Showing posts with label sunflower. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sunflower. Show all posts

Saturday, August 20, 2016

1871 - Russian Mammoth Seeds; 2016 - Russian Mammoth Odds and Ends

 Who can resist the allure of a flower two stories high?!! 

I started looking around for Mammoth Russian odds and ends, and this page is where I put them.   

This is how I live the sitting down part of my life,  following tangents around the internet.  It's nice folks like me have outlets like blogs to share what we find! 


The heads of this enormous variety grow to the size of 20 inches in diameter under ordinary cultivation; produces an immense amount of valuable green fodder, and about 50 bushels seed per acre. Seed white, the size of Dent corn grains—valuable for feeding poultry and horses or for oil. A seed head of mine, shown at the Mass. Hort. Society. attracted great attention on account of its large size. A field of this variety makes the best bee pasture known. A few stalks planted in dooryards will prevent fever by absorbing malaria. Extensively cultivated in Russia. Have selected a quantity of the largest heads for seed. A large package of extra seed,  sufficient to plant 15 square rods, sent post-paid, with directions, for 25 cts.

Box 900, Boston. Mass
1871 - The Cultivator & Country Gentleman, Volume 36

This link to Kuriositas is worth the visit for the info and the remarkable photographs!!!

Multiple sites say Mammoth Russian seeds were sold until the 1970s.  They are sold all over now so I wonder what happened back then.

Lastly, you can find almost anything on YouTube!

This video shows you how to grow them.

This second video follows a patch over their growth and tries to convince you to grow them!

Monday, August 15, 2016

1879 - Sunflowers vs. the Pent Up Miasma

I had no clue that planting sunflowers used to be considered an excellent way to prevent malaria!

The swampy lowland around Washington D.C. were malaria magnets and the sunflower was promoted to protect the population of the city from the disease.  The sunflower is a heavy drinker, true - but the flawed logic of the general population in ascribing more powers to the sunflower than it legitimately possesses is interesting.   



It is not the Aesthetical nor sentimental view of the sunflower that at present commands our attention, but rather its sanitary powers in warding off disease.

Agriculture is always lavish of its gifts. It feeds the hungry, clothes the naked and shields mankind from disease, sickness and death. The grass, the tree, the flower, all add to man's pleasure, comfort and health. Trees drain the wet places, and slowly but surely fill up disease-breeding swamps. But, in proportion to size, no plant is so beneficent in warding off malaria as the sunflower.

Sections of the once malarious West have became salubrious from the growth of sunflowers, accidentally dropped by some enterprising citizen seeking a new home on the generous acres of the West. These uncared for seeds took root, grew, and the plants ripened their seeds. These, the birds, or the winds, or both, scattered broadcast until an annual crop is furnished for whomsoever will partake of it. 

These plants have furnished for the emigrants' horses, oxen and other stock on his road to a new home a grateful shade in midday; and the old stalks convenient fuel to cook the breakfast dinner and supper for the weary traveler. But the greater blessing conferred by the sunflower is the protection from malaria of the settlers on the rich lands of the prairies.

Whether the leaves inhale or absorb the malarial elements of disease; or whether, by exhaling a superabundance of oxygen, sunflowers protect man and beast from sickness, physiologists haven not yet determined; but that they protect from malaria, experience and experiment have abundantly and convincingly proven.

All plants absorb carbonic acid gas, and exhale oxygen; while living animals exhale carbonic acid gas and inhale oxygen. Plants are largely composed of the carbon obtained from the air, while oxygen is the vitalizing element in animal organisms.

Homes, districts, army stations, hamlets, villages and cities have been protected from malaria by trees and plants; but of all the plants, none exert so benign an influence against malaria as does the sunflower.
Recent experiments have shown that persons may be inoculated with the malaria contained in the water of swamps, and in the algae growing and decaying in them. Whether the large exhalations of oxygen from great numbers of sunflowers or the excessive transpirations of water through the broad excreting leaves of these plants exert the sanitary influences attributed to them, or whether some unknown agency operates or co-operates to produce this desirable result is not material, so long as the result is obtained by liberally planting sunflowers around, or on the swampy side of habitable places; so that there may be interspersed between the human domiciles and the malaria-producing regions this efficient preventive agency.

Efficient engineering doubtless is the most effective means of overcoming malaria—by thorough drainage. Arboriculture ranks next. But for the quick and efficient aids to both of these, the planting of sunflowers in a proper manner is the most prompt and reliable means.

The necessary excavations of the engineer at first intensifies evil, by liberating the pent up miasma. So indeed does tree planting, but in a less degree. The sunflower cultivation, however, produces immediate good results while these more permanent measures are being perfected. 

