This text file is intended for those readers who cannot use the "real" (utf-8) version. Some compromises have been made.
Fractions are written out, with leading hyphen where needed: 1/5, 2-1/3.
The [ae] and [oe] ligatures have been written out as ae, oe.
The English "pounds" symbol is expressed as [L].
The very large tables in Chapters XXVII (tables X-XXI) and XXIX (II-V) use a special shorthand to express fractions: 1 = 1/8 2 = 2/8 = 1/4 3 = 3/8 4 = 4/8 = 1/2 etc. The character (backslash) does not occur in any other context.]
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TALKS ON MANURES.
A Series of Familiar and Practical Talks Between the Author and the Deacon, the Doctor, and Other Neighbors, on the Whole Subject of Manures and Fertilizers.
JOSEPH HARRIS, M.S.
Author of "Walks and Talks on the Farm," "Harris on the Pig," etc.
NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION,
Including a Chapter Specially Written for It by Sir John Bennet Lawes, of Rothamsted, England.
New York: Orange Judd Company, 1919
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1883, by the ORANGE JUDD COMPANY In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
Printed in U. S. A.
Farming as a Business.— High Farming and Good Farming.— Summer-fallowing and Plowing under Clover.— We must raise larger Crops per Acre.— Destruction of Weeds.— Farming is Slow Work.— It requires Personal Attention. 9
What is Manure?— The definitions given by the Deacon and the Doctor. 19
Something about Plant-food.— All soils on which plants grow contain it.— The Season.— Water, Shade, Light, and Mulch, not Manures.— Several Definitions of Manure. 21
Natural Manure.— Accumulated Plant-food in the Soil.— Exhaustion of the Soil.— Why our Crops are so Poor.— How to get Larger Crops.— We must Drain, Cultivate thoroughly, and Make Richer Manure. 23
Swamp-muck and Peat as Manure.— Draining Swamp-land.— Composition of Peat and Muck. 29
What is Potential Ammonia. 31
Tillage is Manure.— The Doctor's Lecture on Manure. 32
Summer-fallowing.— Mr. Lawes' crop every other year.— Wheat after Barley.— For Larger Crops raise less frequently, and Manure Higher; also keep better Stock, and Feed Higher. 34
How to Restore a Worn-out Farm.— The Author's Farm.— Tillage renders the Plant-food stored in the soil available.— Cultivated Lands contain less Plant-food, but are more productive.— Grass alone will not make rich land. 37
How to Make Manure.— We must get it out of the Land. 41
The Value of the Manure depends upon the Food—not upon the Animal. 43
Foods which Make Rich Manure.— Table giving the composition of 31 kinds of Food and the value of the Manure they yield.— Cotton-seed Cake.— English and German Clover.— Nitrogenous matter in Rich and Poor Foods.— Manure from Corn compared with that from Straw. 45
Horse-manure and Farm-yard Manure.— Why the one is richer than the other.— Amount of Manure from a Horse.— Composition of Farm-yard Manure.— We draw and spread a ton to get 33 lbs. of Nitrogen, Phosphoric Acid, and Potash. 50
Fermenting Manure.— Composition of Manure when Fresh and in its stages of Fermentation.— Loss in Fermentation and from Leaching.— Tables showing the composition of Manure at different stages.— Fermenting makes Manure more Soluble. 52
Keeping Manure under Cover.— Dr. Voelcker's Experiments.— Manure Fermented Outside and Under Cover.— Loss from keeping Manure spread in the Barn-yard.— Keeping well-rotted Manure in a Heap.— Conclusions from Dr. Voelcker's Experiments. 59
An English Plan of Keeping Manure.— Box feeding of Cattle.— Spreading Manure at once.— Piling in Heaps in the Field.— Old Sods and Ashes from Charred Sods. 69
Soluble Phosphates in Farm-yard Manure.— Fermented, the Manure has the most.— Over 40 per cent. of the Phosphoric Acid is Soluble. 72
How the Deacon makes Manure.— A good plan for making poor Manure. 74
How John Johnston Manages His Manure. Summer-fallows for Wheat.— Does not plow under Clover.— Value of Manure from different foods.— Piling Manure.— Applies Manure to Grass-land in Fall, and Plows under in Spring for Corn.— His success due to the Effect of Manure on Grass.— It brought in Red Clover. 76
The Author's Plan of Managing Manure.— Piles as fast as it is Made.— What it is Made of.— Horse and Cow Manure Together.— Horse Manure for Bedding Pigs.— To Prevent Freezing.— Liquid Manure from Pigs.— Bedding Sheep.— Piling in the Field.— Where the Piles should be Made.— Manure in a Basin.— Reasons for Piling.— What we Gain by Fermenting Manure. 83
Management Continued.— Why We Ferment Manure.— Dr. Voelcker's Experiments showing the Loss when Manure is spread in Yards.— Fermenting adds Nothing to Manure, but makes it more available.— Mr. Lawes' Experiments on Wheat and Barley.— Dr. Voelcker's Results.— Ellwander & Barry's Experience.— Loss of Ammonia by Fermenting.— Waste from Leaching.— How to Save the Liquid Manure from Cows. 94
Manure on Dairy Farms.— Wheat removes much more Nitrogen than Cheese.— Manures for Dairy Farms.— Letter from Hon. Harris Lewis.— How to make more and better Manure on Dairy Farms.— How to save and apply it.— Letter from T. L. Harison, Esq. 101
Management of Manures on Grain Farms.— Letter from Hon. Geo. Geddes.— Grain on Dairy Farms.— Sheep on Grain Farms.— Visit to John Johnston.— Mr. Lawes' Wheat-field.— Mr. Geddes and Clover.— Gypsum and Clover as Manures. 111
The Cheapest Manure a Farmer can use.— Clover vs. Tillage.— As Plant-Food.— Constituents of a Crop of Clover, as compared with one of Wheat.— Making a Farm Rich by Growing Clover. 127
Dr. Voelcker's Experiments on Clover.— Lawes and Gilbert's on Wheat.— Clover Roots per Acre.— Manures for Wheat.— Liebig's Manure Theory.— Peruvian Guano on Wheat.— Manures and the Quality of Wheat.— Ammonia.— Over 50 Bushels of Wheat to the Acre. 135
Experiments on Clover Soils from Burcott Lodge Farm, Leighton Buzzard.— Soil from Part of 11-acre Field twice Mown for Hay.— Soil from do. once Mown for Hay and left for Seed.— Amount of Roots left in the Soil by different Crops.— Manures for Wheat. 149
Lawes and Gilbert's Experiments on Wheat.— Most Valuable and Instructive Tables now first made accessible to the American Farmer.— The growth of Wheat Year after Year on the same Land, unmanured, with Farm-yard Manure, and with various Organic and Inorganic Fertilizers. 170
Lime as a Manure.— Prof. Way's Experiments.— The uses of Lime in the Soil.— Lime in this Country.— Composts with Lime. 215
Manures for Barley.— Composition of Barley, grain and straw.— Valuable Tables giving the Results of Lawes and Gilbert's Experiments on the growth of Barley, Year after Year, on the same Land, without Manure, and with different kinds of Manure.— Manure and Rotation of Crops. 227
Manures for Oats.— Experiments at Rothamsted.— Experiments of Mr. Bath of Virginia.— At Moreton Farm. 252
Manures for Potatoes.— Peruvian Guano for Potatoes.— Manure from different Foods.— Experiments at Moreton Farm.— Mr. Hunter's Experiments. 255
What Crops should Manure be Applied to?— How, and When?— John J. Thomas' manner of Applying Manure.— Top Dressing.— Doct. Voelcker's Experiments. 265
Manures on Permanent Meadows and Pastures.— Experiments at Rothamsted. 271
Manures for Special Crops.— Hops.— Indian Corn.— Turnips.— Mangel-Wurzel or Sugar-Beets.— Cabbages, Parsnips, Lettuce, Onions, etc. 274
Manures for Gardens and Orchards.— Market Gardens.— Seed-growing Farms.— Private Gardens.— Hot-beds.— Manure for Nurserymen.— Fruit Growers.— Hen-Manure. 294
Different Kinds of Manures.— Cow Manure.— Sheep Manure.— Buying Manure.— Liquid Manure.— Nightsoil and Sewage.— Peruvian Guano.— Salts of Ammonia and Nitrate of Soda. 302
Bone-Dust and Superphosphate of Lime.— Bone furnishes Nitrogen as well as Phosphate of Lime.— Increasing the Availability of Bone with Sulphuric Acid. 314
Special Manures.— Liebig's Views.— Special Manure for Wheat and Turnips.— Rothamsted Experiments. 320
Value of Fertilizers.— Cost per pound of the Essential Constituents of Fertilizers.— Value of Guanos.— Potash as a Manure. 324
Restoring Fertility to the Soil, a Chapter by Sir John Bennet Lawes.— The Treatment of a Poor Farm, to Restore it most Profitably.— Meat-making the Back-bone of the System.— The Use of Sheep to Manure the Soil.— The Feeding of Cotton-seed Cake.— Artificial Manures not Profitable on Poor Land.— The Loss of Nitrogen.— The Formation of Nitric Acid. 342
Letter from Edward Jessop.— From Dr. E. L. Sturtevant.— From M. C. Weld.— From Peter Henderson.— From J. B. M. anderson.— Manure Statistics of Long Island.— Letter from J. H. Rushmore.— Letter from John E. Backus.— Manure in Philadelphia.— Various other Letters. 352
INTRODUCTION TO NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION.
Sir John Bennet Lawes kindly consented to write a Chapter for the new edition of this work. The Deacon, the Doctor, the Squire, Charlie and myself all felt flattered and somewhat bashful at finding ourselves in such distinguished company. I need not say that this new Chapter from the pen of the most eminent English agricultural investigator is worthy of a very careful study. I have read it again and again, and each time with great and renewed interest. I could wish there was more of it. But to the intelligent and well-informed reader this Chapter will be valued not merely for what it contains, but for what it omits. A man who knew less would write more. Sir John goes straight to the mark, and we have here his mature views on one of the most important questions in agricultural science and practice.
Sir John describes a tract of poor land, and tells us that the cheapest method of improving and enriching it is, to keep a large breeding flock of sheep, and feed them American cotton-seed cake. We are pleased to find that this is in accordance with the general teaching of our "Talks," as given in this book several years ago.
