Page images
PDF
EPUB

Plot 7.—The manures used in this experiment could be probably bought and spread upon the land at a cost of from $12 to $13; the increased produce amounts to 1,500 lbs. of hay ; there would, therefore, be a small profit upon this transaction. But it must be remembered that the success of a purely mineral manure depends upon the amount of nitrogen liberated from the store in the soil; and in the course of time this store will be reduced by the process of exhaustion to the same level as that which we now have in our arable land.

Plot 14 received the same minerals as Plot 7, but with the addition of 550 pounds of nitrate of soda, which, when placed upon the land, would probably cost about $20; this, added to the cost of the manure of Plot 7, would amount to $32 or $33 per acre. The increase of hay obtained by these manures was 4,000 lbs. It must, however, be observed that I have made no charge for the cost of labor attending the cutting and converting this increased produce into hay; I might also add that I have taken, as the basis for comparison, the lowest in produce of the two unmanured acres.

During the whole period of 20 years the 112 English or 1254, United States tons of dung had produced 35,000 lbs. of increased produce of hay, which is equivalent to a produce of about 280 lbs. of hay to each ton of dung of 2,000 lbs.; but the crops of the last six years prove that the efficacy of the dung is by no means yet exhausted. It is not in my power to place a value upon dung, as the cost turns entirely upon the carriage. I live 25 miles from London, and my farm is one mile from a station. The cost of dung by rail is 60 cents per English ton; delivery on my land costs an additional 42 cents—making altogether $1.02.

The result of these experiments make it somewhat doubtful whether hay can be grown profitably by means of artificial manures applied to permanent pasture. With us hay is generally grown near large towns, and the same conveyance which takes it to market brings back the manure at little or no cost.

Compared with its selling price, hay removes more of the soil constituents from the land than most of our other salable products. One hundred pounds of hay will remove nearly as much nitrogen and much more mineral matter than 100 lbs. of wheat. These considerations must all be studied when the question comes as to the profitable application of expensive manures. While therefore the evidence is somewhat against the use of artificial manures when hay is grown for sale, it by no means forbids their employment when grass land is used for the production of meat, milk, butter, or cheese ; and to illustrate this I will merely allude to one manure ingredient, viz.: potash. In the large crop of hay which we take from Plot 11, we carry off annually 140 lbs. of potash per acre ; 1,000 lbs. live weight of an ox or sheep contains about 12 to 134 lbs. of potash. There are very few acres of land in the State of New York which will fatten one bullock per acre, and even if there were, the potash carried off would not amount to more than one pound. Of milk, 100 lbs. weight contains a little over 12 a lb. of mineral matter, or about one-thirteenth part of what would be contained in 100 lbs. of bay, while butter robs the land of nothing.

If land has been impoverished by the sale of hay, and hay is to be sold, dung is the cheapest manure to apply ; but if land so impoverished is intended for the future to produce milk, meat, or other animal products, potash is sure to be wanting, and the best manure to apply will be either 200 lbs. of sulphate or muriate of potash, or three times that quantity of kanit salts, and, in addition to whichever of these substances is selected, 200 lbs. of superphosphate of lime and from 60 to 80 lbs. of nitrate of soda.

If, however, the land has been impoverished merely by feeding stock, then the ex haustion will be more likely due to the absence of nitrogen and phosphate, and fertility must be restored by an application of these substances as manures.

I mentioned in a previous part of my paper that quantity, rather than quality, was the object to be attained when hay was the crop grown; but when animal products are

produced from grass, the quality of the grass is of very great importance. Quality of pasture is dependent upon the food in the soil : in land under grass there is a constant struggle going on between the various plants which constitute what we call a pasture. Upon my experimental ground, the pasture contained about 50 different species of plants when the experiments were commenced, and upon the unmanured ground these have been subject to but little change ; but it is far otherwise upon the variously manured portions ; if the food is abundant and good, the good grasses drive away all the weeds and bad grasses, and the ultimate result is a very simple herbage, consisting of not more than from 15 to 18 of the best species. The constant mowing, although it enables us to establish a great deal of valuable information respecting growth, is, at the same time, most destructive to the finer sorts of herbage ; it cannot be expected, for instance, that much white clover will be found amongst grasses standing three feet high, and yielding 7,000 lbs. of hay to the acre : with liberal manuring, therefore, there must be close feeding, and the coarse but highly nutritious cocksfoot and foxtail must not be allowed to smother the clover and trefoil.

Having once started a permanent pasture by means of a judicious mixture of arti. ficial manures, the question arises whether it is more economical to keep up the fertility by a fresh application of artificial manures, or by the manure obtained by feeding stock upon the land with food grown in other localities? It is not easy to decide this point. I am myself inclined to think that the latter process is the most economical, and, in the conversion of arable into pasture land- upon which operation I have been engaged for the last ten years—I have trusted to the fertilizing properties of the manure from cotton cake to enable me to accumulate the stock of fertility which, being exhausted by ages of arable culture, had to be replaced before the land could again become a pasture.

When hay, which is the produce of arable land, is grown for sale, it is by no moans certain that the increase, obtained by the application of artificial manures, would repay the cost of the operation. Nitrate of soda at the rate of 100 lbs. per acre, applied in the Spring, about a month before the crop began to grow actively, would probably give a considerable increase to a crop of timothy, but I cannot venture to give an opinion as to what would be the pecuniary result of the transaction.

Sunlight is cheaper than all artificial sources of light, and natural fertility is cheaper than any artificial compound ; in the absence of sunlight we have recourse to purchased light; and as the natural fertility is exhausted from our soils we are driven to use fertility derived from other sources.

