each gene comes from parent 1 and the other allele from each gene comes from parent 2. The ears of corn (the offspring), which are genetically different from their parents, are harvested.

    If you purchase new hybrid seed the next year that was produced again from the true breeding parents above, you will continue to produce corn plants that are genetically the same as the previous year’s crop (AbBbCc).

    If on the other hand, you save the kernels from this offspring corn (AaBbCc) and plant them next year, the growing corn plants will fertilize themselves and each other. (Corn is wind-pollinated.)

    The offspring of this cross (AaBbCc x AaBbCc) can produce a variety of 16 possible genetic combinations: AABBCC, AABBCc, AABbCC, AABbCc, AaBBCC, AaBBCc, AaBbCC, AaBbCc, AABBcc, AAbbCC, AAbbcc, aaBBCC, aabbCC, or aabbcc, half of which would not look like the parents.
  • Listener

    I love Ttatt, I don't know if you have seen this site which has a lot of information about the 'miracle wheat'. It is in support of Russell.

    What is interesting is that he promotes the idea that all Russell was interested in the wheat because it showed what was possible in the future paradise. Wt 1909 he states

    Assuredly, as our text suggests, when the Lord’s time shall come he will be well able to call for the increase of the grain for the benefit of the world of mankind, whom he so loved as to redeem and for whom the blessings of restitution are shortly to be made available. — Acts 3:19-21.

    If it lost it's outstanding properties then using it as an example for future possibilities was pointless.

  • ILoveTTATT2

    Hi Talesin,

    What you stated holds for corn but doesn't for wheat.

    From what I have read so far (and it's a lot!), wheat retains new characteristics because it's essentially cloned.

    Corn combines genetic material so hybrids lose their potency after a while.

    Shouldn't happen with wheat.

    More likely it's what Hoser said... There was never any "vitality" to begin with.

    I am piecing together the puzzle and the view I get is completely different than other researchers have concluded.

    Russell was essentially conned and didn't get the memo that the person who sold the original was proven to be bullshitting everyone... He originally sold the wheat for 1.25 a pound (75 times commercial value), then sold it for 5 per bushel (still 5 times commercial value) because the USDA essentially told him "you're full of shit". This happened about the time that Russell started selling it at 1 per pound (60 times commercial value)...

    Russell thought it was the "hottest thing since sliced bread" ;)

  • talesin


    I agree that the Miracle Wheat may have been nothing special. Was it even a hybrid?

    Hmm, just reading an article from 2000, and wondering if you are researching GMO vs hybrid? Check out this article in the NYT in 2000 (before the great GMO controversy began). Here's a quote that kinda explains what I mean. [bold is mine]


    But the world's major food grains do not reproduce asexually. If they could, some scientists say, it would greatly simplify crop breeding. A high-yielding corn, wheat or rice plant could reproduce itself unchanged for generations.
    ''Once this occurs, the ramifications could well dwarf the green revolution in terms of its impact,'' said Dr. David M. Stelly, a professor of soil and crop sciences at Texas A&M University, who has dubbed this the ''asexual revolution.''
    But apomixis could also represent a threat to the seed companies, changing the balance of power between the companies and farmers. It is thus being swept up in the worldwide controversy over agricultural biotechnology.
    Right now high yields are obtained using hybrids, which are crosses between two different varieties. But hybrids, which display a somewhat mysterious ''hybrid vigor,'' take years of painstaking, costly breeding to develop.

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