When this work was first published, some of my friends expressed surprise that I did not recommend the more extended use of artificial manures. One thing is certain, since that time the use of superphosphate has been greatly on the increase. And it seems clear that its use must be profitable. Where I live, in Western New York, it is sown quite generally on winter wheat, and also on barley and oats in the spring. On corn and potatoes, its use is not so common. Whether this is because its application to these crops is not so easy, or because it does not produce so marked an increase in the yield per acre, I am unable to say.
Our winter wheat is sown here the first, second, or (rarely) the third week in September. We sow from one and a half to two and a quarter bushels per acre. It is almost invariably sown with a drill. The drill has a fertilizer attachment that distributes the superphosphate at the same time the wheat is sown. The superphosphate is not mixed with the wheat, but it drops into the same tubes with the wheat, and is sown with it in the same drill mark. In this way, the superphosphate is deposited where the roots of the young plants can immediately find it. For barley and oats the same method is adopted.
It will be seen that the cost of sowing superphosphate on these crops is merely nominal. But for corn and potatoes, when planted in hills, the superphosphate must be dropped in the hill by hand, and, as we are almost always hurried at that season of the year, we are impatient at anything which will delay planting even for a day. The boys want to go fishing!
This is, undoubtedly, one reason why superphosphate is not used so generally with us for corn as for wheat, barley, and oats. Another reason may be, that one hundred pounds of corn will not sell for anything like as much as one hundred pounds of wheat, barley, and oats.
We are now buying a very good superphosphate, made from Carolina rock phosphate, for about one and a half cents per pound. We usually drill in about two hundred pounds per acre at a cost of three dollars. Now, if this gives us an increase of five bushels of wheat per acre, worth six dollars, we think it pays. It often does far better than this. Last year the wheat crop of Western New York was the best in a third of a century, which is as far back as I have had anything to do with farming here. From all I can learn, it is doubtful if the wheat crop of Western New York has ever averaged a larger yield per acre since the land was first cultivated after the removal of the original forest. Something of this is due to better methods of cultivation and tillage, and something, doubtless, to the general use of superphosphate, but much more to the favorable season.
The present year our wheat crop turned out exceedingly poor. Hundreds of acres of wheat were plowed up, and the land resown, and hundreds more would have been plowed up had it not been for the fact that the land was seeded with timothy grass at the time of sowing the wheat, and with clover in the spring. We do not like to lose our grass and clover.
Dry weather in the autumn was the real cause of the poor yield of wheat this year. True, we had a very trying winter, and a still more trying spring, followed by dry, cold weather. The season was very backward. We were not able to sow anything in the fields before the first of May, and our wheat ought to have been ready to harvest in July. On the first of May, many of our wheat-fields, especially on clay land, looked as bare as a naked fallow.
There was here and there, a good field of wheat. As a rule, it was on naturally moist land, or after a good summer-fallow, sown early. I know of but one exception. A neighboring nursery firm had a very promising field of wheat, which was sown late. But their land is rich and unusually well worked. It is, in fact, in the very highest condition, and, though sown late, the young plants were enabled to make a good strong growth in the autumn.
In such a dry season, the great point is, to get the seed to germinate, and to furnish sufficient moisture and food to enable the young plants to make a strong, vigorous growth of roots in the autumn. I do not say that two hundred pounds of superphosphate per acre, drilled in with the seed, will always accomplish this object. But it is undoubtedly a great help. It does not furnish the nitrogen which the wheat requires, but if it will stimulate the production of roots in the early autumn, the plants will be much more likely to find a sufficient supply of nitrogen in the soil than plants with fewer and smaller roots.
In a season like the past, therefore, an application of two hundred pounds of superphosphate per acre, costing three dollars, instead of giving an increase of five or six bushels per acre, may give us an increase of fifteen or twenty bushels per acre. That is to say, owing to the dry weather in the autumn, followed by severe weather in the winter, the weak plants on the unmanured land may either be killed out altogether, or injured to such an extent that the crop is hardly worth harvesting, while the wheat where the phosphate was sown may give us almost an average crop.
Sir John B. Lawes has somewhere compared the owner of land to the owner of a coal mine. The owner of the coal digs it and gets it to market in the best way he can. The farmer's coal mine consists of plant food, and the object of the farmer is to get this food into such plants, or such parts of plants, as his customers require. It is hardly worth while for the owner of the coal mine to trouble his head about the exhaustion of the supply of coal. His true plan is to dig it as economically as he can, and get it into market. There is a good deal of coal in the world, and there is a good deal of plant food in the earth. As long as the plant food lies dormant in the soil, it is of no value to man. The object of the farmer is to convert it into products which man and animals require.
Mining for coal is a very simple matter, but how best to get the greatest quantity of plant food out of the soil, with the least waste and the greatest profit, is a much more complex and difficult task. Plant food consists of a dozen or more different substances. We have talked about them in the pages of this book, and all I wish to say here is that some of them are much more abundant, and more readily obtained, than others. The three substances most difficult to get at are: nitric acid, phosphoric acid and potash. All these substances are in the soil, but some soils contain much more than others, and their relative proportion varies considerably. The substance which is of the greatest importance, is nitric acid. As a rule, the fertility of a soil is in proportion to the amount of nitric acid which becomes available for the use of plants during the growing season. Many of our soils contain large quantities of nitrogen, united with carbon, but the plants do not take it up in this form. It has to be converted into nitric acid. Nitric acid consists of seven pounds of nitrogen and twenty pounds of oxygen. It is produced by the combustion of nitrogen. Since these "Talks" were published, several important facts have been discovered in regard to how plants take up nitrogen, and especially in regard to how organic nitrogen is converted into nitric acid. It is brought about through the action of a minute fungoid plant. There are several things necessary for the growth of this plant. We must have some nitrogenous substance, a moderate degree of heat, say from seventy to one hundred and twenty degrees, a moderate amount of moisture, and plenty of oxygen. Shade is also favorable. If too hot or too cold, or too wet or too dry, the growth of the plant is checked, and the formation of nitric acid suspended. The presence of lime, or of some alkali, is also necessary for the growth of this fungus and the production of nitric acid. The nitric acid unites with the lime, and forms nitrate of lime, or with soda to form nitrate of soda, or with potash to form nitrate of potash, or salt-petre. A water-logged soil, by excluding the oxygen, destroys this plant, hence one of the advantages of underdraining. I have said that shade is favorable to the growth of this fungus, and this fact explains and confirms the common idea that shade is manure.
The great object of agriculture is to convert the nitrogen of our soils, or of green crops plowed under, or of manure, into nitric acid, and then to convert this nitric acid into profitable products with as little loss as possible. Nitrogen, or rather nitric acid, is the most costly ingredient in plant food, and unfortunately it is very easily washed out of the soil and lost. Perhaps it is absolutely impossible to entirely prevent all loss from leaching; but it is certainly well worth our while to understand the subject, and to know exactly what we are doing. In a new country, where land is cheap, it may be more profitable to raise as large crops as possible without any regard to the loss of nitric acid. But this condition of things does not last long, and it very soon becomes desirable to adopt less wasteful processes.
In Lawes and Gilbert's experiments, there is a great loss of nitric acid from drainage. In no case has as much nitrogen been obtained in the increased crop as was applied in the manure. There is always a loss and probably always will be. But we should do all we can to make this loss as small as possible, consistent with the production of profitable crops.
There are many ways of lessening this loss of nitric acid. Our farmers sow superphosphate with their wheat in the autumn, and this stimulates, we think, the growth of roots, which ramify in all directions through the soil. This increased growth of root brings the plant in contact with a larger feeding surface, and enables it to take up more nitric acid from its solution in the soil. Such is also the case during the winter and early spring, when a good deal of water permeates through the soil. The application of superphosphate, unquestionably in many cases, prevents much loss of nitric acid. It does this by giving us a much greater growth of wheat.
I was at Rothamsted in 1879, and witnessed the injurious effect of an excessive rainfall, in washing out of the soil nitrate of soda and salts of ammonia, which were sown with the wheat in the autumn. It was an exceedingly wet season, and the loss of nitrates on all the different plots was very great. But where the nitrates or salts of ammonia were sown in the spring, while the crops were growing, the loss was not nearly so great as when sown in the autumn.
The sight of that wheat field impressed me, as nothing else could, with the importance of guarding against the loss of available nitrogen from leaching, and it has changed my practice in two or three important respects. I realize, as never before, the importance of applying manure to crops, rather than to the land. I mean by this, that the object of applying manure is, not simply to make land rich, but to make crops grow. Manure is a costly and valuable article, and we want to convert it into plants, with as little delay as possible, which will, directly or indirectly, bring in some money.
Our climate is very different from that of England. As a rule, we seldom have enough rain, from the time corn is planted until it is harvested, to more than saturate the ground on our upland soils. This year is an exception. On Sunday night, May 20, 1883, we had a northeast storm which continued three days. During these three days, from three to five inches of rain fell, and for the first time in many years, at this season, my underdrains discharged water to their full capacity. Had nitrate of soda been sown on bare land previous to this rain, much of it would, doubtless, have been lost by leaching. This, however, is an exceptional case. My underdrains usually do not commence to discharge water before the first of December, or continue later than the first of May. To guard against loss of nitrogen by leaching, therefore, we should aim to keep rich land occupied by some crop, during the winter and early spring, and the earlier the crop is sown in the autumn or late summer, the better, so that the roots will the more completely fill the ground and take up all the available nitrogen within their reach. I have said that this idea had modified my own practice. I grow a considerable quantity of garden vegetables, principally for seed. It is necessary to make the land very rich. The plan I have adopted to guard against the loss of nitrogen is this: As soon as the land is cleared of any crop, after it is too late to sow turnips, I sow it with rye at the rate of one and a half to two bushels per acre. On this rich land, especially on the moist low land, the rye makes a great growth during our warm autumn weather. The rye checks the growth of weeds, and furnishes a considerable amount of succulent food for sheep, during the autumn or in the spring. If not needed for food, it can be turned under in the spring for manure. It unquestionably prevents the loss of considerable nitric acid from leaching during the winter and early spring.
