RECORD: T. P. 1844. Manures and Drainage. Gardeners' Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette no. 40 (5 October): 675.
REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed (single key) by AEL Data 10.2008. RN1
taking up and storing Swedish and common Turnips as favourable opportunities occur during the winter and early spring months, is becoming general. The leaves, on being cut from the bulb, are scattered over the surface of the land, and ploughed down immediately after the removal of the Turnips. Wheat is sometimes but not often sown upon Clover leys, as the practice is by no means a favourite one with the East Lothian farmers. There are some cases, however, in which it is expedient to grow Wheat instead of Oats after Grass, and in this case the land usually receives a partial fallowing.
Seed Wheat is invariably prepared for sowing by pickling—a process resorted to for the purpose of preventing smut. The liquid most commonly employed for this purpose is stale urine, and the process of steeping or pickling is generally as follows:—Two tubs, one of which may be larger than the other, are required for the operation. The barn floor, cart-shed, or some other suitable place, being well cleaned, the larger tub in which the seed is to be steeped is placed on an elevated stand, and the other vessel containing the urine laid alongside it on the floor. The pickling tub is then nearly filled with the grain, and the urine poured upon it with a stable pail till the tub is full. The seed is well stirred with a shovel, and after being all thoroughly moistened and allowed to remain five or ten minutes, the liquid is withdrawn through an orifice into the other vessel. The Wheat thus pickled is then laid in layers upon the floor, and a quantity of newly slacked lime, sufficient to absorb the moisture, sifted upon it while being spread on the floor. A fresh allowance of Wheat is now put into the steeping tub, and treated in a similar manner until the entire quantity to be then sown has been pickled. The seed with the lime sifted amongst it, is immediately afterwards turned over and intimately mixed; it is then conveyed in sacks to the field to be sown. No more seed is pickled at one time than what can be sown on that or the following day, as the vegetative powers of the Wheat are often materially injured, or totally destroyed, from remaining any length of time unsown. Besides stale urine, which is universally regarded as the most efficacious pickle, a solution of salt, sufficiently strong to buoy up an egg, is sometimes employed. But the principal recommendation of this steep is the facility with which it may be prepared. A solution of blue vitriol is also occasionally used as a pickle for seed Wheat.
The seed is, in the great majority of cases, sown by the hand, but the broadcast-sowing machine is also employed on many farms for the same purpose. Wheat is frequently sown in the manner styled ribbing, already adverted to. When this mode of sowing is adopted, the seed is scattered by the hand in the usual manner; but as nearly the whole of it necessarily falls into the intervals between the small drills, the plants grow up in parallel rows in the same manner as if sown by the drill-machine. The practice of ribbing in Wheat upon summer fallows is highly approved of, as a means of preventing the ejection of the young plants by the influence of the winter frosts; it is, further, almost a certain way of securing a good crop of Clover the following year.
Wheat is sown from the beginning of September to the end of March. The quantity of seed depends of course upon the time of sowing, and the quality and condition of the land. After summer fallow, two bushels per acre are deemed sufficient; and after Beans, Potatoes, or Turnips, three bushels. Old Wheat is sometimes sown in preference to the new, and in this case a less quantity of seed suffices.
The produce has been, in many instances, so high as six quarters per imperial acre, but this quantity is reckoned a great crop; four quarters per acre are frequently obtained in the low district; and many farms average 3½ quarters during a lease. Taking the average of the whole county, however, for the last few years, the produce is estimated at 2¾ quarters per statute acre. The weight of Wheat varies, according to the seasons and other circumstances, from 60 to 66 lbs. per bushel.—T. Sullivan.