Another plant, the Jerusalem artichoke-— Helianthus tuberosus—near akin to the sunflower in its anti-malarial influence, and having the advantage in not requiring to be planted annually, and of also yielding a valuable preventive.

1881-1910 Helen Sharp's botanical studies delight me.

Washington is a veritable hot-bed of malaria. That this state of things should have been so long permitted to have existed is not creditable to Congress, the governing power. Many of our most valuable representatives have been sacrificed by exposure to Washington malaria; and vastly more have suffered in health in consequence of the unsanitary conditions surrounding the capital of a great, intelligent and rich nation.

While engineering and arboriculture are laying great sanitary plans, let the simple, efficient and immediate offices of the sunflower be brought to bear to protect the President, the Cabinet, Senators, Congressmen and the citizens of Washington from a pestilence that constantly hovers over the capital.

This valuable protecting power of the sunflower may be utilized in any locality where miasma is rife.

To protect that part of the city near the Potomac flats there should be planted a broad belt of sunflowers between that part of the flats upon which the engineers will operate and the unoccupied land; as broad and long a a belt as practicable should be well plowed and planted with the Russian mammoth sunflower, four feet apart in rows at right angles, so that a single horse-plow may cultivate both ways. One plant in the square thus laid out will be best, as the growth is rapid and vigorous.

1892 - Currier & Ives

Similar management will protect other localities. The occupants of farm houses and country residences can be thus secured against the baneful influences of malaria.

A few sunflowers planted about the farmhouse might be sufficient to satisfy the aesthetic taste of Oscar Wilde, but they would not be numerous enough to ward off malaria. A belt of sunflowers and Jerusalem artichokes is required. Though there would be but little variety in these plants alone, there might be interspersed a few plants of pearl millet, golden millet, or some others to please the fancy and relieve the homely monotony of the sunflowers and artichokes. Judging from the display of artificial sunflowers in the shop windows in New York City, one might imagine that the sentimental malaria of aesthetical society has been utterly banished, yet the sunflower aesthetical malaria has spread far and near. The subjects most susceptible are those of a peculiar organization—those who are more sensitive than sensible.

It is to be hoped that artificial sentiment and artificial sunflowers will not in any way impede the rational employment of natural sunflowers to protect mankind from real ills.
Plant, cultivate and harvest a large crop of sunflowers, and a large crop of health at the same time. And at your harvest home festivities, bestow a thank-offering upon the Dispenser of all gracious gifts.

Thousands of valuable lives have been extinguished by the remorseless venom of malaria and if its full powers can be overcome by the simple act of planting trees and sunflowers, God bless the generous hearts that plan, and the benevolent hands that plant these life-preserving gifts for man.


How to Prevent Ague in Rural Districts
Br A. S. Heath, M.D., New York.
Ague -A fever (such as from malaria) that is marked by paroxysms of chills, fever, and sweating recurring regular intervals. Also a fit of shivering, a chill. 

The past summer and fall developed malaria so profusely in localities near New York, that the quinine trade was most active and profitable to druggists doing business in these rural districts.

To drain and sub-drain the land for thirty or forty miles round New York, would require years, and millions of money; and now that we are on the very eve of rapid transit, when these localities may be utilized as residences for workingmen, clerks and other citizens who may seek pure air in the country for themselves and families, how can the fever and ague be prevented? This is a question of great importance. The health and happiness of a people should interest the State and the great city in which the people reside. The product of labor to the city and State is the basis of their wealth and prosperity.

Until perfect drainage shall be accomplished, we have a cheap, prompt, convenient, practical and effectual means of warding off malaria, if we can trust the experience of disinterested persons, who have themselves profited by the method proposed, in various parts of the world.

This sanitary and prophylactic preventive of malaria is a well-known annual plant of thrifty growth, and easily cultivated everywhere at a trifling expense. It is no less than the familiar Hellianthus annuus, the sunflower.

This plant has been cultivated in almost every State in the Union, and in many parts of Europe, to some extent, for this purpose. Where it was largely cultivated, its reputation, as a preventive ague, is undisputed; but where only a few seeds were sown about the house—half-a-dozen plants were grown—its prophylactic powers are doubted, and on good grounds, too. 

Trees, when dense around a house, ward off malaria. In a thousand places on the Mississippi and other rivers, deep forests ward off malaria. Even osage hedges, stone walls, and tight board fences, strips of thrifty rye interposed between a residence and swamp when on an elevated ridge, have all been known to interpose barriers to malaria; and none of these obstacles have been known to possess half the protecting power possessed by sunflowers.