Buckwheat, or millet, is sometimes sown on such land for plowing under as manure, but as these crops are killed out by the winter, they cannot prevent the loss of nitric acid during the winter and spring months. It is only on unusually rich land that such precautions are particularly necessary. It has been thought that these experiments of Lawes and Gilbert afford a strong argument against the use of summer-fallows. I do not think so. A summer-fallow, in this country, is usually a piece of land which has been seeded down one, two, and sometimes three years, with red clover. The land is plowed in May or June, and occasionally in July, and is afterwards sown to winter wheat in September. The treatment of the summer-fallow varies in different localities and on different farms.
Sometimes the land is only plowed once. The clover, or sod, is plowed under deep and well, and the after-treatment consists in keeping the surface soil free from weeds, by the frequent use of the harrow, roller, cultivator or gang-plow. In other cases, especially on heavy clay land, the first plowing is done early in the spring, and when the sod is sufficiently rotted, the land is cross-plowed, and afterwards made fine and mellow by the use of the roller, harrow, and cultivator. Just before sowing the wheat, many good, old-fashioned farmers, plow the land again. But in this section, a summer-fallow, plowed two or three times during the summer, is becoming more and more rare every year.
Those farmers who summer-fallow at all, as a rule, plow their land but once, and content themselves with mere surface cultivation afterwards. It is undoubtedly true, also, that summer fallows of all kinds are by no means as common as formerly. This fact may be considered an argument against the use of summer-fallowing; but it is not conclusive in my mind. Patient waiting is not a characteristic of the age. We are inclined to take risks. We prefer to sow our land to oats, or barley, and run the chance of getting a good wheat crop after it, rather than to spend several months in cleaning and mellowing the land, simply to grow one crop of wheat.
It has always seemed to me entirely unnecessary to urge farmers not to summer-fallow. We all naturally prefer to see the land occupied by a good paying crop, rather than to spend time, money, and labor, in preparing it to produce a crop twelve or fifteen months afterwards. Yet some of the agricultural editors and many of the agricultural writers, seem to take delight in deriding the old-fashioned summer-fallow. The fact that Lawes and Gilbert in England find that, when land contains considerable nitric acid, the water which percolates through the soil to the underdrains beneath, contains more nitrate of lime when the land is not occupied by a crop, than when the roots of growing plants fill the soil, is deemed positive proof that summer-fallowing is a wasteful practice.
If we summer-fallowed for a spring crop, as I have sometimes done, it is quite probable that there would be a loss of nitrogen. But, as I have said before, it is very seldom that any water passes through the soil from the time we commence the summer-fallow until the wheat is sown in the autumn, or for many weeks afterwards. The nitrogen, which is converted into nitric acid by the agency of a good summer-fallow, is no more liable to be washed out of the soil after the field is sown to wheat in the autumn, than if we applied the nitrogen in the form of some readily available manure.
I still believe in summer fallows. If I had my life to live over again, I would certainly summer-fallow more than I have done. I have been an agricultural writer for one-third of a century, and have persistently advocated the more extended use of the summer-fallow. I have nothing to take back, unless it is what I have said in reference to "fall-fallowing." Possibly this practice may result in loss, though I do not think so.
A good summer-fallow, on rather heavy clay land, if the conditions are otherwise favorable, is pretty sure to give us a good crop of wheat, and a good crop of clover and grass afterwards. Of course, a farmer who has nice, clean sandy soil, will not think of summer-fallowing it. Such soils are easily worked, and it is not a difficult matter to keep them clean without summer-fallowing. Such soils, however, seldom contain a large store of unavailable plant food, and instead of summer-fallowing, we had better manure. On such soils artificial manures are often very profitable, though barn-yard manure, or the droppings of animals feeding on the land, should be the prime basis of all attempts to maintain, or increase, the productiveness of such soils.
Since this book was first published, I do not know of any new facts in regard to the important question of, how best to manage and apply our barn-yard manure, so as to make it more immediately active and available. It is unquestionably true, that the same amount of nitrogen in barn-yard manure, will not produce so great an effect as its theoretical value would indicate. There can be no doubt, however, that the better we feed our animals, and the more carefully we save the liquids, the more valuable and active will be the manure.
The conversion of the inert nitrogen of manures and soils, into nitric acid, as already stated, is now known to be produced by a minute fungus. I hope it will be found that we can introduce this bacterium into our manure piles, in such a way as to greatly aid the conversion of inert nitrogen into nitrates.
Experiments have been made, and are still continued, at Woburn, under the auspices of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, to ascertain, among other things, whether manure from sheep receiving an allowance of cotton-seed cake is any richer than that from sheep, otherwise fed alike, but having, instead of cotton-seed cake, the same amount of corn meal. We know that such manure contains more nitrogen, and other plant food, than that from the corn meal. But the experiments so far, though they have been continued for several years, do not show any striking superiority of the manure from cotton-seed cake over that from corn meal. I saw the wheat on these differently manured plots in 1879. Dr. Voelcker and Dr. Gilbert, told me that, one of two plots was dressed with the cotton-seed manure, and the other with the corn meal manure, and they wanted me to say which was the most promising crop. I believe the one I said was the better, was the cotton-seed plot. But the difference was very slight. The truth is that such experiments must be continued for many years before they will prove anything. As I said before, we know that the manure from the cotton-seed cake is richer in nitrogen than that from the corn meal; but we also know that this nitrogen will not produce so great an effect, as a much smaller amount of nitrogen in salts of ammonia, or nitrate of soda.
In going over these experiments, I was struck with the healthy and vigorous appearance of one of the plots of wheat, and asked how it was manured. Dr. Voelcker called out, "clover, Mr. Harris, clover." In England, as in America, it requires very little observation and experience to convince any one of the value of clover. After what I have said, and what the Deacon, the Doctor, Charley and the Squire have said, in the pages of this book, I hope no one will think that I do not appreciate the great value of red clover as a means of enriching our land. Dr. Voelcker evidently thought I was skeptical on this point. I am not. I have great faith in the benefits to be derived from the growth of clover. But I do not think it originates fertility; it does not get nitrogen from the atmosphere. Or at any rate, we have no evidence of it. The facts are all the other way. We have discussed this question at considerable length in the pages of this book, and it is not necessary to say more on the subject. I would, however, particularly urge farmers, especially those who are using phosphates freely, to grow as much clover as possible, and feed it out on the farm, or plow it under for manure.
The question is frequently asked, whether the use of phosphates will ultimately impoverish our farms. It may, or it may not. It depends on our general management. Theoretically, the use of a manure furnishing only one element of plant food, if it increases the growth of crops which are sold from the farm, must have a tendency to impoverish the land of the other elements of plant food. In other words, the use of superphosphate furnishing only, or principally, phosphoric acid, lime and sulphuric acid, must have a tendency to impoverish the soil of nitrogen and potash. Practically, however, it need do nothing of the kind. If the land is well cultivated, and if our low, rich, alluvial portions of the farm are drained, and if the hay, grass, clover, straw and fodder crops are retained, the more phosphates we use, the richer and more productive will the farm become. And I think it is a fact, that the farmers who use the most phosphates, are the very men who take the greatest pains to drain their land, cultivate it thoroughly, and make the most manure. It follows, therefore, that the use of phosphates is a national benefit.
Some of our railroad managers take this view of the subject. They carry superphosphate at a low rate, knowing that its use will increase the freight the other way. In other words, they bring a ton of superphosphate from the seaboard, knowing that its use will give them many tons of freight of produce, from the interior to the seaboard. It is not an uncommon thing for two hundred pounds of superphosphate, to give an increase of five tons of turnips per acre. Or, so to speak, the railroad that brings one ton of superphosphate from the seaboard, might, as the result of its use, have fifty tons of freight to carry back again. This is perhaps an exceptionably favorable instance, but it illustrates the principle. Years ago, before the abolition of tolls on the English turnpike roads, carriages loaded with lime, and all other substances intended for manure, were allowed to go free. And our railroads will find it to their interest to transport manures of all kinds, at a merely nominal rate.
Many people will be surprised at the recommendation of Sir John B. Lawes, not to waste time and money in cleaning poor land, before seeding it down to grass. He thinks that if the land is made rich, the superior grasses overgrow the bad grasses and weeds. I have no doubt he is right in this, though the principle may be pushed to an extreme. Our climate, in this country, is so favorable for killing weeds, that the plow and the cultivator will probably be a more economical means of making our land clean, than the liberal use of expensive manures. It depends, doubtless, on the land and on circumstances. It is well to know that manure on grass land, will so increase the growth of the good grasses, as to smother the weeds. Near my house was a piece of land that I wanted to make into a lawn. I sowed it with grass seed, but the weeds smothered it out. I plowed it, and hoed it, and re-seeded it, but still the weeds grew. Mallows came up by the thousand, with other weeds too numerous to mention. It was an eye-sore. We mowed the weeds, but almost despaired of ever making a decent bit of grass land out of it. It so happened that, one year, we placed the chicken coops on this miserable weedy spot. The hens and chickens were kept there for several weeks. The feed and the droppings made it look more unsightly than ever, but the next spring, as if by magic, the weeds were gone and the land was covered with dark green luxuriant grass.
In regard to the use of potash as a manure, we have still much to learn. It would seem that our grain crops will use soda, if they cannot get potash. They much prefer the potash, and will grow much more luxuriantly where, in the soil or manure, in addition to the other elements of plant food, potash is abundant. But the increased growth caused by the potash, is principally, if not entirely, straw, or leaves and stem. Nature makes a great effort to propagate the species. A plant of wheat or barley, will produce seed if this is possible, even at the expense of the other parts of the plant.
For grain crops, grown for seed, therefore, it would seem to be entirely unprofitable to use potash as a manure. If the soil contains the other elements of plant food, the addition of potash may give us a much more luxuriant growth of leaves and stem, but no more grain or seed. For hay, or grass or fodder crops, the case is very different, and potash may often be used on these crops to great advantage.