Manures and Drainage.—Publications on experimental or practical manurings are of much value, but there is for the most part a very material omission in such reports. I refer to the analysis of the soil, which is necessary in every such case, previously to the applications of manure. Trials of various substances are made and multiplied with great care and precision, and the results are watched and recorded with minutest attention, without any, or with only a slight reference to the constituents of the soil. Is there any one science besides Agriculture, the facts of which are thus carelessly determined? Now, let any one of these reports be read, and let the reader try the most successful experiment on his own soil. Will the result be similar? No. And why are the results dissimilar? That is a question seldom put; and the experimentalist either sits down discontented, or goes indefatigably to work with the next best manure, perhaps with equal ill success. One tries nitrate of soda on a soil within reach of sea-breezes which have for ages borne to it enough of soda, and he fails. Another carries nitrate of potash to a soil containing sufficient potash, and he fails. So it is with gypsum, and many other substances. One remark, however, may be made by the way, and that is, that appearances sometimes deceive. Some well-established facts have shown that a great increase may be made to the weight of a crop of hay, or to other crops, by a manure the effects of which do not make any great show on the ground; and on the contrary, instances of great apparent with little actual effect often occur, as when a deeper green in a plant may be produced with little benefit to the produce. Some allowance must be made for variety of seasons, but soils of great fertility and good tilth are much less exposed to injury from too dry or too wet weather than poor soils. It is true we cannot give to a poor sterile soil all the constituents of one that is fertile, without incurring an expense far beyond the profit. This, however, is unnecessary, for we know that a very small quantity of some substances will often insure a great crop, and in such cases all further applications would have been an unnecessary outlay; and so, by parity of reasoning, the extra fertilising materials in a fertile soil are frequently of no apparent use. The great object then is, that in every case of manuring being reported, an analysis of the soil be given. It is not enough to say the land is a sand, or gravel, or clay, or loam, but it is indispensable that the constituents of the soil should be minutely stated; then, and not till then, will Agriculture take its proper rank as a science. [This is, probably, sufficiently correct; but coupling together, 1st, the imperfection of our means of analysis, and the consequent impossibility of ascertaining the actual composition of the soil of a field; and, 2d, the great expense of the operation—an expense the greater in consequence of the great variability of soil even in its mineral component parts—coupling together these two considerations, we question if it be not the more economical plan for farmers, if they require them, to try the various manures each for himself on a limited scale, and then be guided by personal experience in the matter of their more extended use, rather than rest on reports of published experiments, the imperfections of which are here so accurately indicated.]—A question has been lately asked in your Journal—"What is the action of sea-salt on carbonate of lime?" In dry weather, after a high tide, little hollows may be observed on the limestone and chalk strata of rocks on the sea-coast, where the salt water has been evaporated, leaving crystals of common salt. In all these instances the rock appears more decomposed than it would have probably been if only rain-water had fallen and been dried there; but this requires to be verified.—Many able articles have been published on drainage, but nearly all of them relate to arable land. Now, a little observation will show that the draining of Grass land is of equal importance. The difference between good and bad pasture land is not so apparent as it is on land bearing a crop. Meadow land more resembles arable land, as there is a crop of hay to be made; but the bulk may be considerable in certain seasons, while the quality is of inferior value. Grass land is usually wet land made partially dry by surrounding ditches, and some open drains. It is very seldom properly drained so as to remove the stagnant water within reach of the roots of Grasses. Grass land may be classified as follows:—1st. Constantly wet on an impervious subsoil; bearing the sedges and many sub-aquatic plants which thrive in land full of stagnant water, but are of little value, and that only in the middle or latter part of summer. 2dly. Wet, but on a porous substratum, and consequently experiencing a slight circulation of air through it, by the passing away of some portion of the water with which it is charged. This land supports better Grasses, but it is so chilled by evaporation, and there is still so much stagnant water, that such land is comparatively very inferior. 3dly. Originally wet, but thoroughly drained by open or closed drains two or three feet deep. Land in this state is but seldom seen, but it generally produces the best Grasses, which are growing the greatest part of the year, and the sedges and inferior Grasses which formerly grew upon it are gradually disappearing. It is frequently objected to drainage, that there is not sufficient fall or outlet for the water. This objection is often imaginary only, and if the operator begins his work at his lowest point, and drains upward as long as he can see the water run, he will generally find fall enough. There are, however, cases where there is a fall, though it is not apparent. This is well worth attention. A stream of water runs nearly as fast at the bottom of a full channel as at the surface; it runs faster than either in the middle. Suppose an outlet to be into a full water-course, a drain full of water leading into this full water-course will still slowly convey the water in the drain, and the drain will receive a supply from the water in the soil which would otherwise stagnate there. Such full drains should be frequently cleared of obstructions under the surface, and the good effect will infallibly appear, even under such unfavourable circumstances. From the usually flat surface of Grass land, closed drains are not frequently made. Open drains are commonly too shallow; they should be deep enough to draw away the water beneath the surface soil, so as to render it warm and dry very soon after being wet. It will not then be injured by a wet season, nor by a dry one.—T. P.