The great cause of failure of protection by the growth of sunflowers is, that the culture was too limited. Powder can blast to pieces the hardest rock; but if used, grain by grain—homeopathically—its power is of no effect. It requires, to be effective, cumulation and concentration.

 Neymer, a German professor and author of eminence, says: "I have no hesitation in saying decidedly that marsh miasma, malaria, must consist of low vegetable organisms, whose development is chiefly due to the putrefaction of vegetable substances. It is true that these low organisms have not actually been observed. No one has seen malaria spores."

 At Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. J. W. Salisbury exhibited these spores to a large number of medical gentlemen from various parts of the Union, by the use of powerful microscopes. Knowing that malaria, then, is a congregation of minute vegetable organisms, and that these delicate organisms are destroyed by frost, by the odor of flowers and flowering plants, probably by the generation of ozone by these flowers and plants, we begin to know the modus operandi of the protecting power of the sunflower, as this is a profuse flowerer, and that every plant has an active organization, removing large quantities of water from the soil and generating a strong odor, and creating a large quantity of ozone. Swamps have been drained by sunflowers alone, by their excessive transpiration.

Though Neymer and many other physicians believe in the theory of vegetable organisms as the cause of malaria, and Dr. Salisbury and others have supposed that they have discovered the true organisms, yet it is not accepted by the profession as having been settled by microscopists, by any means. The fact is, the profession do not know exactly what malaria is, but rather what its effects are upon the human system.

I have read somewhere, but I do not know where, that a Southern army post had to be abandoned because of the sickness of the soldiers and officers. A discharged soldier and his family were permitted to occupy the station free of charge. This man, having a good many fowls, sowed a large plot of the ground with sunflower seed, immediately around the residence of himself and family. This proved to be a perfect protection from the ague. This fact coming to the knowledge of the government, this officer and his command were again sent to occupy this station, and they also were protected from the so much dreaded malaria.

Doctor Castle, editor of New Remedies, in an editorial, says: "An officer of the Engineer Corps, of the United States Army, recently informed us that, being stationed during the war on the Potomac river in one of its most malarious portions, he surrounded his quarters with a thick cordon of sunflowers, and escaped any trouble from ague."
The army officer Dr. Castle spoke of, did practice the proper method. He planted a thick cordon of sunflowers.

I confidently recommend to families who reside in New Jersey, Westchester County, New York, Staten Island, Long Island, and all other malarial districts, to plow deep a space of ground from ten to thirty feet wide, according to the distance from the house, on at least those sides of the dwelling toward the creek, river or swamp, from which the malaria emanates. The distance should not be greater from the house than from five to ten rods; and the greater the distance, the thicker the plot of ground should be sown with sunflowers.
Bees make the most delicious honey from its flowers.
I had to cut a lot from this. It was too repetitive.  Orignally published in 1878 in Wallace's Monthly: An Illustrated Magazine Devoted to Domesticated Animal Nature

Just for the record :-)

Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran, a French army surgeon stationed in Constantine, Algeria, was the first to notice parasites in the blood of a patient suffering from malaria. This occurred on the 6th of November 1880. For his discovery, Laveran was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1907.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

1912 - Vasilii Stepanovich Pustovoit and his Sunflowers

I think I first twigged to Pustovoit when I encountered this mention of him.  Or maybe not...whatever the case, he certainly impacted the world of agriculture! A prestigious award now keeps his memory alive.

V.S. Pustovoit Award

Vasilii Stepanovich Pustovoit

"The V.S. Pustovoit Award is the highest honour conferred to individuals working in the Sunflower Industry. To fully appreciate the significance of the Award, it is necessary to have some knowledge of the man after whom the Award was named.
2016 Award Winner,
Dr. Tatiana Sergeevna Antonova 

In 1912, V.S. Pustovoit began his research work on fields crops in the Kuban region. Pustovoit was an outstanding breeder, a Lenin and State Prize winner, and a member of the USSR Academy of Sciences and the Lenin Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

He worked out the technique of multiple individual selection from strains and intervarietal hybrids assessed for their offspring quality, with the subsequent induced and regulated transpollination of the best numbers.

In 1924, Krasnodar became the experimental selection centre for Russian oilseeds and in 1932 the V.S. Pustovoit All Union Research Institute was established to formalize the valuable work Pustovoit had done in the preceding years.