I am inclined to think that considerable nitrate of soda will yet be used in this country for manure. I do not suppose it will pay as a rule, on wheat, corn and other standard grain crops. But the gardener, seed grower, and nurseryman, will find out how to use it with great profit. Our nurserymen say that they cannot use artificial manures with any advantage. It is undoubtedly true that a dressing of superphosphate, sown on a block of nursery trees, will do little good. It never reaches the roots of the plants. Superphosphate can not be washed down deep into the soil. Nitrate of soda is readily carried down, as deep as the water sinks. For trees, therefore, it would seem desirable to apply the superphosphate before they are planted, and plow it under. And the same is true of potash; but nitrate of soda would be better applied as a top-dressing every year, early in the spring.
The most discouraging fact, in Lawes' and Gilbert's experiments, is the great loss of nitrogen. It would seem that, on an average, during the last forty years, about one-half the nitrogen is washed out of the soil, or otherwise lost. I can not but hope and believe that, at any rate in this country, there is no such loss in practical agriculture. In Lawes' and Gilbert's experiments on wheat, this grain is grown year after year, on the same land. Forty annual crops have been removed. No clover is sown with the wheat, and great pains are taken to keep the land clean. The crop is hoed while growing, and the weeds are pulled out by hand. The best wheat season during the forty years, was the year 1863. The poorest, that of 1879; and it so happened, that after an absence of thirty years, I was at Rothamsted during this poor year of 1879. The first thing that struck me, in looking at the experimental wheat, was the ragged appearance of the crop. My own wheat crop was being cut the day I left home, July 15. Several men and boys were pulling weeds out of the experimental wheat, two weeks later. Had the weeds been suffered to grow, Sir John Bennet Lawes tells us, there would be less loss of nitrogen. The loss of nitrogen in 1863, was about twenty-four pounds per acre, and in 1879 fifty pounds per acre—the amount of available nitrogen, applied in each year, being eighty-seven pounds per acre. As I said before, the wheat in 1879 had to me a ragged look. It was thin on the ground. There were not plants enough to take up and evaporate the large amount of water which fell during the wet season. Such a condition of things rarely occurs in this country. We sow timothy with our winter wheat, in the autumn, and red clover in the spring. After the wheat is harvested, we frequently have a heavy growth of clover in the autumn. In such circumstances I believe there would be comparatively little loss of nitrogen.
In the summer-fallow experiments, which have now been continued for twenty-seven years, there has been a great loss of nitrogen. The same remarks apply to this case. No one ever advocates summer-fallowing land every other year, and sowing nothing but wheat. When we summer-fallow a piece of land for wheat, we seed it down with grass and clover. There is, as a rule, very little loss of nitrogen by drainage while the wheat is growing on the ground, but after the wheat is cut, the grass and clover are pretty sure to take up all the available nitrogen within the range of their roots. This summer-fallow experiment, instead of affording an argument against the use of summer-fallowing, is an argument in its favor. The summer-fallow, by exposing the soil to the decomposing influences of the atmosphere, converts more or less of the inert nitrogenous organic matter into ammonia and nitric acid. This is precisely what a farmer wants. It is just what the wheat crop needs. But we must be very careful, when we render the nitrogen soluble, to have some plant ready to take it up, and not let it be washed out of the soil during the winter and early spring.
We have much poor land in the United States, and an immense area of good land. The poor land will be used to grow timber, or be improved by converting more or less of it, gradually, into pasture, and stocking it with sheep and cattle. The main point is, to feed the sheep or cattle with some rich nitrogenous food, such as cotton-seed cake, malt-sprouts, bran, shorts, mill-feed, refuse beans, or bean-meal made from beans injured by the weevil, or bug. In short, the owner of such land must buy such food as will furnish the most nutriment and make the richest manure at the least cost—taking both of these objects into consideration. He will also buy more or less artificial manures, to be used for the production of fodder crops, such as corn, millet, Hungarian grass, etc. and, as soon as a portion of the land can be made rich enough, he will grow more or less mangel wurzels, sugar beets, turnips, and other root crops. Superphosphate will be found admirably adapted for this purpose, and two, three, or four hundred pounds of cheap potash salts, per acre, can frequently be used on fodder crops, in connection with two or three hundred pounds of superphosphate, with considerable profit. The whole subject is well worthy of careful study. Never in the history of the world has there been a grander opportunity for the application of science to the improvement of agriculture than now.
On the richer lands, the aim of the farmer will be to convert the plant food lying dormant in the soil into profitable crops. The main point is good tillage. In many cases weeds now run away with half our crops and all our profits. The weeds which spring up after the grain crops are harvested, are not an unmixed evil. They retain the nitrogen and other plant food, and when turned under make manure for the succeeding crops. But weeds among the growing crop are evil, and only an evil. Thorough plowing is the remedy, accompanied by drainage where needed.
We have an immense number of farms on which there are both good and poor land. In such cases we must adopt a combined system. We must grow large crops on the rich land and use them, at least in part, to make manure for the poorer portions of the farm. Drainage and good tillage will convert much of our low, alluvial lands into a perfect mine of wealth. And much of our high, rolling land consists of strong loam, abounding in plant food. Such land requires little more than thorough tillage, with perhaps two hundred pounds of superphosphate per acre, to enable it to produce good grain crops.
After all is said and done, farming is a business that requires not merely science, but industry, economy, and common sense. The real basis of success is faith, accompanied with good works. I cannot illustrate this better than by alluding to one of my neighbors, a strong, healthy, intelligent, observing and enterprising German, who commenced life as a farm laborer, and is to-day worth at least one hundred thousand dollars, that he has made, not by the advance of suburban property, but by farming, pure and simple. He first rented a farm, and then bought it, and in a few years he bought another farm adjoining the first one, and would to-day buy another if he found one that suited him. He has faith in farming. Some people think he "runs his land," and, in fact, such is the case. He keeps good teams, and good plows, and good harrows, and good rollers, and good cultivators, and good grade Shorthorn cows. He acts as though he believed, as Sir John B. Lawes says, that "the soil is a mine," out of which he digs money. He runs his land for all it is worth. He raises wheat, barley, oats, corn, potatoes, and hay, and when he can get a good price for his timothy hay, he draws it to market and sells it. Thorough tillage is the basis of his success. He is now using phosphates for wheat, and will probably increase his herd of cows and make more manure. He has great faith in manure, but acts as though he had still greater faith in good plowing, early sowing, and thorough cultivation.
PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION.
The Printers have got our "Talks on Manures" in type; and the publishers want a Preface.
The Deacon is busy hoeing his corn; the Doctor is gone to Rice Lake, fishing; Charley is cultivating mangels; the Squire is haying, and I am here alone, with a pencil in hand and a sheet of blank paper before me. I would far rather be at work. In fact, I have only just come in from the field.
Now, what shall I say? It will do no good to apologize for the deficiencies of the book. If the critics condescend to notice it at all, nothing I can say will propitiate their favor, or moderate their censure. They are an independent set of fellows! I know them well, I am an old editor myself, and nothing would please me better than to sit down and write a slashing criticism of these "Talks on Manures."
But I am denied that pleasure. The critics have the floor.
All I will say here, is, that the book is what it pretends to be. Some people seem to think that the "Deacon" is a fictitious character. Nothing of the kind. He is one of the oldest farmers in town, and lives on the farm next to me. I have the very highest respect for him. I have tried to report him fully and correctly. Of my own share in the conversations I will say little, and of the Doctor's nothing. My own views are honestly given. I hold myself responsible for them. I may contradict in one chapter what I have asserted in another. And so, probably, has the Deacon. I do not know whether this is or is not the case. I know very well that on many questions "much can be said on both sides"—and very likely the Deacon is sometimes on the south side of the fence and I on the north side; and in the next chapter you may find the Deacon on the north side, and where would you have me go, except to the south side? We cannot see both sides of the fence, if both of us walk on the same side!
I fear some will be disappointed at not finding a particular subject discussed.
I have talked about those things which occupy my own thoughts. There are some things not worth thinking about. There are others beyond my reach.
I have said nothing about manures for cotton or for the sugar-cane—not because I feel no interest in the matter, but because I have had no experience in the cultivation of these important crops. I might have told what the crops contain, and could have given minute directions for furnishing in manure the exact quantity of plant-food which the crops remove from the soil. But I have no faith in such a system of farming. The few cotton-planters I have had the pleasure of seeing were men of education and rare ability. I cannot undertake to offer them advice. But I presume they will find that, if they desire to increase the growth of the cotton-plant, in nine cases out of ten they can do it, provided the soil is properly worked, by supplying a manure containing available nitrogen, phosphoric acid, and potash. But the proper proportion of these ingredients of plant-food must be ascertained by experiment, and not from a mere analysis of the cotton-plant.
I have much faith in artificial manures. They will do great things for American agriculture—directly, and indirectly. Their general use will lead to a higher system of farming—to better cultivation, more root and fodder crops, improved stock, higher feeding, and richer manure. But it has been no part of my object to unduly extol the virtues of commercial manures. That may be left to the manufacturers.
My sympathy is with the farmer, and especially with the farmer of moderate means, who finds that improved farming calls for more and more capital. I would like to encourage such a man. And so, in point of fact, would the Deacon, though he often talks as though a man who tries to improve his farm will certainly come to poverty. Such men as the Deacon are useful neighbors if their doubts, and head-shakings, and shoulder-shruggings lead a young and enthusiastic farmer to put more energy, industry, and economy into his business. It is well to listen to the Deacon—to hear all his objections, and then to keep a sharp look-out for the dangers and difficulties, and go-ahead.
TALKS ON MANURES.
FARMING AS A BUSINESS.
"Farming is a poor business," said the Deacon. "Take the corn crop. Thirty bushels per acre is a fair average, worth, at 75 cents per bushel, $22.50. If we reckon that, for each bushel of corn, we get 100 lbs. of stalks, this would be a ton and a half per acre, worth at $5 per ton $7.50."
Total receipts per acre for corn crop $30 00 Expenses.—Preparing the land for the crop $5 00 Planting and seed 1 50 Cultivating, three times, twice in a row both ways 5 00 Hoeing twice 3 00 Cutting up the corn 1 50 Husking and drawing in the corn 4 00 Drawing in the stalks, etc. 1 00 Shelling, and drawing to market 2 00 Total cost of the crop ——- $23 00 ——— Profit per acre $7 00
"And from this," said the Deacon, "we have to deduct interest on land and taxes. I tell you, farming is a poor business."