Dibbling Wheat.—We live in an age when the productive powers of the land are more fully developed than they have hitherto been. Any improvements that will increase the quantity and quality of the produce, are deserving of consideration; to follow an established system, merely because our progenitors have so done, savours strongly of prejudice; agriculture, like other sciences, should keep pace with the increasing intelligence of the age. The dibbling of Wheat has recently met with encouragement; whether the practice will fully answer the expectations of its promoters, further experience will demonstrate. The following experiment, upon a small scale, has succeeded beyond the expectations of the parties interested; when first tried it was laughed at by some, and considered a Utopian scheme by many; whether its further extension will be deserving of support, is a matter for consideration. A gentleman of Epworth dibbled, the first week in November, 1843, two quarts and half a pint of golden-drop Wheat on 1 rood, 5 perches of land, the holes being 9 inches apart each way, two grains being put in a hole; and 5 quarts 2 pints and a half on 1 rood, 35 perches of land; half of the latter being in rows 12 inches apart, and 4½ inches in the row, two grains in a hole; the other half of the 1 rood, 35 perches the same distances, but three grains in a hole. The land is a light, black sandy soil, about 4½ inches deep; the subsoil a very light sand, and had been the previous year cropped with Potatoes, manured with very indifferent straw-yard manure, and had likewise been alternately cropped with Wheat and Potatoes for some years previously. The land dibbled suffered from the depredations of the birds, which got part of the seed. The following management was pursued after the seed was put into the ground:—Three sacks of soot were sown upon the land in December, yet the Wheat looked very thin and bad during the whole of the winter. About the middle of May 1 cwt. of Ichaboe guano, mixed with 2 cwt. of gypsum, was sown upon the Wheat, which, in consequence of the dryness of the season, did not appear to afford much benefit. It was twice hoed during the spring, and in May began to tiller and assume a luxuriant appearance, and maintained a dark healthy colour throughout; the straw was remarkably strong and of good length; the ears very large, many of them containing upwards of 70 grains, but averaged about 60 grains; there were 3 rows of corn, and some 4 in the ear; the stems varied from 8 to 21 from each root. The corn is a remarkably bold and fine sample, and weighed 14 stones per load of three bushels; the weight of the straw was not ascertained. The produce from the 1 rood, 5 perches of land, was over 12 bushels; and from the 1 rood 35 perches, 21 bushels, making 4 quarters 1 bushel of corn from less than 1 peck of seed on 3 roods of land. The growing crop suffered more from the drought, in consequence of being so thin upon the ground, than the thicker sown crops. The same gentleman sowed 1 rood of Wheat broadcast, 4 pecks per acre; 1 rood, 8 pecks per acre; and dibbled 1 rood, 3 pecks per acre. Having disposed of the land with the growing-crops (which not mixed), the produce could not be known; but that sown with 3 pecks per acre had a decided superiority over the broadcast; if the land had been of a stronger nature, in better condition, and the weather moister, there is no doubt the crop would have been more abundant. The gentleman purposes repeating the experiment, being convinced of the practicability and advantages of the dibbling and thin-sowing system.—T. B. Pearson, Epworth.—S. L. B. adds—I am anxious that the system of dibbling Wheat should be fairly tried. Be so good as to say at what depth the seed should be sown; whether more than a single grain should be deposited in each hole; and at what distance from each other the holes should be made. The rows should, I understand, be six inches apart. I may here mention that the experiment of sowing some Wheat last January, much thinner than usual, has answered very well: the thin-sown has yielded considerably more. In the spring I had some difficulty in dissuading my steward from ploughing it down as a failure. A small quantity of Oats was dressed in the early stage of its growth with nitrate of soda; the effect is very striking, but I merely mention it to draw your notice to the subject; for though the increased produce of the dressed portion was obvious to every one who saw the field, I am afraid the steward has not kept that parcel by itself, which will prevent me from sending you an accurate return. I will send you soon the result of Campbell's steep applied to Oats. [Thank you: we should be glad to hear soon from others of our readers who may have steeped their grain, on this subject. Dibble Wheat in holes 1½ inches deep, and 6 inches apart every way; 2 seeds in each hole.]
Tanks.—If your correspondent "Joe" can heat the water in his tank, he will stop the leaking by introducing a peck of oatmeal into the tank, when the water is quite hot. I have recently tried the experiment with complete success. The oatmeal renders the water mucilaginous, and in its passage through the cracks it deposits a portion of the glutinous matter held in solution, and by degrees fills up the cracks. In the mountains of Scotland, flaws in the stills used for the manufacture of illicit mountain-dew are effectually closed by means of wetted oatmeal. I am assured that in the same manner defective iron boilers may be made perfectly water-tight. "Joe" has committed a mistake in not using pure cement. If all other measures fail, he may still accomplish his object by lining the bottom with roofing tiles placed close together and covering them with a coat half an inch thick of cement, unmixed with any other material, and applied by a workman who knows how to use it.—R. G. L.—Another correspondent says that he has three tanks, and all of them hold perfectly well; the liquid in them being secured by puddle dams of good clay 18 inches wide—the tanks being faced with brick. They are sunk in very open gravel.
Carbonate of Iron.—Is not this salt highly conducive to vegetation? It may frequently be seen in the bottoms of open drains (?) of an orange colour. I suppose it to be produced by a previously existing state of iron in solution, as a protoxide or as a sulphate of iron, both equally pernicious to plants. When exposed to the atmosphere, the iron probably unites with the carbonic acid of the air, and thus it becomes carbonate of iron. It will then be seen that Grasses thrive in it with much luxuriance, and if the contents of the drain be thrown out to its sides, better Grasses soon appear there. The subject deserves inquiry. There is not much encourage-
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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
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