V. S. Pustovoit headed the Breeding Department of the Institute until his death in 1972."


A bit more background: 
In 1912, Pustovoit organized the Kruglik Plant Breeding and Experiment Station (since 1932 the All-Union Scientific Research Institute of Oil Crops) at the Kuban Agricultural School.   From 1935 to 1972 he headed the department of selective breeding and seed-raising of oil crops and the laboratory of sunflower breeding at the All-UnionScientific Research Institute of Oil Crops.
Pustovoit was one of the first to breed sunflowers with high oil content. He worked out highly effective systems for the improved raising of sunflower seeds. He developed 20 broom-rape-resistant sunflower varieties with a high oil content (up to 57 percent in dry seeds). These varieties include Peredovik VNIIMK 8883, VNIIMK 6540, and Smena.
In 1974, varieties bred by Pustovoit occupied more than half the varietal sunflower plantings in the USSR; in foreign countries about 1 million hectares have been planted with varieties developed by Pustovoit.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). 
© 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved

Mammoth Russian, Diane's Strain

In 1882 the Iowa State Horticultural Society had something to say about the Mammoth Russian.


The Mammoth Russian sunflower is the largest, best, and most productive variety. A flower exhibited at the Centennial measured twenty-two inches in diameter.  
The seed is valuable for stock-feeding; it is the best egg-producing food known for poultry, keeping them in fine condition, and largely increasing the production of eggs. The Poultry World says this plant should be grown by every breeder in the country who has opportunity to raise only a few stalks even; for its properties of glossing the plumage of exhibition birds are remarkable. 
It can be sown any time up to the middle of July. The leaves and stalk, when green, furnish capital fodder for horses and cows. It may be planted where other fruit and vegetables cannot be conveniently raised, along the sides of fences or anywhere where the soil is not easily cultivated. These flowers are double the average dimensions of the South American variety, and as a bearer it far excels the latter. 
I raised heads of Mammoth Russian sunflowers larger over than a common water pail, and very heavy, and full of large seeds, and valuable for poultry. The stalks when dry in winter make good kindling wood. The sunflower possesses anti-malarial properties of much value, and may be made very useful by liberal planting around houses located in malarial sections. Mark out the ground as for corn, and plant several seeds in each hill, and when the plant gets about three inches high thin out. The cut-worms will eat them down sometimes. Three quarts of seed is sufficient for an acre. 
—Mary J. Coomber, in Iowa Homestead, Transactions, Volume 16

Did you notice the reference to malaria?  I had to follow up on that.  The next post will follow that interesting claim until I find out what Mary is talking about!


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Seeds from Russia - How the USA Learned to Value the Sunflower

The sunflower has long been grown in this country for ornamental purposes and the wild form has been used by nature to give the boy,  raised on the farm in the Middle West, employment during the summer months, for it is the weed that requires so much hand labor to eradicate.  Although a native of the New World we learned its real value from the experience of the farmers in Russia.  -1921-

I first became interested in the seed industry in Russia when, for some unknown reason, which I assume is a data glitch somewhere in Google's bowels, this blog's stats suddenly began to register many, many, many more Russian visitors than any other nation!

In honor of that readership, imaginary as it is, I started looking for something appropriate where I always the 19th century.  When I spotted sunflowers I jumped on it.  Who doesn't like a sunflower story?!  The Russian-German immigrants to the USA in the 1870s brought along the seeds of their home regions opening the eyes of farmers to new varieties and new crops.
This turns out to be a great story of successful plant breeding that benefited the world.

First I'll share this following article from an 1892 Scientific American, and in a following post fill out this history with information on the man responsible, Vasilii Stepanovich Pustovoit,  who, a decade later so positively impacted his home country of Russia, and mine, the USA,  with his improved sunflower seeds.
Voronezh  - Tháng Tám, 2016


THE sunflower, as a garden plant, has been known all over Russia for many years, but only in certain districts has it been cultivated on a large scale as an industry. The first cultivation of sunflower seed for commercial purposes began, says the United States Consul General, at St. Petersburg in 1842, in the village of Alexeievka, in the district of Berutchinsk, government of Voronezh, by a farmer who was the first to obtain oil from the seed. This farmer soon found many followers, and the village of Alexeievka soon became the center of the new industry. The government of Voronezh is even now the chief district in European Russia for the growing of the sunflower.

Besides the district of Berutchinsk, this plant is cultivated on a large scale in the districts of Novokhopersk, Ostrogoshk, Bobroosk, Valouisk, and Korotoiaks.From the government of Voronezh the cultivation of sunflowers spread to the adjacent governments of Tambov and Saratov, where there are large fields cultivated with this plant, particularly in the latter government. The people of the provence of the Don and the government of Sirnbersk and Samara are more or less engaged in this trade; in fact in the entire southeast of Russia the sunflower furnishes a prominent product of the farm.
Two kinds of sunflower are grown in Russia—one with small seeds, used for the production of oil, and the other with larger seeds, consumed by the people in enormous quantities as dainties. In the district where the seed is cultivated on a large scale. the plant has been continually grown on the same soil for many years in succession, thus producing a special disease of the plant. The sunflower seed is used principally for obtaining sunflower oil, which, owing to its nutritious qualities, purity, and cable flavor, has superseded the other vegetable oils in many parts of the country.