"Yes," I replied, "poor farming is a very poor business. But good farming, if we have good prices, is as good a business as I want, and withal as pleasant. A good farmer raises 75 bushels of corn per acre, instead of 30. He would get for his crop, including stalks
$75 00 Expenses.—Preparing land for the crop $5 00 Planting and seed 1 50 Cultivating 5 00 Hoeing 3 00 Cutting up the corn 1 50 Husking and drawing 10 00 Drawing in the stalks 3 00 Shelling, etc. 6 00 ——- $35 00 ——— Profit per acre $40 00
Take another case, which actually occurred in this neighborhood. The Judge is a good farmer, and particularly successful in raising potatoes and selling them at a good price to hotels and private families. He cultivates very thoroughly, plants in hills, and puts a handful of ashes, plaster, and hen-manure, on the hill.
In 1873, his crop of Peachblows was at the rate of 208 bushels per acre. Of these, 200 bushels were sold at 60 cents per bushel. There were 8 bushels of small potatoes, worth say 12-1/2 cents per bushel, to feed out to stock.
Mr. Sloe, who lives on an adjoining farm, had three acres of Peachblow potatoes the same year. The yield was 100 bushels per acre—of which 25 bushels were not large enough for market, he got 50 cents per bushel for the others.
The account of the two crops stands as follows:
-+ + - Expenses Per Acre: Mr. Sloe Judge. -+ + - Plowing, harrowing, rolling, marking, planting and covering $ 8 00 $ 8 00 Seed 5 00 5 00 Hoeing, cultivating, etc. 7 00 10 00 Digging 10 00 10 00 + + - 30 00 33 00 Receipts Per Acre: 75 bushels, @ 50c 37 50 25 " @ 12-1/2c 3 12 + + - 40 62 200 bushels, @ 60c 120 00 8 " @ 12-1/2c 1 00 + - 121 00 + + - Profit per acre $10 62 $98 00 -+ + -
Since then, Mr. Sloe has been making and using more manure, and the year before last (1875) his crop of potatoes averaged over 200 bushels per acre, and on the sandy knolls, where more manure was applied, the yield was at least 250 bushels per acre.
"Nevertheless," said the Deacon, "I do not believe in 'high farming.' It will not pay."
"Possibly not," I replied. "It depends on circumstances; and these we will talk about presently. High farming aims to get large crops every year. Good farming produces equally large crops per acre, but not so many of them. This is what I am trying to do on my own farm. I am aiming to get 35 bushels of wheat per acre, 80 bushels of shelled corn, 50 bushels of barley, 90 bushels of oats, 300 bushels of potatoes, and 1,200 bushels of mangel-wurzel per acre, on the average. I can see no way of paying high wages except by raising large crops per acre. But if I get these large crops it does not necessarily follow that I am practising 'high farming.'"
To illustrate: Suppose I should succeed in getting such crops by adopting the following plan. I have a farm of nearly 300 acres, one quarter of it being low, alluvial land, too wet for cultivation, but when drained excellent for pasturing cows or for timothy meadows. I drain this land, and after it is drained I dam up some of the streams that flow into it or through it, and irrigate wherever I can make the water flow. So much for the low land.
The upland portion of the farm, containing say 200 acres, exclusive of fences, roads, buildings, garden, etc., is a naturally fertile loam, as good as the average wheat land of Western New York. But it is, or was, badly "run down." It had been what people call "worked to death;" although, in point of fact, it had not been half-worked. Some said it was "wheated to death," others that it had been "oated to death," others that it had been "grassed to death," and one man said to me, "That field has had sheep on it until they have gnawed every particle of vegetable matter out of the soil, and it will not now produce enough to pasture a flock of geese." And he was not far from right—notwithstanding the fact that sheep are thought to be, and are, the best animals to enrich land. But let me say, in passing, that I have since raised on that same field 50 bushels of barley per acre, 33 bushels of Diehl wheat, a great crop of clover, and last year, on a part of it, over 1,000 bushels of mangel-wurzel per acre.
But this is a digression. Let us carry out the illustration. What does this upland portion of the farm need? It needs underdraining, thorough cultivation, and plenty of manure. If I had plenty of manure, I could adopt high farming. But where am I to get plenty of manure for 200 acres of land? "Make it," says the Deacon. Very good; but what shall I make it of? "Make it out of your straw and stalks and hay." So I do, but all the straw and stalks and hay raised on the farm when I bought it would not make as much manure as "high farming" requires for five acres of land. And is this not true of half the farms in the United States to-day? What then, shall we do?
The best thing to do, theoretically, is this: Any land that is producing a fair crop of grass or clover, let it lie. Pasture it or mow it for hay. If you have a field of clayey or stiff loamy land, break it up in the fall, and summer-fallow it the next year, and sow it to wheat and seed it down with clover. Let it lie two or three years in clover. Then break it up in July or August, "fall-fallow" it, and sow it with barley the next spring, and seed it down again with clover.
Sandy or light land, that it will not pay to summer-fallow, should have all the manure you can make, and be plowed and planted with corn. Cultivate thoroughly, and either seed it down with the corn in August, or sow it to barley or oats next spring, and seed it down with clover. I say, theoretically this is the best plan to adopt. But practically it may not be so, because it may be absolutely necessary that we should raise something that we can sell at once, and get money to live upon or pay interest and taxes. But the gentlemen who so strenuously advocate high farming, are not perhaps often troubled with considerations of this kind. Meeting them, therefore, on their own ground, I contend that in my case "high farming" would not be as profitable as the plan hinted at above.
The rich alluvial low land is to be pastured or mown; the upland to be broken up only when necessary, and when it is plowed to be plowed well and worked thoroughly, and got back again into clover as soon as possible. The hay and pasture from the low land, and the clover and straw and stalks from the upland, would enable us to keep a good many cows and sheep, with more or less pigs, and there would be a big pile of manure in the yard every spring. And when this is once obtained, you can get along much more pleasantly and profitably.
"But," I may be asked, "when you have got this pile of manure can not you adopt high farming?" No. My manure pile would contain say: 60 tons of clover-hay; 20 tons wheat-straw; 25 tons oat, barley, and pea-straw; 40 tons meadow-hay; 20 tons corn-stalks; 20 tons corn, oats, and other grain; 120 tons mangel-wurzel and turnips.
This would give me about 500 tons of well-rotted manure. I should want 200 tons of this for the mangels and turnips, and the 300 tons I should want to top-dress 20 acres of grass land intended for corn and potatoes the next year. My pile of manure, therefore, is all used up on 25 to 30 acres of land. In other words, I use the unsold produce of 10 acres to manure one. Is this "high farming?" I think in my circumstances it is good farming, but it is not high farming. It gives me large crops per acre, but I have comparatively few acres in crops that are sold from the farm.
"High farming," if the term is to have any definite meaning at all should only be used to express the idea of a farm so managed that the soil is rich enough to produce maximum crops every year. If you adopt the system of rotation quite general in this section—say, 1st year, corn on sod; 2d, barley or oats; 3d, wheat; 4th, clover for hay and afterwards for seed; 5th, timothy and clover for hay; and then the 6th year plowed up for corn again—it would be necessary to make the land rich enough to produce say 100 bushels shelled corn, 50 bushels of barley, 40 bushels of wheat, 3 tons clover-hay, and 5 bushels of clover-seed, and 3 tons clover and timothy-hay per acre. This would be moderate high farming. If we introduced lucern, Italian rye-grass, corn-fodder, and mangel-wurzel into the rotation, we should need still richer land to produce a maximum growth of these crops. In other words, we should need more manure.
The point I am endeavoring to get at, is this: Where you want a farm to be self-supporting—where you depend solely on the produce of the farm to supply manure—it is a sheer impossibility to adopt high farming on the whole of your land. I want to raise just as large crops per acre as the high farmers, but there is no way of doing this, unless we go outside the farm for manure, without raising a smaller area of such crops as are sold from the farm.
I do not wish any one to suppose that I am opposed to high farming. There is occasionally a farm where it may be practised with advantage, but it seems perfectly clear to my mind that as long as there is such an unlimited supply of land, and such a limited supply of fertilizers, most of us will find it more profitable to develop the latent stores of plant-food lying dormant in the soil rather than to buy manures. And it is certain that you can not adopt high farming without either buying manure directly, or buying food to feed to animals that shall make manure on the farm.
And you must recollect that high farming requires an increased supply of labor, and hired help is a luxury almost as costly as artificial fertilizers.
We have heard superficial thinkers object to agricultural papers on the ground that they were urging farmers to improve their land and produce larger crops, "while," say they, "we are producing so much already that it will not sell for as much as it costs to produce it." My plan of improved agriculture does not necessarily imply the production of any more wheat or of any more grain of any kind that we sell than we raise at present. I would simply raise it on fewer acres, and thus lessen the expense for seed, cultivation, harvesting, etc. I would raise 30 bushels of wheat per acre every third year, instead of 10 bushels every year.
If we summer-fallowed and plowed under clover in order to produce the 30 bushels of wheat once in three years, instead of 10 bushels every year, no more produce of any kind would be raised. But my plan does not contemplate such a result. On my own farm I seldom summer-fallow, and never plow under clover. I think I can enrich the farm nearly as much by feeding the clover to animals and returning the manure to the land. The animals do not take out more than from five to ten per cent of the more valuable elements of plant-food from the clover. And so my plan, while it produces as much and no more grain to sell, adds greatly to the fertility of the land, and gives an increased production of beef, mutton, wool, butter, cheese, and pork.
"But what is a man to do who is poor and has poor land?" If he has good health, is industrious, economical, and is possessed of a fair share of good common sense, he need have no doubt as to being able to renovate his farm and improve his own fortune.
Faith in good farming is the first requisite. If this is weak, it will be strengthened by exercise. If you have not faith, act as though you had.
Work hard, but do not be a drudge. A few hours' vigorous labor will accomplish a great deal, and encourage you to continued effort. Be prompt, systematic, cheerful, and enthusiastic. Go to bed early and get up when you wake. But take sleep enough. A man had better be in bed than at the tavern or grocery. Let not friends, even, keep you up late; "manners is manners, but still your elth's your elth."
"But what has this to do with good farming?" More than chemistry and all the science of the schools. Agriculture is an art and must be followed as such. Science will help—help enormously—but it will never enable us to dispense with industry. Chemistry throws great light on the art of cooking, but a farmer's wife will roast a turkey better than a Liebig.
