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The best seed of all is that which is of the last year's growth. That which is two years old is inferior, and three the worst of all —beyond that, it is unproductive.1 The same definite rule which applies to one kind of seed is applicable to them all: the seed which falls to the bottom2 on the threshing-floor, should be reserved for sowing, for being the most weighty it is the best in quality: there is no better method, in fact, of ascertaining its quality. The grains of those ears which have intervals between the seed should be rejected. The best grain is that which has a reddish hue,3 and which, when broken between the teeth, presents the same4 colour; that which has more white within is of inferior quality. It is a well-known fact that some lands require more seed than others, from which circumstance first arose a superstition that exists among the peasantry; it is their belief that when the ground demands the seed with greater avidity than usual, it is famished, and devours the grain. It is consistent with reason to put in the seed where the soil is humid sooner than elsewhere, to prevent the grain from rotting in the rain: on dry spots it should be sown later, and just before the fall of a shower, so that it may not have to lie long without germinating and so come to nothing. When the seed is put in early it should be sown thick, as it is a considerable time before it germinates; but when it is put in later, it should be sown thinly, to prevent it from being suffocated. There is a certain degree of skill, too, required in scattering the seed evenly; to ensure this, the hand must keep time5 with the step, moving always with the right foot. There are certain persons, also, who have a secret method6 of their own, having been born7 with a happy hand which imparts fruitfulness to the grain. Care should be taken not to sow seed in a warm locality which has been grown in a cold one, nor should the produce of an early soil be sown in a late one. Those who give advice to the contrary have quite misapplied their pains.

1 "Sterile." This is not necessarily the case, as we know with reference to what is called mummy wheat, the seed of which has been recovered at different times from the Egyptian tombs.

2 The threshing floor was made with an elevation in the middle, and the sides on an incline, to the bottom of which the largest grains would be the most likely to fall.

3 "Far" or spelt is of a red hue in the exterior.

4 This appearance is no longer to be observed, if, indeed, Pliny is correct: all kinds of corn are white in the interior of the grain.

5 Hand-sowing is called by the French, "semer à la volée."

6 This occult or mysterious method of which Pliny speaks, consists solely of what we should call a "happy knack," which some men have of sowing more evenly than others.

7 Sors genialis atque fecunda est.

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