Seed Plot Marker

A researcher examines wheat crops at the Canada Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa, ca 1920s. Source: Library and Archives Canada, PA-043198

Sometimes scientific inquiry depends on simple tools.

For Charles Saunders, this oak seed-plot marker helped advance his research on Marquis wheat in the early twentieth century. Saunders was a meticulous cereals scientist at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa between 1903 and 1922. He used the 4-foot marker, with its 96 pointed dowels, to make neatly spaced rows of wheat and other crops. The result was a uniform research plot that allowed Saunders to closely examine the growing plants and select those with desirable characteristics. Saunders used this technique to develop Marquis wheat, a hybrid variety that matured earlier and yielded more grain than other varieties. First planted in quantity in 1909, Marquis became western Canada’s dominant wheat variety and established the country as a major wheat exporter. While Marquis was not resistant to plant diseases such as rust, it established Charles Saunders’s reputation as a brilliant agronomist and the role of federal science in nation building.

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