Experimental Farm, Kentville


AUGUST 9, 1939

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One of the show places of the Annapolis Valley is the Experimental Station at Kentville, where it is possible to view the process of agricultural endeavor in all branches and in varied degrees of development. This Station, now under the superintendency of Mr. A. Kelsall, was established by reason of a request of the fruit growers of Kings, Hants and Annapolis counties for assistance in experimental work and has to a large extent been responsible for the rapid development of the Valley apple industry. In 1911 the property purchased by the Nova Scotia government was taken over by the Dominion Department of Agriculture as a unit of the Experimental Stations and has been of the utmost value to the apple growers and general farmers in the solution of their agricultural problems.

When a Register representative visited the Station recently on a very hot day he found Mr. R. D. L. Bligh, clad only in white shirt and shorts, busily engaged in pruning new apple seedlings, which he explained would be budded next year. He very kindly relinquished his task to converse on the work being done by the experimental Station in the interests of the farmers. Extensive work is being done in the selection of varieties of apples, pears, plums, cherries, peaches, strawberries, etc. Experiments are being carried on with approximately 260 varieties of apples.

Mr. Bligh discoursed freely upon the subject of propagation and nursery work necessary to develop hardy root stocks and pointed out several which had shown splendid prospects of developing into excellent fruit-bearing trees.

Much experimenting has been done in pollinization to determine the value of insects in securing a good set of fruit. Methods of planting, fertilizing, pruning, disease and insect control, thinning and harvesting of fruit, the comparative production of varieties, the correct harvesting time, storage and shipping life are all being studied and the results passed on to the fruit grower.


In recent years considerable attention has been given to the processing of fruit juices and to the canning and dehydration of fruits. An effort has been made to improve the facilities to secure a more economical production. Improvements have been made in the type of dehydrator so that the product is more uniform and better cured. Experiments in cold storage with tests as to reaction of fruit grown on plots differently fertilized, are being studied and shipments have been made of various varieties under different methods of handling, packing and transportation.

But apples and other fruits are not the only horticultural crops that occupy the time and attention of the staff. Small fruits have been tested and two acres each year have been devoted to vegetable culture. The work with potatoes centres largely around the use of potato seed stock free from disease and has been of valuable assistance in the production of certified seed in the Valley.

The honey bee is recognized as a necessary part of good orcharding, as it distributes pollen and helps to secure a commercial set of fruit. Mr. Bligh described the effect of insecticides on bees and stated that undoubtedly large numbers of bees are destroyed by poisoned water on flowers and weeds. He suggested that the remedy was to remove the bee colonies at certain times.

We learned that commercial fertilizers are used more extensively in this district than in any other part of Canada and tests are being continually made to determine a properly balanced fertilizer suitable to certain crops and soils. A large number of test plots are used in this study.


The poultry section is most interesting and a whole column could be written on results being accomplished, sufficient to say that the work at the Station is solely that of breeding. A large flock of Barred Plymouth Rocks has been developed with the idea of producing the best strain for both eggs and meat. A limited amount of breeding work has also been done with White Leghorns, aiming at a larger bird without sacrificing egg production. Success in their endeavors is registered in the results of the egg-laying contests of recent years. Interesting figures were given us to the effect that the profit over cost of feeding in a five year period was $1.07 per bird, with mash and grain averaging $2.37 per hundred-weight.

Because of pressure of duties Mr. Bligh transferred us to the care of the Chief Herdsman, Mr. S. A. Porter, who gave us an interesting history of the live stock department of the Experimental Station. Mr. Porter who has been with the farm for a good many years was enthusiastic about the utility of the Shorthorn as a dual purpose animal. Space is not sufficient to cover all the data placed at our disposal but we would suggest that a visit to the farm and an interview with Mr. Porter would be well worth the time spent by any

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Experimental Station Renders Fine Service

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farmer. Among other things Mr. Porter stated that the fruit grower or general farmer who was desirous of filling his barn with cattle, but was not in a position to milk a large number of cows the year round, would do well to fit the Shorthorn into his yearly program.


Because of the continued increased demand for breeding stock the Experimental Station herd has been reduced from 52 to 34 head. It is the policy of the Station to distribute as many R.O.P. animals into the surrounding country as possible. Many good sires have been produced. To give some idea of the standard maintained, Mr. Porter stated that during the twenty-three years of Record of Performance, 167 females have qualified, with an average of 6,478 pounds of milk and 262 pounds of fat, or a 4.04 per cent test.

To the average person the most appealing section of the Station is the devoted to the beautiful flower gardens with their glorious variety of blooms and showing at their best at this season of the year. Wandering around among the flower beds we came across Mr. W. T. Blair with one of his men, who was doing something that has always been thought to be a wrong procedure, i.e., watering flower beds in the heat of the day. Questioned on this subject Mr. Blair stated that it was not harmful to put water around the roots of plants, even on a very hot day, but no water should be sprayed on the blooms.


Mr. Blair has many visitors and enquiries about his particular department, judging by the number who came to him during the course of our interview. We found him very willing to discuss the comparative value of different varieties of flowers and we learned something of the immense amount of work entailed in producing flower beds such as are on exhibition at the Station. We listened in on several conversations with enquirers who were seeking help to beautify their own premises. There is no doubt that the marked improvement in home surroundings in the Valley that has been noted during the last decade can be in part credited to the inspiration received from the Experimental Station. Dr. W. Saxby Blair, former superintendent of the Station, was always enthusiastic about beautifying the home grounds and his advice was frequently sought in landscaping projects.

Incidentally there is blooming at the Experimental Station a handsome new dahlia, developed by the Wallace Dahlia Gardens and named the "Saxby Blair." It would take too much space to tell of the new shades and colors that have been developed in bedding plants, of the beautiful roses and the tests being made to determine those that would stand the rigorous climate of a Nova Scotia winter. Experiments are being made of shading chrysanthemums to quicken the time of blooming. Mr. Blair claims that by artificially shortening the days by means of shading from the light, the "mums" will bloom much earlier. Maybe he is right.

There is much more that could be said of the Experimental Station, of field husbandry, animal husbandry, the work being done in the laboratories, about the expert staff and commodious plant. Suffice to say that the Kentville Experimental Station deserves a great deal of credit for the agricultural development of the Valley and stands as a valuable institution with facilities at the disposal of all who wish to use them.