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Chalky soils, consist for the most part of calcareous matter, but often mixed with other substances, in greater or less proportion. When much clay and other earthy substances are found mingled with the chalk, the soil is heavy and productive; when sand and gravel abound in it, the soil is light and not very fertile. The crops chiefly cultivated on chalky soils are peas, turnips, barley, clover, and wheat ; and however much the soil may be exhausted, it will produce sainfoin, which indicates that when exhausted by other crops, the growth of sainfoin will serve to recruit the soil; and it is accordingly extensively grown in the chalk districts of the south of England.
Alluvial soils, are composed of the finest parts of earth and clay, washed off by rain and running waters, and deposited in low-lying situations, in valleys through which the rivers flow, and on the shores of estuaries, where they are increased by the flowings of the tide, and enriched by the deposit of marine productions, Alluvial lands have generally a level surface, and yield abundant crops of grass, as well as of wheat, oats, barley, beans, peas, clover, and tares; but from their being for the most part low and consequently damp, they require the occasional application of lime, and the ditches and drains should be carefully attended to and kept open.
Loamy soils, consist of clay, sand, and calcareous matter, with a certain portion of vegetable mould, and may be described as being less tenacious than the clay, and more so than the sandy. Loams are the most desirable of all soils for the farmer; the clods are easily broken, and the land can be worked at any season of the year. Loams are ploughed with greater facility than clays, and bear better the vicissitudes of the seasons. They are well adapted for convertible husbandry, and may be changed generally with benefit, from grass to tillage, and from tillage to grass.
Bog, moss, or peaty soil. This soil prevails to a great extent in Ireland and Scotland, and to some ex
tent also in England, especially in the western districts, which are the most humid; and moisture is necessary to the growth of peat. Peat is supposed for the most part to have had its origin in the destruction of ancient forests -the trees, felled by the tempest, or brought down by natural decay, and left upon the ground, became covered with moss and lichens; and the free passage of the water being thus obstructed, aquatic plants, such as reeds, rushes, horsetail, marsh trefoil, &c., spring up and decay, leaving a stratum of vegetable matter, which we call peat, and which increases every succeeding year.
The aquatic plants grow in greater or less abundance, according to the quantity of moisture, and this accounts for the bogs being deeper in some places than in others. The hollows retain moisture, and here the aquatic plants are most prolific, and the hollows gradually become filled up. The peat or moss thus formed is essentially a vegetable substance, which has undergone a certain change, without being entirely decomposed. Water is indispensable to the formation of peat, whether on high or low lands, on the summit or sides of mountain ranges, or in valleys or hollows; and as the ground is more or less wet, different plants will be produced.
Peat possesses an astringent quality, and preserves bodies immersed in it, which probably arises from the decayed bark of trees, and the vegetable gum and resin which it contains. It is also probable that the plants themselves of which the bog is composed, by the action of natural agents, may have acquired an antiseptic property, checking their own decay.
In some cases, lakes and deep pools have been filled up, by the gradual accumulation of the peat; and it has been observed that fermentation occurs where this has taken place. Gaseous matter is then thrown off, and the neighbourhood of such a moss is often found to be unhealthy; but dry peat soils are always considered healthful.
Subsoils.-In the selection and management of any of the foregoing soils, the nature of the under or subsoil should not be overlooked by the farmer; for it always
has a powerful influence on the productive properties of that which lies above it.
With a shallow subsoil, it is impossible to cultivate to advantage tap or tube rooted plants, such as carrots, parsnips, turnips, mangel-wurzel, or potatoes, for these always endeavour to extend their roots to a considerable depth, and if there is not a sufficiency of soil for them to work in, they will not flourish. Shallowness of the soil may, however, generally be in a great measure remedied by the use of the subsoil-plough, which breaks up and loosens the hard substratum, and prepares it for being turned up and converted into active soil. By this operation, with previous thorough-draining, almost any description of soil may be rendered capable of bearing good crops.
