I move amendment No. 1:
In paragraph (a), after line 27, to insert a new sub-paragraph as follows:—
(iv) discovering technical processes and methods which may promote the expansion or development of agriculture.
This amendment raises the issue to which I adverted on Second Reading. Two points of view were then expressed. Senator O Buachalla was inclined to think that this matter was covered by the Bill. Senator O'Dea expressed himself in the form that he would be disappointed if it were not. The Minister clarified the position by indicating that it was not and that it was not the purpose of the Bill. I understand fairly clearly what the Minister is making provision for. However, I am seeking to add as a function of the institute the discovery of technical processes and methods which may promote the expansion or development of agriculture. I do not know what objection the Minister may make to that addition. I hope he will not raise any. He may argue that this is not the sort of function which should be given to this body which is primarily intended to help in the development of industry and that the development of agriculture, from the scientific point of view, is such a vast problem that another body should be vested with authority to deal with that problem. I am seeking to have this amendment inserted because I see no indication whatever of any action which will make it possible to achieve for agriculture what I am seeking to achieve through this amendment. I said on Second Reading that everything in this country is secondary to agriculture. Nobody will contest that. The Minister on some recent occasions has indicated his belief that the success of industry is dependent on the productivity and purchasing capacity of the agricultural community. The success of industry can only be achieved when agricultural production is successful. Therefore, antecedent to any real development of industry must come the development of agriculture.
If the Minister is convinced that industrial research is essential to the success of industry, there is ample evidence that it is even more essential to the full development of agriculture. He will admit that, speaking generally, there is no research being done here on behalf of agriculture. I do not want to be misunderstood. I know that all along there has been a certain limited experimentation, but the vast field of agriculture is left untouched from the scientific point of view. I think the Minister did say something the other day about what has been done by the Ministry in some respect with regard to the cultivation of cereals. I think he referred specially to the oat crop but, at any rate, he referred to the grain crop. I do not want to speak disparagingly of what has been done here but I have been very interested in what our Department has done in the way of giving us new breeds, new varieties, and so on, and I have to confess to a disappointment. That is all the more distressing when we know what other countries are doing. We know that other countries are going ahead. It may be that the problems confronting agriculturists in other countries are so pressing and urgent that they are compelled to employ science to an extent that we feel is not necessary here. Perhaps if nature were less kind to us there would be pressure upon us to utilise science to an extent that so far has not been thought of. The Russians have succeeded in cultivating a perennial wheat. They tell us they are reaping three crops a year.
In Canada, where the problems with regard to the cultivation of wheat are not unlike the Russians', but different from ours, they have bred drought-resisting wheats. They must breed varieties that will overcome smut and various fungoid troubles. At present they have an immense problem in what they call the saw fly, which is destroying huge areas of wheat across the prairies. The egg is laid in the shallow stem of the wheat and at certain periods the fly creeps down and saws through the stem and vast areas are left dying. They have used science there in overcoming their difficulties and in breeding a variety that will stand up to the harvesting machinery. We have not thought of doing anything like that. In the main, the varieties of wheat we cultivate are imported from soils and climates unlike ours. Some of them have been bred to drought resistance while we require the contrary. As far as I know, we have only one cerealist in the country. He is doing the best he can under the circumstances. We are breeding varieties of grain on the agricultural farm at Glasnevin, where the soil is very perfect and the annual rainfall 24 inches, and the seed is sent down to Cavan and the West of Ireland, where the soil is very different and where the rainfall may be 40 inches to 60 inches. At present half of the oats in my field are flattened, and there are fields of wheat in that condition also. That is because science is not doing its job for agriculture. The farmer is frequently criticised for being backward and for not doing a variety of things that he ought to do for himself. These are things he cannot do for himself.
I saw recently where a Spanish business man was welcomed over here and, in an interview, expressed the hope that trade between this country and Spain would be developed in the future to a much greater extent than it is at present or has been in the past. He stressed that there were very considerable possibilities for the export of seed potatoes to Spain. In my opinion, that possibility exists all along the Mediterranean and is unlimited. If we were able next spring to export seed varieties of potatoes to Spain, we could import considerable quantities of potash from that country. What is the situation here in that respect? I cannot remember when the last new variety of potatoes was put on the market. Not for years and years have we developed a new potato. Go to any of the farmers and they will tell you of the failure of their crops and that they are losing faith. I am not talking about something in which l have only a superficial interest. I am very concerned about this and I regret that science has not been doing its job for the farmer here. We could probably grow the heaviest yield of potatoes in the world, even on the poorer soils, if science were to aid in the production of new varieties. Like everything else in nature, potatoes wear out and stock has to be replenished and rejuvenated, but nothing has been done about it. I am not going to discuss the problems of breeding as far as the science of genetics is concerned. In every aspect of nature, there is a vast untapped field, about which science has done very little here and in which our farmers are themselves unable to do anything, because they are not being served by science.
The Minister adverted on the last occasion to what was to be done in the way of veterinary science. I know there are provisions being made for that. There again we are backward. It may be said that we are no more backward than any other agricultural country, but I meet that by saying that there is no country in the world which should be as forward in veterinary science as we should be, as in no other country is production of live stock such an essential part of the national economy. We have got the grandest foundation stock in the world, probably, and it is our national responsibility to improve and develop it to the fullest possible extent. We must find out all the problems of disease that confront us and that lessen production and the value of our herds. There is a great deal in the science of genetics, but nobody here has begun to think about it yet.
I am not the least bit jealous about what the Minister is going to do for industrialists. In fact, I quite agree with him and am anxious to help in every possible way. However, I plead with him that, inasmuch as no other Department is undertaking the responsibility of giving agriculture the same possibilities of development as are being given to industrialists under this Bill, the Minister should take the responsibility now to make it possible at least that some of the discoveries which he made in the name of industry may also be devoted to the development of agriculture. It is quite conceivable that a scientist in a laboratory working on an idea may work in a particular manner because he is after something which he regards as being beneficial to industry. If you widen the scope of the purpose that he is trying to serve and bring agriculture in as well, there is no reason why he should not approach the problem from the broader viewpoint. It is quite conceivable that work like that can be made effective both for agriculture and for industry and that the activity on behalf of agriculture—which might not necessarily be undertaken if there were not power in this Bill to do so— might in the end be beneficial to industry as well.
I know the Minister said that only a very small sum of money was being provided. We have no power here in regard to that, but I would be prepared to spend much more on this. Above everything else, it is the one expenditure that will amply reward the taxpayer and I hope the Minister will see the justification for adding this paragraph to the section. If I could see the Minister for Agriculture or someone else undertaking this responsibility, I would not press this point, but as the circumstances are and as no one else is attempting it, I think this House would be ill-advised to permit the opportunity to pass without ensuring that agriculture would be given the same chance of being served under this Bill as industry is about to be given under it.