14. The Reception of the Indore Process by the Scientists
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THE RECEPTION OF THE INDORE PROCESS B,r THE SCIENTISTS BEFORE LEAVING India in April 1931 arrangements were made to supply the Indian Central Cotton Committee with a sufficient number of copies of The Waste Products of Agriculture: Their Utilization as Humus, so that they could get composting taken up in all the cottongrowing areas without delay. After the book appeared the reviewers all over the world wrote many favourable and even enthusiastic notices, all of which were duly printed. A number of printed slips describing the contents and purpose of the book were then sent to most of the agricultural investigators of the Empire. Ample publicity was in these ways secured. The outcome was interesting and illuminating. The reception of the Indore Process and its various implications by the experiment station workers engaged on cotton problems proved to be a foretaste of what was to follow. It was, with few exceptions, definitely hostile and even obstructive, largely because the method called in question the soundness of the two main lines of work on cotton -the improvement of the yield and quality of the fibre by plant breeding methods alone, and the control of cotton diseases by direct assault. If the claims of humus and of soil fertility proved to be well founded, it was obvious that this factor would influence the yield much more than a new variety or anything an entomologist or a mycologist could achieve. Besides, both these devices--plant breeding and pest control-would have to wait till the land was got into good heart and maintained in this condition, for the simple reason that any new variety would have to suit a new set of soil conditions, and the inroads of pests might either be prevented or at least reduced by a fertile soil. Further, the current work on chemical fertilizers would have to be postponed till the full effects of a humus-filled soil had been ascertained. The production of compost on a large scale might, therefore, prove to be revolu245 tionary and a positive danger to the structure and perhaps to the very existence of a research organization based on the piecemeal application of the separate sciences to a complex and many-sided biological problem like the production of cotton. Two courses were obviously open to the research workers on cotton: (1) they might save the organization and their own immediate interests by sabotaging the humus idea, or (2) they could give it a square deal and, if it proved successful, could then deal with the new situation from the point of view of the interests of the cotton growers. The vast majority adopted the former course. A few, however, who were engaged in the practical side of cotton growing, took steps to get first-hand experience of humus manufacture and of its effects on the soil and on the cotton crop. The research workers on most other crops all over the Empire took a similar hostile view and were naturally supported and sustained in their opposition by vested interests like the manufacturers and distributors of artificial manures and poison sprays who were, of course, anxious to preserve and even expand a profitable business. It has been said that even the principle of gravitation would have had a hard row to hoe, had it in any manner stood in the way of the pursuit of profit and the operations of Big Business. A few examples of the kind of opposition displayed by the laboratory workers and the way in which they were overcome may be quoted. The first of these developed when the tea planters of India and Ceylon began to make compost. The story of the adoption of the Indore Process by the tea industry has already been told (p. Ill) with the exception of an account of the consistent opposition of the tea experiment stations in India and Ceylon to the compost idea. The methods adopted to discredit humus were two. At first the tea industry was warned that composting was uneconomic and that the game was not worth the candle. Figures were published in Ceylon showing the extra staff needed for the -Nork and the output that could be expected. This put the cost per ton somewhere in the neighbourhood of ten rupees. But a large number of tea gardens were already making first-class compost at less than a fifth of this extravagant estimate, which was based not on actual experience, but on paper calculations. Some of the most...