The natural quality of the soil will sometimes be indicated, by the kind of vegetation which it spontaneously produces; but this is not always a sure test, although whenever there is an excess of moisture, it will generally be accompanied by the growth of rushes, and thus point out the necessity for draining. Scanty herbage may arise from the poorness of the soil, or from a deficiency of moisture; and in a wet season a thin poor soil may appear clothed with luxuriant vegetation, whilst a strong clay soil will be the reverse. In judging of soils, therefore, the state of the weather must be taken into account, and we must not be altogether guided by the appearance of what we find on the surface.
Agriculture may be successfully practised, especially on a small scale, without a very profound or scientific knowledge of its theory, although this occupies a prominent place in most books on the subject; and not improperly so, for many valuable improvements have been suggested by scientific men, who were not themselves practically conversant with the details of farming. Nothing will, however, be here recommended for adoption, which has not been proved in practice; and in the following directions, the farmer will obtain the benefit of a large experience, without incurring the risks which usually attend experiments in agriculture.
In considering the crops to be raised, attention must be paid to the height above the level of the sea, for the greater or less elevation of the land has a material influence on the quality of its produce. In the higher districts the growth is slower, and the herbage is less succulent and nourishing; and when in grain, the head is smaller, the plant runs more to straw, is less perfectly ripened, and the harvest is later.
The ordinary height at which common grain crops can be raised in the British Islands, is from 600 to 800 feet above the level of the sea; but in some favourable situations, tolerable crops of barley and oats may be produced at a height of 900 or 1000 feet. In proportion as the climate is improved by sheltering plantations and drainage, the height at which grain crops can be successfully grown becomes greater. Good crops of barley and oats are raised near Edinburgh, at a height of 800 feet; but in general, it is more advantageous to devote such high grounds to pasture than to tillage.
Land on the banks of a running stream is more salubrious for crops, than that which is near sluggish brooks or sedgy lakes. From stagnant waters, in certain conditions of the atmosphere, noxious vapours arise, which steal along the surface of the adjacent grounds, and blight and injure the crops. Running waters, on the contrary, serve to purify the air, and are of great advantage for crops and cattle.
A long carriage to market is a great drawback to the agriculturist, and where bad roads interpose, a few miles are practically equivalent to a much greater distance. The value of a farm will therefore depend, in no inconsiderable degree, upon the goodness of the roads which surround it, and on the facility of conveying its produce to a good market.
Farming operations are so many and so various, that it is necessary to be brief in speaking of each, in a work like the present; and we therefore propose to give only the more important and generally essential rules, for the management of grass and arable lands, and the reclaiming of waste lands, together with such suggestions and observations as may naturally arise out of the subject. It is hoped, nevertheless, that nothing which it is very material for the farmer to know, will be omitted, except it be in items of mere detail, with which every farmer must be presumed to be conversant.
We will, in the first place, make a few observations upon Grass Lands, before proceeding to speak of the improvement of Waste, and the cultivation of Arable Lands.
Grass lands are of two kinds, Meadow and Upland, each differing from the other, and each likewise varying considerably in character and productiveness, according to the nature of the soil and local situation.
Meadow Land is for the most part low-lying, and of alluvial formation. It generally produces luxuriant crops, and its natural fertility renders the large and frequent application of manure less necessary than on. the uplands. Meadows are, however, from their situation, liable to an excess of moisture, from which they must be protected by drains and water-courses, or their productiveness will be seriously impaired.
Most of the hay consumed throughout the country, is the produce of meadow land. Where the requisite quantity of stock is kept, all the hay is generally consumed on the farm, and such a portion of it is again returned to the soil in the shape of manure, as will serve to keep up its fertility. In the neighbourhood of towns, the hay is often sold off the farm for use in the town, the facility of obtaining manure in such situations, enabling the farmer to dispense with farm-yard dung, both for his grass and arable lands.
It is very certain that meadows, however naturally fertile, will, like all other lands, become exhausted by