In seed production, the importance of selecting proper plants, then the best berries on the chosen plants, and, finally, the large, plump seeds, has been emphasized. Selection again plays an important part when seedlings are chosen for the new plantation. The possibility of rigid selection is one of the main arguments advanced by the Missouri Station for the pot method of propagation. Professor Whitten urges liberal sowing, because seven-eighths of the seedlings should be discarded. In regard to selection he recommends that as asparagus plants vary more than almost any other vegetable, only those plants which have the thickest, fleshiest and most numerous stems be chosen for potting. "Many that appear large and vigorous will have broad, flat, twisted or corrugated stems. Discard them. Beware, also, of those that put out leaves close to the soil. These will all make tough, stringy, undesirable plants. The best plants are those which are cylindrical, smooth and free from ridges. They shoot up rapidly, and attain a height of 2 inches before leaves are put out. They look like smooth needles. This matter of selecting the best plants for potting and subsequent planting out, is of the greatest importance in asparagus culture".
The principles of selection have been discussed. One-year plants are better than two. Whatever the age, it pays to select plants with four to eight large stems. Several times as many seedlings should be grown as will be actually needed for the new plantation. When propagated in the field, the selection should be made in the fall before the stems break down. The plants may be tied together in bundles of 50 and stored under proper conditions until spring. Very satisfactory conditions are furnished by packing in barrels with slightly moist sand or sawdust and burying the barrels late in the fall, first covering with straw or leaves and then adding a few inches of soil. If proper methods of seed selection have been practiced, it should not be difficult to sell the surplus plants at good prices.
The consensus of opinion is that male plants are more productive than female. Experiments made at the Ohio Stat;on (Ohio Station Bui. 9, Vol. III) gave results as expressed in the table which follows.
50 male plants
50 female plants
First period, 10 days...........................
Second period, 10 days.........................
Third period, 10 days..........................
Fourth period, 10 days.........................
Total for the season...........................
"This shows a gain of the male over the female plants of 76 per cent for the first period and a fraction less than 50 per cent for the whole season. Reversing the standard of comparison, it will be seen that the female plants fall below the male 43 per cent for the first period and a little more than 33 per cent in the total. In no case did the female plants produce equally with the male".
The difficulty with any method of propagation is that the sex of the plant cannot be determined until the plants produce flowers, and this does not occur until the second season, when the plants are universally regarded as being too old for the most successful transplanting. It is possible that the increased productiveness of male plants would overbalance the disadvantages that result from shifting the plants a year later than is approved by our best growers. Then, too, the one-year plants might be set temporarily in a special plat, with at least a foot between plants in the row, so they could be moved later with considerable soil to permanent quarters.