Large seeded type; photo eBay seller of Mammoth Russian 
In general the cultivation of the sunflower in Russia is considered to be very profitable.
Hulls plus seed ground to make a cake.
At the average yield of 1,350 lb. to the acre, and at the average price of 1/4d. a pound, the farmer receives an income of about £4 an acre, and this income can be increased in those districts where the grower himself is engaged in producing the oil from the seed. The substance remaining from the oil manufacture, or sunflower cakes, being used as cattle food, is also a valuable product. These cakes, however, have a comparatively small demand in Russia, but are largely exported to foreign countries, principally to Germany and England.

The government of Saratov, for instance, exports about 2,000,000 lb. of sunflower cakes to different countries, where a further quantity of oil is extracted from them before being used for cattle food. The sunflower shells, being used for heating purposes form an article of trade in several districts. The seed cups are not wasted, but are used as food for sheep.

The peasants in the government of Tambov are increasing the cultivation of the sunflower, owing to the following reasons: There is a steadily increasing demand at home and abroad for the seed, thus making the industry a profitable one, especially as Russia is the chief source of supply. As above mentioned, the sunflower is cultivated principally for the oil. If the cultivation is made with care, and if proper precautions are taken in drying, cleaning, and pressing , sunflower oil is equal to the French table oil in color, flavor, and taste.

At first sunflower oil did not meet with public favor in Russia, but later on, owing to its good qualities and cheapness, it took the place of the oil of poppy seed; but or a long time hempseed oil competed with it, owing to the fact that the lower classes, who for many years had used the hempseed oil in the preparation of various dishes, and who had long learned to relish it, were not disposed to give it up.
Now, however, public opinion has changed, and sunflower oil is preferred by the masses to all other table oils in Russia.

The process of oil making is as follows :

The seed being brought to the oil mill, is thoroughly cleaned and sorted. They are passed under millstones, specially prepared for the purpose, in order to release the seeds from the shells. After this the seed is properly dusted and put under a press, and, later on, into a mixer, where the seed is turned into a compact mass very much like paste, which passes into presses heated by steam. From these presses the paste is taken out and wrapped in a thin web, made of camel hair, and put under a press, by which the oil is squeezed out and conducted by pipes into tanks.

The total number of oil mills in Russia was, according to the last account, 104. From this number 85 were applied solely to obtaining sunflower oil. In 24 of these mills steam is used, and in others only manual power. The largest mill is at Saratov, and it produces 1,500,000 lb. of oil annually.

There are two kinds of oil obtained from the sunflower seeds. The better kind is sweet, and more expensive, the inferior having a bitter taste. The difference in the price of these two qualities is about one half penny a pound. The oil remaining from the oil production or the waste, and not used as food, is applied exclusively to certain industries.

The sunflower stalks, gathered from the fields, and dried in piles, have entirely replaced fire wood; in fact, these stalks are preferred even to pine wood, producing a quick and hot-flame fire. About 2,000 lb. of such fire wood are gathered from an acre of land, thus adding a great boon to a district where wood is scarce. Sunflower shells are also used in for heating purposes, not only in private houses but in large factories as well. They are burned in ovens especially prepared for their consumption.  See below.

The ashes of the sunflower contains, high percentage of potassium. The experiments of Hermbstedt have proved that 1,000 lb. of dried stalks yield 57.2 pounds of ash; and from 1,000 lb. of ash are obtained 349 lb. of the best potassium. As a food for cattle, sunflower cakes are looked upon as the best in Russia; they are considered better even than hempseed or rapeseed cakes. According to chemical analyses, the sunflower cakes from the government of Saratov contain: Azotic substances, 42.31 per cent; oil, 14.7 per cent; and ashes, 5.12 per cent. The dried seed cups, if ground, are used in many districts as food for cattle, and particularly for sheep, with great success.


Speaking of heating with the stalks, I have always wanted a Russian stove/fireplace as they are so efficient, and can burn waste hay and less expensive stuff than wood. See this blog for some more information.  And here is a current company designing and building traditional masonry stoves.

LINK:  Nice coloring book for kids on sunflowers from the National Sunflower Association.

LINK; The matryoshka is painted in Sergiev Posad floral style by artist Anonova Zinaida.