When Mr. James O. Sheldon, of Geneva. N.Y., bought his farm, his entire crop of hay the first year was 76 loads. He kept stock, and bought more or less grain and bran, and in eleven years from that time his farm produced 430 loads of hay, afforded pasture for his large herd of Shorthorn cattle, and produced quite as much grain as when he first took it.
Except in the neighborhood of large cities, "high farming" may not pay, owing to the fact that we have so much land. But whether this is so or not, there can be no doubt that the only profitable system of farming is to raise large crops on such land as we cultivate. High farming gives us large crops, and many of them. At present, while we have so much land in proportion to population, we must, perhaps, be content with large crops of grain, and few of them. We must adopt the slower but less expensive means of enriching our land from natural sources, rather than the quicker, more artificial, and costly means adopted by many farmers in England, and by market gardeners, seed-growers, and nurserymen in this country. Labor is so high that we can not afford to raise a small crop. If we sow but half the number of acres, and double the yield, we should quadruple our profits. I have made up my mind to let the land lie in clover three years, instead of two. This will lessen the number of acres under cultivation, and enable us to bestow more care in plowing and cleaning it. And the land will be richer, and produce better crops. The atmosphere is capable of supplying a certain quantity of ammonia to the soil in rains and dews every year, and by giving the wheat crop a three years supply instead of two years, we gain so much. Plaster the clover, top-dress it in the fall, if you have the manure, and stimulate its growth in every way possible, and consume all the clover on the land, or in the barn-yard. Do not sell a single ton; let not a weed grow, and the land will certainly improve.
The first object should be to destroy weeds. I do not know how it is in other sections, but with us the majority of farms are completely overrun with weeds. They are eating out the life of the land, and if something is not done to destroy them, even exorbitantly high prices can not make farming profitable. A farmer yesterday was contending that it did not pay to summer-fallow. He has taken a run-down farm, and a year ago last spring he plowed up ten acres of a field, and sowed it to barley and oats. The remainder of the field he summer-fallowed, plowing it four times, rolling and harrowing thoroughly after each plowing. After the barley and oats were off, he plowed the land once, harrowed it and sowed Mediterranean wheat. On the summer-fallow he drilled in Diehl wheat. He has just threshed, and got 22 bushels per acre of Mediterranean wheat after the spring crop, at one plowing, and 26 bushels per acre of Diehl wheat on the summer-fallow. This, he said, would not pay, as it cost him $20 per acre to summer-fallow, and he lost the use of the land for one season. Now this may be all true, and yet it is no argument against summer-fallowing. Wait a few years. Farming is slow work. Mr. George Geddes remarked to me, when I told him I was trying to renovate a run-down farm, "you will find it the work of your life." We ought not to expect a big crop on poor, run-down land, simply by plowing it three or four times in as many months. Time is required for the chemical changes to take place in the soil. But watch the effect on the clover for the next two years, and when the land is plowed again, see if it is not in far better condition than the part not summer-fallowed. I should expect the clover on the summer-fallow to be fully one-third better in quantity, and of better quality than on the other part, and this extra quantity of clover will make an extra quantity of good manure, and thus we have the means of going on with the work of improving the farm.
"Yes," said the Doctor, "and there will also be more clover-roots in the soil."
"But I can not afford to wait for clover, and summer-fallowing," writes an intelligent New York gentleman, a dear lover of good stock, who has bought an exhausted New England farm, "I must have a portion of it producing good crops right off." Very well. A farmer with plenty of money can do wonders in a short time. Set a gang of ditchers to work, and put in underdrains where most needed. Have teams and plows enough to do the work rapidly. As soon as the land is drained and plowed, put on a heavy roller. Then sow 500 lbs. of Peruvian guano per acre broadcast, or its equivalent in some other fertilizer. Follow with a Shares' harrow. This will mellow the surface and cover the guano without disturbing the sod. Follow with a forty-toothed harrow, and roll again, if needed, working the land until there is three or four inches of fine, mellow surface soil. Then mark off the land in rows as straight as an arrow, and plant corn. Cultivate thoroughly, and kill every weed. If the ditchers can not get through until it is too late to plant corn, drill in beans on the last drained part of the field.
Another good crop to raise on a stock farm is corn-fodder. This can be drilled in from time to time as the land can be got ready. Put on half a ton of guano per acre and harrow in, and then mark off the rows three feet apart, and drill in four bushels of corn per acre. Cultivate thoroughly, and expect a great crop. By the last of July, the Ayrshire cows will take kindly to the succulent corn-fodder, and with three or four quarts of meal a day, it will enable each of them to make 10 lbs. of butter a week.
For the pigs, sow a few acres of peas. These will do well on sod-land, sown early or late, or a part early and a part late, as most convenient. Sow broadcast and harrow in, 500 lbs. of Peruvian guano per acre and 200 lbs. of gypsum. Drill in three bushels of peas per acre, or sow broadcast, and cover them with a Shares' harrow. Commence to feed the crop green as soon as the pods are formed, and continue to feed out the crop, threshed or unthreshed, until the middle of November. Up to this time the bugs do comparatively little damage. The pigs will thrive wonderfully on this crop, and make the richest and best of manure.
I have little faith in any attempt to raise root crops on land not previously well prepared. But as it is necessary to have some mangel-wurzel and Swede turnips for the Ayrshire cows and long-wool sheep next winter and spring, select the cleanest and richest land that can be found that was under cultivation last season. If fall plowed, the chances of success will be doubled. Plow the land two or three times, and cultivate, harrow, and roll until it is as mellow as a garden. Sow 400 lbs. of Peruvian guano and 300 lbs. of good superphosphate per acre broadcast, and harrow them in. Ridge up the land into ridges 2-1/2 to 3 ft. apart, with a double mould-board plow. Roll down the ridges with a light roller, and drill in the seed. Sow the mangel-wurzel in May—the earlier the better—and the Swedes as soon afterwards as the land can be thoroughly prepared. Better delay until June rather than sow on rough land.
The first point on such a farm will be to attend to the grass land. This affords the most hopeful chance of getting good returns the first year. But no time is to be lost. Sow 500 lbs. of Peruvian guano per acre on all the grass land and on the clover, with 200 lbs. of gypsum in addition on the latter. If this is sown early enough, so that the spring rains dissolve it and wash it into the soil, great crops of grass may be expected.
"But will it pay?" My friend in New York is a very energetic and successful business man, and he has a real love for farming, and I have no sort of doubt that, taking the New York business and the farm together, they will afford a very handsome profit. Furthermore, I have no doubt that if, after he has drained it, he would cover the whole farm with 500 lbs. of Peruvian guano per acre, or its equivalent, it would pay him better than any other agricultural operation he is likely to engage in. By the time it was on the land the cost would amount to about $20 per acre. If he sells no more grass or hay from the farm than he would sell if he did not use the guano, this $20 may very properly be added to the permanent capital invested in the farm. And in this aspect of the case, I have no hesitation in saying it will pay a high rate of interest. His bill for labor will be as much in one case as in the other; and if he uses the guano he will probably double his crops. His grass lands will carry twenty cows instead of ten, and if he raises the corn-fodder and roots, he can probably keep thirty cows better than he could otherwise keep a dozen; and, having to keep a herdsman in either case, the cost of labor will not be much increased. "But you think it will not pay?" It will probably not pay him. I do not think his business would pay me if I lived on my farm, and went to New York only once or twice a week. If there is one business above all others that requires constant attention, it is farming—and especially stock-farming. But my friend is right in saying that he cannot afford to wait to enrich his land by clover and summer-fallowing. His land costs too much; he has a large barn and everything requisite to keep a large stock of cattle and sheep. The interest on farm and buildings, and the money expended in labor, would run on while the dormant matter in the soil was slowly becoming available under the influence of good tillage. The large barn must be filled at once, and the only way to do this is to apply manure with an unsparing hand. If he lived on the farm, I should have no doubt that, by adopting this course, and by keeping improved stock, and feeding liberally, he could make money. Perhaps he can find a man who will successfully manage the farm under his direction, but the probabilities are that his present profit and pleasure will come from the gratification of his early love for country life.
WHAT IS MANURE?
"What is the good of asking such a question as that?" said the Deacon; "we all know what manure is."
"Well, then," I replied, "tell us what it is?"
"It is anything that will make crops grow better and bigger," replied the Deacon.
"That is not a bad definition," said I; "but let us see if it is a true one. You have two rows of cabbage in the garden, and you water one row, and the plants grow bigger and better. Is water manure? You cover a plant with a hand-glass, and it grows bigger and better. Is a hand-glass manure? You shelter a few plants, and they grow bigger and better. Is shelter manure? You put some pure sand round a few plants, and they grow bigger and better. Is pure sand manure? I think we shall have to reject the Deacon's definition."
Let us hear what the Doctor has to say on the subject.
"Manure," replied the Doctor, "is the food of plants."
"That is a better definition," said I; "but this is really not answering the question. You say manure is plant-food. But what is plant-food?"
"Plant-food," said the Doctor, "is composed of twelve elements, and, possibly, sometimes one or two more, which we need not here talk about. Four of these elements are gases, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen. When a plant or animal is burnt, these gases are driven off. The ashes which remain are composed of potash, soda, lime, and magnesia; sulphuric acid, phosphoric acid, chlorine, and silica. In other words, the 'food of plants' is composed of four organic, or gaseous elements, and eight inorganic, or mineral elements, of which four have acid and four alkaline properties."
"Thank you, Doctor," said the Deacon, "I am glad to know what manure is. It is the food of plants, and the food of plants is composed of four gases, four acid and four alkaline elements. I seem to know all about it. All I have wanted to make my land rich was plenty of manure, and now I shall know where to get it—oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen; these four atmospheric elements. Then potash, soda, magnesia, and lime. I know what these four are. Then sulphur, phosphorous, silica (sand,) and chlorine (salt). I shall soon have rich land and big crops."
Charley, who has recently come home from college, where he has been studying chemistry, looked at the Deacon, and was evidently puzzled to understand him. Turning to the Doctor, Charley asked modestly if what the Doctor had said in regard to the composition of plant food could not be said of the composition of all our animals and plants.