It is the object of science to investigate and explain the laws which regulate the growth of plants, rather than to enter upon the question of economy. In the present paper I have endeavored to unite, to a certain extent, science with practice, in the hope that the farmers of the United States, who take the trouble to read what I have said, may add something to their present stock of knowledge.

AGRICULTURAL SURVEYS.

BY

PROF. E. W. HILGARD,

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKLEY, CAL.

Among the many matters interesting to the agricultural population, which, until quite recently, have received but passing attention on the part of Government, is the accurate, intelligent and intelligible description of the agricultural features of the several portions of the United States. In nearly all the States geological surveys have been carried on for a greater or less period, and in most of the acts creating these surveys an examination and description of agricultural features is specially provided for. But in many cases this provision has remained a dead letter ; in all but a few no such thing as a general description of the agricultural features of a State, such as would be wanted and understood by the intending settler, has been attempted, and even the detailed description of counties, from which such a general idea might be somewhat laboriously compiled, often give the distinctive agricultural peculiarities rather casual than direct mention. When the description of soils is attempted, such vapid generalities as “a loam mixed with sand and clay” reappear with a discouraging persistency; and the entire tenor shows too frequently that among the corps of observers in a State not one was sufficiently acquainted with the details of scientific agriculture to describe intelligently what he saw, or should have seen, of the agricultural features.

The difficulty of procuring competent teachers, combining scientific and practical agriculture, for the agricultural colleges created by the “Morrill Act,” is but another symptom of the same remarkable fact, viz.: that, in a country where agriculture is the overwbelmingly predominant industry, scarcely a beginning has been made in the education of a class of men who shall be to the farming community what the mining expert is to the mining industry-men who are capable of understanding both the scientific and practical bearings of what they see, with mind and senses specially trained in that particular direction. The agricultural expert, the “ agronomist ” of Europe, but trained with reference to American ideas, needs and practice, is, as yet, such a rare bird that he is practically unavailable when wanted. And this is doubtless one of the chief causes of the scarcity of thorough work bearing on agricultural practice in our public surveys.

But whatever may be the cause, the fact is a lamentable one, and in a country where immigration and “ moving” are such prominent features it is doubly to be regretted. For want of the information that should be accessible to every one interested, through cheap publications of a thoroughly impartial character, individuals, and even whole colonies, are inveigled into settling in districts of which only the highly colored reports of interested parties have reached them, and which, on inspection, they find thoroughly unsuited to their wants, intentions and tastes. Often the experience thus gained has to be paid for by weary years of hard and unlooked-for toil in uncongenial pursuits and climates, and the wreck in fortune and health of hundreds who never would have dreamt of locating where they found themselves at the end of their journey if a true

statement of the facts had been accessible to them. There are few regions of the United States that do not suit the tastes and circumstances of some one of the widely diverse nations that flock to these shores ; but why should the Norwegian waste his substance in trying to suit himself in the cotton region, or the seeker for a mild climate be deceived into seeking it in the extreme continental one of the Northwestern States? Yet this happens continually even now, and has happened ever since Godfrey Duden first drew his fancy pictures of the tropical delights of Missouri and Illinois, and led thousands of confiding souls to seek that earthly paradise with utterly false expectations, making for himself rather a sorry, and in some respects undeserved, reputation for deliberate deception.

The knowledge of the geological structure of a country is in any case highly important, and must of necessity be one of the first steps in carrying out a State survey. This requires the close study of rocks and fossils, and that of economically important mineral products is based upon the knowledge thus obtained ; but why stop short there, and give only a passing glance to those transcendently important formationsthe soils upon which the very existence of the population depends ? Why not outline them as carefully, and study them as thoroughly and patiently as the ambitious palæontologist does his fossils when in search of a new species to be named, or of a new geological subdivision to be established? Why not study them at least as closely as the mining expert does his ores, before determining upon the most economical mode of treating them?

The reply to this question, which I have often asked, is usually something to the effect that the study of soils is tiresome-does not pay—and that nobody thanks you for it.

Of these three excuses, the last one is perhaps the one having most foundation in fact ; witness the slight attention, the severe criticism, in place of commendation, bestowed upon the efforts of the distinguished pioneer in this matter, Dr. David Dale Owen, who in his surveys of Kentucky and Arkansas for the first time made the systematic study of soils, as well as their analysis, a cognate and equal branch of his work, the early demise of that acute and patient observer preventing him from giving his observations on the soils of the two States mentioned ; the discussion which was needed to render them fruitful has until now left the record in a dormant condition, awaiting an interpreter. Dr. Owen held that a knowledge of the chemical composition of soils is a condition precedent of an understanding of their faults, merits and ultimate permanent value, and that by a comparison of the chemical data with the results of cultivation under the ordinary, natural circumstances, a better insight into the laws governing productiveness could be obtained than by artificial cultures on soils, or in solutions compounded for the purpose, and that the knowledge so gained would be of the most direct practical importance in determining beforehand the intrinsic value and proper treatment of the soils of the Territories yet to be settled. That in any case, as full and intelligent a report on the agricultural features of a State, as of the geological ones, was the province of the State surveys.

Fully agreeing with these views, the writer carried them out in his work in the States of Mississippi and Louisiana, and his experience there has satisfied him more and more of the correctness of Dr. Owen's position, though for many years he stood almost alone, especially as regards the matter of the utility of soil analysis, Within the last ten years a notable change has occurred in the opinion of agricultural chemists on this subject, and it now seems likely that soil analysis, modified in accordance with the latest investigations on the functions of the several ingredients, will take its place among the recognized means of obtaining a knowledge of the value and proper treatment of soils. Yet even to this day, State and National surveys are partly carried forward, with but the least possible regard to the special claims of the

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »