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Plantbreeding at Svalöf - continued...


A table published by Nilsson presents the hierarchy of criteria according to which Neergard carried out selection (Nilsson 1892, 126).

Nilsson 1892, 126

Two observations can be made about these criteria:

1. Selection was not carried out according to the overall impression of the plants – their 'vigour' or 'beauty' – but according to certain characters, each of these attended to separately, but all of them successively focussing on the aspired quality, the quality of the grains (kärnor): first, characters of the whole plant, as the 'structure of the straw', had to be assessed, next characters of the ear, as weight, size, and density, and finally characters of the grains, as their position and weight. Moreover, the criteria consisted of well quantifiable or classifiable characters, as weight, sizes, angles or positions. The overall gestalt of the plant was atomised into smallest units of measurable difference.

2. As Neergaard himself noted in one of his reports, the plant material went 'through many hands' (quoted in Olsson 1993, 181). The great mass of material – in the winter of 1899/90 alone, 11000 individual plants of a single sort of barley were examined – and the repetitive pattern of the selection process made it necessary to employ untrained assistants, mostly women and children. According to Neergard, his main aim lay in the factory-like organisation of this work and the mechanisation of each working step by specially developed tools with such names as 'combined barley- and oats-forceps (Kombinierte Gersten- und Haferzange)', 'classificator (Klassifikator)', 'Diaphanoskop', and 'earlet-sorter (Ährchensortierer)'.

Reference: Müller-Wille, Staffan. 2008. Plantbreeding at Svalöf: Instruments, Registers, Fieldwork. The Virtual Laboratory (ISSN 1866-4784), http://vlp.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/references?id=art69&page=p0002