"Certainly," replied the Doctor, "all our agricultural plants and all our animals, man included, are composed of these twelve elements, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen; phosphorus, sulphur, silica, chlorine, potash, soda, magnesia, and lime."
Charley said something about lime, potash, and soda, not being "elements;" and something about silica and chlorine not being found in animals.
"Yes," said I, "and he has left out iron, which is an important constituent of all our farm crops and animals." Neither the Doctor nor the Deacon heard our remarks. The Deacon, who loves an argument, exclaimed: "I thought I knew all about it. You told us that manure was the food of plants, and that the food of plants was composed of the above twelve elements; and now you tell us that man and beast, fruit and flower, grain and grass, root, stem, and branch, all are composed or made up of these same dozen elements. If I ask you what bread is made of, you say it is composed of the dozen elements aforesaid. If I ask what wheat-straw is made of, you answer, the dozen. If I ask what a thistle is made of, you say the dozen. There are a good many milk-weeds in my strawberry patch, and I am glad to know that the milk-weed and the strawberry are both composed of the same dozen elements. Manure is the food of plants, and the food of plants is composed of the above dozen elements, and every plant and animal that we eat is also composed of these same dozen elements, and so I suppose there is no difference between an onion and an omelet, or between bread and milk, or between mangel-wurzel and manure."
"The difference," replied the Doctor, "is one of proportion. Mangels and manure are both composed of the same elements. In fact, mangels make good manure, and good manure makes good mangels."
The Deacon and the Doctor sat down to a game of backgammon, and Charley and I continued the conversation more seriously.
SOMETHING ABOUT PLANT-FOOD.
"The Doctor is in the main correct," said I; "but he does not fully answer the question, 'What is manure?' To say that manure is plant-food, does not cover the whole ground. All soils on which plants grow, contain more or less plant-food. A plant can not create an atom of potash. It can not get it from the atmosphere. We find potash in the plant, and we know that it got it from the soil and we are certain, therefore, that the soil contains potash. And so of all the other mineral elements of plants. A soil that will produce a thistle, or a pig-weed, contains plant-food. And so the definition of the Doctor is defective, inasmuch as it makes no distinction between soil and manure. Both contain plant-food."
"What is your definition of manure?" asked Charley; "it would seem as though we all knew what manure was. We have got a great heap of it in the yard, and it is fermenting nicely."
"Yes," I replied, "we are making more manure on the farm this winter than ever before. Two hundred pigs, 120 large sheep, 8 horses, 11 cows, and a hundred head of poultry make considerable manure; and it is a good deal of work to clean out the pens, pile the manure, draw it to the field, and apply it to the crops. We ought to know something about it; but we might work among manure all our lives, and not know what manure is. At any rate, we might not be able to define it accurately. I will, however, try my hand at a definition.
"Let us assume that we have a field that is free from stagnant water at all seasons of the year; that the soil is clean, mellow, and well worked seven inches deep, and in good order for putting in a crop. What the coming 'season' will be we know not. It may be what we call a hot, dry summer, or it may be cool and moist, or it may be partly one and partly the other. The 'season' is a great element of uncertainty in all our farming calculations; but we know that we shall have a season of some kind. We have the promise of seed-time and harvest, and we have never known the promise to fail us. Crops, however, vary very much, according to the season; and it is necessary to bear this fact in mind. Let us say that the sun and heat, and rain and dews, or what we call 'the season,' is capable of producing 50 bushels of wheat per acre, but that the soil I have described above, does not produce over 20 bushels per acre. There is no mechanical defect in the soil. The seed is good, it is put in properly, and at the right time, and in the best manner. No weeds choke the wheat plants or rob them of their food; but that field does not produce as much wheat by 30 bushels per acre as the season is capable of producing. Why? The answer is evident. Because the wheat plants do not find food enough in the soil. Now, anything that will furnish this food, anything that will cause that field to produce what the climate or season is capable of producing, is manure. A gardener may increase his crops by artificial heat, or by an increased supply of water, but this is not manure. The effect is due to improved climatic conditions. It has nothing to do with the question of manure. We often read in the agricultural papers about 'shade as manure.' We might just as well talk about sunlight as 'manure.' The effects observed should be referred to modifications of the climate or season; and so in regard to mulching. A good mulch may often produce a larger increase of growth than an application of manure. But mulch, proper, is not manure. It is climate. It checks evaporation of moisture from the soil. We might as well speak of rain as manure as to call a mulch manure. In fact, an ordinary shower in summer is little more than a mulch. It does not reach the roots of plants; and yet we see the effect of the shower immediately in the increased vigor of the plants. They are full of sap, and the drooping leaves look refreshed. We say the rain has revived them, and so it has; but probably not a particle of the rain has entered into the circulation of the plant. The rain checked evaporation from the soil and from the leaves. A cool night refreshes the plants, and fills the leaves with sap, precisely in the same way. All these fertilizing effects, however, belong to climate. It is inaccurate to associate either mulching, sunshine, shade, heat, dews, or rain, with the question of manure, though the effect may in certain circumstances be precisely the same."
Charley evidently thought I was wandering from the point. "You think, then," said he, "manure is plant-food that the soil needs?"
"Yes," said I, "that is a very good definition—very good, indeed, though not absolutely accurate, because manure is manure, whether a particular soil needs it or not." Unobserved by us, the Deacon and the Doctor had been listening to our talk. —"I would like," said the Deacon, "to hear you give a better definition than Charley has given." —"Manure," said I, "is anything containing an element or elements of plant-food, which, if the soil needed it, would, if supplied in sufficient quantity, and in an available condition, produce, according to soil, season, climate, and variety, a maximum crop."
We often hear about "natural" manure. I do not like the term, though I believe it originated with me. It is not accurate; not definite enough.
"I do not know what you mean by natural manure," said the Deacon, "unless it is the droppings of animals." —"To distinguish them, I suppose," said the Doctor, "from artificial manures, such as superphosphate, sulphate of ammonia, and nitrate of soda." —"No; that is not how I used the term. A few years ago, we used to hear much in regard to the 'exhaustion of soils.' I thought this phrase conveyed a wrong idea. When new land produces large crops, and when, after a few years, the crops get less and less, we were told that the farmers were exhausting their land. I said, no; the farmers are not exhausting the soil; they are merely exhausting the accumulated plant-food in the soil. In other words, they are using up the natural manure.
"Take my own farm. Fifty years ago, it was covered with a heavy growth of maple, beech, black walnut, oak, and other trees. These trees had shed annual crops of leaves for centuries. The leaves rot on the ground; the trees also, age after age. These leaves and other organic matter form what I have called natural manure. When the land is cleared up and plowed, this natural manure decays more rapidly than when the land lies undisturbed; precisely as a manure-pile will ferment and decay more rapidly if turned occasionally, and exposed to the air. The plowing and cultivating renders this natural manure more readily available. The leaves decompose, and furnish food for the growing crop."
EXHAUSTION OF THE SOIL.
"You think, then," said the Doctor, "that when a piece of land is cleared of the forest, harrowed, and sown to wheat; plowed and planted to corn, and the process repeated again and again, until the land no longer yields profitable crops, that it is the 'natural manure,' and not the soil, that is exhausted?"
"I think the soil, at any rate, is not exhausted, and I can easily conceive of a case where even the natural manure is very far from being all used up."
"Why, then," asked the Deacon, "is the land so poor that it will scarcely support a sheep to the acre?"
"Simply because the natural manure and other plant-food which the soil contains is not in an available condition. It lies dead and inert. It is not soluble, and the roots of the plants cannot get enough of it to enable them to thrive; and in addition to this, you will find as a matter of fact that these poor 'exhausted' farms are infested with weeds, which rob the growing crops of a large part of the scanty supply of available plant-food."
"But these weeds," said the Deacon, "are not removed from the farm. They rot on the land; nothing is lost."
"True," said I, "but they, nevertheless, rob the growing crops of available plant-food. The annual supply of plant-food, instead of being used to grow useful plants, is used to grow weeds."
"I understand that," said the Deacon, "but if the weeds are left on the land, and the useful plants are sold, the farmer who keeps his land clean would exhaust his land faster than the careless farmer who lets his land lie until it is overrun with thistles, briars, and pig-weed. You agricultural writers, who are constantly urging us to farm better and grow larger crops, seem to overlook this point. As you know, I do not take much stock in chemical theories as applied to agriculture, but as you do, here is a little extract I cut from an agricultural paper, that seems to prove that the better you work your land, and the larger crops you raise, the sooner you exhaust your land."
The Deacon put on his spectacles, drew his chair nearer the lamp on the table, and read the following:
"There is, on an average, about one-fourth of a pound of potash to every one hundred pounds of soil, and about one-eighth of a pound of phosphoric acid, and one-sixteenth of a pound of sulphuric acid. If the potatoes and the tops are continually removed from the soil, it will soon exhaust the potash. If the wheat and straw are removed, it will soon exhaust the phosphate of lime; if corn and the stalks, it will soon exhaust the sulphuric acid. Unless there is a rotation, or the material the plant requires is supplied from abroad, your crops will soon run out, though the soil will continue rich for other plants."
"That extract," said I, "carries one back twenty-five years. We used to have article after article in this strain. We were told that 'always taking meal out of the tub soon comes to the bottom,' and always taking potash and phosphoric acid from the soil will soon exhaust the supply. But, practically, there is really little danger of our exhausting the land. It does not pay. The farmer's resources will be exhausted long before he can exhaust his farm."
"Assuming," said the Doctor, who is fond of an argument, "that the above statement is true, let us look at the facts. An acre of soil, 12 inches deep, would weigh about 1,600 tons; and if, as the writer quoted by the Deacon states, the soil contains 4 ozs. of potash in every 100 lbs. of soil, it follows that an acre of soil, 12 inches deep, contains 8,000 lbs. of potash. Now, potatoes contain about 20 per cent of dry matter, and this dry matter contains say, 4 per cent of ash, half of which is potash. It follows, therefore, that 250 bushels of potatoes contain about 60 lbs. of potash. If we reckon that the tops contain 20 lbs. more, or 80 lbs. in all, it follows that the acre of soil contains potash enough to grow an annual crop of 250 bushels of potatoes per acre for one hundred years."
"I know farmers," said Charley, "who do not get over 50 bushels of potatoes per acre, and in that case the potash would last five hundred years, as the weeds grown with the crop are left on the land, and do not, according to the Deacon, exhaust the soil."
"Good for you, Charley," said the Doctor. "Now let us see about the phosphoric acid, of which the soil, according to the above statement, contains only half as much as it contains of potash, or 4,000 lbs. per acre.
"A crop of wheat of 30 bushels per acre," continued the Doctor, "contains in the grain about 26 lbs. of ash, and we will say that half of this ash is phosphoric acid, or 13 lbs. Allowing that the straw, chaff, etc., contain 7 lbs. more, we remove from the soil in a crop of wheat of 30 bushels per acre, 20 lbs. of phosphoric acid, and so, according to the above estimate, an acre of soil contains phosphoric acid to produce annually a crop of wheat and straw of 30 bushels per acre for two hundred years.
"The writer of the paragraph quoted by the Deacon," continued the Doctor, "selected the crops and elements best suited to his purpose, and yet, according to his own estimate, there is sufficient potash and phosphoric acid in the first 12 inches of the soil to enable us to raise unusually large crops until the next Centennial in 1976.
"But let us take another view of the subject," continued the Doctor. "No intelligent farmer removes all the potatoes and tops, all the wheat, straw, and chaff, or all the corn and stalks from his farm. According to Dr. Salisbury, a crop of corn of 75 bushels per acre removes from the soil 600 lbs. of ash, but the grain contains only 46 lbs. The other 554 lbs. is contained in the stalks, etc., all of which are usually retained on the farm. It follows from this, that when only the grain is sold off the farm, it takes more than thirteen crops to remove as much mineral matter from the soil as is contained in the whole of one crop. Again, the ash of the grain contains less than 3 per cent of sulphuric acid, so that the 46 lbs. of ash, in 75 bushels of corn, contains less than 1-1/2 lbs. of sulphuric acid, and thus, if an acre of soil contains 2,000 lbs. of sulphuric acid, we have sufficient for an annual crop of 75 bushels per acre for fifteen hundred years!
"As I said before," continued the Doctor, "intelligent farmers seldom sell their straw, and they frequently purchase and consume on the farm nearly as much bran, shorts, etc., as is sent to market with the grain they sell. In the 'Natural History of New York,' it is stated that an acre of wheat in Western New York, of 30 bushels per acre, including straw, chaff, etc., removes from the soil 144 lbs. of mineral matter. Genesee wheat usually yields about 80 per cent. of flour. This flour contains only 0.7 per cent of mineral matter, while fine middlings contain 4 per cent; coarse middlings, 5-1/2 per cent; shorts, 8 per cent, and bran 8-1/2 per cent of mineral matter or ash. It follows from this, that out of the 144 lbs. of mineral matter in the crop of wheat, less than 10 lbs. is contained in the flour. The remaining 134 lbs. is found in the straw, chaff, bran, shorts, etc., which a good farmer is almost sure to feed out on his farm. But even if the farmer feeds out none of his wheat-bran, but sells it all with his wheat, the 30 bushels of wheat remove from the soil only 26 lbs. of mineral matter; and it would take more than five crops to remove as much mineral matter as one crop of wheat and straw contains. Allowing that half the ash of wheat is phosphoric acid, 30 bushels remove only 13 lbs. from the soil, and if the soil contains 4,000 lbs., it will take three hundred and seven crops, of 30 bushels each, to exhaust it."
"That is to say," said Charley, "if all the straw and chaff is retained on the farm, and is returned to the land without loss of phosphoric acid."
"Yes," said the Doctor, "and if all the bran and shorts, etc., were retained on the farm, it would take eight hundred crops to exhaust the soil of phosphoric acid; and it is admitted that of all the elements of plant-food, phosphoric acid is the one first to be exhausted from the soil."
I have sold some timothy hay this winter, and propose to do so whenever the price suits. But some of my neighbors, who do not hesitate to sell their own hay, think I ought not to do so, because I "write for the papers"! It ought to satisfy them to know that I bring back 30 cwt. of bran for every ton of hay I sell. My rule is to sell nothing but wheat, barley, beans, potatoes, clover-seed, apples, wool, mutton, beef, pork, and butter. Everything else is consumed on the farm—corn, peas, oats, mustard, rape, mangels, clover, straw, stalks, etc. Let us make a rough estimate of how much is sold and how much retained on a hundred-acre farm, leaving out the potatoes, beans, and live-stock. We have say:
Sold. 15 acres wheat, @ 40 bushels per acre 18 tons 5 " barley, @ 50 " " 6 " 15 " clover seed, 4 " " 1-3/4 ton. ——— Total sold 25-3/4 tons.
Retained on the farm. 15 acres corn, @ 80 bushels per acre 33-1/2 tons. Corn stalks from do. 40 " 5 acres barley straw 8 " 10 " oats and peas, equal 80 bushels of oats 12-3/4 " Straw from do. 20 " 15 acres wheat-straw 25 " 15 " clover-hay 25 " Clover-seed straw 10 " 15 acres pasture and meadow, equal 40 tons hay 40 " 5 " mustard, equal 10 tons hay 10 " 5 " rape, equal 10 tons hay 10 " 5 " mangels, 25 tons per acre, 15 " equal to 3 tons dry Leaves from do. 3 " ———- Total retained on the farm 252-1/4 tons.
It would take a good many years to exhaust any ordinary soil by such a course of cropping. Except, perhaps, the sandy knolls, I think there is not an acre on my farm that would be exhausted in ten thousand years, and as some portions of the low alluvial soil will grow crops without manure, there will be an opportunity to give the poor, sandy knolls more than their share of plant-food. In this way, notwithstanding the fact that we sell produce and bring nothing back, I believe the whole farm will gradually increase in productiveness. The plant-food annually rendered available from the decomposition and disintegration of the inert organic and mineral matter in the soil, will be more than equal to that exported from the farm. If the soil becomes deficient in anything, it is likely that it will be in phosphates, and a little superphosphate or bone-dust might at any rate be profitably used on the rape, mustard, and turnips.
The point in good farming is to develop from the latent stores in the soil, and to accumulate enough available plant-food for the production of the largest possible yield of those crops which we sell. In other words, we want enough available plant-food in the soil to grow 40 bushels of wheat and 50 bushels of barley. I think the farmer who raises 10 tons for every ton he sells, will soon reach this point, and when once reached, it is a comparatively easy matter to maintain this degree of fertility.
WHY OUR CROPS ARE SO POOR.
"If the soil is so rich in plant-food," said the Deacon, "I again ask, why are our crops so poor?"
The Deacon said this very quietly. He did not seem to know that he had asked one of the most important questions in the whole range of agricultural science. It is a fact that a soil may contain enough plant-food to produce a thousand large crops, and yet the crops we obtain from it may be so poor as hardly to pay the cost of cultivation. The plant-food is there, but the plants cannot get at it. It is not in an available condition; it is not soluble. A case is quoted by Prof. Johnson, where a soil was analyzed, and found to contain to the depth of one foot 4,652 lbs. of nitrogen per acre, but only 63 lbs. of this was in an available condition. And this is equally true of phosphoric acid, potash, and other elements of plant-food. No matter how much plant-food there may be in the soil, the only portion that is of any immediate value is the small amount that is annually available for the growth of crops.
HOW TO GET LARGER CROPS.
"I am tired of so much talk about plant-food," said the Deacon; "what we want to know is how to make our land produce larger crops of wheat, corn, oats, barley, potatoes, clover, and grass."
This is precisely what I am trying to show. On my own farm, the three leading objects are (1) to get the land drained, (2) to make it clean and mellow, and (3) to get available nitrogen for the cereal crops. After the first two objects are accomplished, the measure of productiveness will be determined by the amount of available nitrogen in the soil. How to get available nitrogen, therefore, is my chief and ultimate object in all the operations on the farm, and it is here that science can help me. I know how to get nitrogen, but I want to get it in the cheapest way, and then to be sure that I do not waste it.
There is one fact fully established by repeated experiment and general experience—that 80 lbs. of available nitrogen per acre, applied in manure, will almost invariably give us a greatly increased yield of grain crops. I should expect, on my farm, that on land which, without manure, would give me 15 bushels of wheat per acre, such a dressing of manure would give me, in a favorable season, 35 or 40 bushels per acre, with a proportional increase of straw; and, in addition to this, there would be considerable nitrogen left for the following crop of clover. Is it not worth while making an earnest effort to get this 80 lbs. of available nitrogen?
I have on my farm many acres of low, mucky land, bordering on the creek, that probably contain several thousand pounds of nitrogen per acre. So long as the land is surcharged with water, this nitrogen, and other plant-food, lies dormant. But drain it, and let in the air, and the oxygen decomposes the organic matter, and ammonia and nitric acid are produced. In other words, we get available nitrogen and other plant-food, and the land becomes capable of producing large crops of corn and grass; and the crops obtained from this low, rich land, will make manure for the poorer, upland portions of the farm.
SWAMP-MUCK OR PEAT AS MANURE.
"It would pay you," said the Deacon, "to draw out 200 or 300 loads of muck from the swamp every year, and compost it with your manure."
This may or may not be the case. It depends on the composition of the muck, and how much labor it takes to handle it.
"What you should do," said the Doctor, "is to commence at the creek, and straighten it. Take a gang of men, and be with them with yourself, or get a good foreman to direct operations. Commence at a, and straighten the creek to b, and from b to c (see map on next page). Throw all the rich, black muck in a heap by itself, separate from the sand. You, or your foreman, must be there, or you will not get this done. A good ditcher will throw out a great mass of this loose muck and sand in a day; and you want him to dig, not think. You must do the thinking, and tell him which is muck, and which is only sand and dirt. When thrown up, this muck, in our dry, hot climate, will, in the course of a few months, part with a large amount of water, and it can then be drawn to the barns and stables, and used for bedding, or for composting with manure. Or if you do not want to draw it to the barn, get some refuse lime from the lime-kiln, and mix it with the muck after it has been thrown up a few weeks, and is partially dry. Turn over the heap, and put a few bushels of lime to every cord of the muck, mixing the lime and muck together, leaving the heap in a compact form, and in good shape, to shed the rain.