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ascribed to the depredations of the midge alone, but, in some degree at least, to causes which are of unusual occurrence.
“While this is true, we cannot close our eyes to the fact that the midge has made serious havoc with the wheat crop in some sections. On one field in this vicinity, which came under our own observation, last year, at least one-half of the crop was destroyed; but this took place on land which was too low and too wet to grow a good crop of wheat, even under the most favorable circumstances. On another field on the same farm, where wheat was sown on good, dry, well prepared soil, a little over twenty bushels of good wheat was obtained per acre. So far as we could judge, the midge injured one nearly as much as the other. Had not the midye injured either of the fields of wheat, the one would have produced a crop of ten bushels, and the other a crop of twenty-five bushels per acre. The midge destroyed five bushels per acre on both fields, and left, on the low, wet land, five bushels, and on the good land twenty bushels per acre. The midge destroyed as much wbeat in both cases, though it took half the crop on one field, and ouly one fifth on the other.
“ It seems to us, therefore, that instead of looking for substitutes for the wheat crop, we should endeavor to ascertain the most economical means of increasing the fertility of our farms, and of concentrating more labor and manure on those portions of the farm best adapted to wheat culture.
On the farm of Mr. E. S. Hayward, of Brighton, in this county, results. were obtained, in 1856, even more favorable to 'high farming' than in the instance already mentioned. He obtained his seed from Canada, (where the harvest weather of 1855 was propiticus, and the whcat was not injured as in this neighborhood,) and sowed two bushels per acre on naturally good, dry wheat soil, prepared in the best manner. From the quantity of shrunken grains, it was estimated that the midge destroyed about five bushels per acre, and yet the crop yielded over thirty-five bushels of very superior wheat per acre. The midge in this instance destroyed as much wheat per acre as in the first case mentioned, where it eat half the crop, and yet here only one-eighth of the crop was lost.
"It is well known that early wheat is less liable to injury from the midge than that which matures later, On this account early sowing is generally recommended; but early sown wheat is more liable to injury from the Hessian fly than late sown. The object of the wheat-grower, it would seem, should be to increase the early maturity of the berry. Anything which increases the healthy growth of the wheat is favorable to this result. Underdraining is one of the great prerequisites on all land that is not naturally drained. The next thing is to supply the plants with appropriale food.
“In saying this I would guard against a popular error. The fool of wheat is composed of the same elements as that of other plants, and, in one sense, therefore, the food of wheat is the same as the food of other plants. So of the food of animals, however diverse in form and characteristics it may be, it is all composed of the same clements. The food of the gentle lamb and the food of the fierce tiger are composed of the same elements, but still there is a vast difference between grass and flesh. So the food of plants is composed of the same elements, though there is unquestiovably a
great difference between the appropriate food of wheat and of many other agricultural plants. A carnivorous animal would not remain long in health if fed on vegetables, neither can we expect wheat to attain its maximum healthy growth unless fed on its most appropriate food. What that food is, thanks to the experiments of Lawes and Boussingault, is now pretty definitely understood.
" The appropriate food of wheat abounds in ammonia, and is comparatively deficient in carbonaceous matter. It also contains less available potash and phosphates than is required in the appropriate food of clover and turnips. It should be the aim of the wheat-grower, therefore, to increase the amount of ammonia in the soil without increasing the quantity of carbonaceous matter. We have frequently stated how this can be most economically attained. Grow clover, peas, beans, turnips, ruta bagas, mangel wurzel, beets, carrots, parsneps, artichokes, lupins, and such other crops as obtain a large amount of ammonia from the atmosphere; feed these crops out on the farm to animals, and if grain is fed to them in addition, let it be such as, other things being equal, contain the largest quantity of nitrogen; husband the manure so as to retain all the ammonia, and this will furnish the wheat with appropriate food.
“Manure furnished by decayed clover is not as appropriate food for wheat as the excrements of animals living on clover. It contains too much carbonaceous matter, and while the nitrogen of the clover furnishes, by decay, the required ammonia—and this ammonia not only increases the crop, but accelerates early maturity—the carbonaceous matter (forming over four-fifths of the clover) is of little manurial value, and at the same time has a tendency to retard the ripening processes.
"In order to enrich the land, therefore, and at the same time accelerate rather than retard the early matnrity of the crop, we would recommend to grow as much or more clover than at present, and instead of plowing it under to convert the organized carbonaceous matter into beef, matton, cheese, butter, wool, &c., and to return the ammonia to the soil in the form of manure.
"We can not bring ourselves to believe for a moment that we shall have to give up wheat culture in western New York. Our soil and climate are exceedingly favorable to the production of wheat. There is no better wheat soil in the world, and but very little in this or any other country that is as good. In fact, the soil which is naturally adapted to wheat is comparatively limited on this continent. This fact is an additional reason why the farmers of western New York should not abandon wheat culture without an earnest effort to discover some method of counteracting, mitigating, the ravages of the midge.
“While nearly all the soil of western New York is well adapted to wheat culture, there are on every farm some fields that are more suitable for wheat than others. We must confine the cultivation of wheat to such land. Let the portion of the farm least favorable to wheat be cultivated with those crops which, when consumed on the farm, furnish the most valuable manure.
Let this be used to enrich the soil for wheat. In short, sow early varieties of wheat on the best portion of the farm, underdrain,
or at least
adopt a judicious system of manuring, and our word for it, wheat culture will not have to be abandoned in Western New York." .
This was written in January, 1857, at a time when it was not popular to encourage farmers in their attempts to raise wheat. It was thought that if everybody would give up the wheat growing for a few years, the midge would be starved out. Perhaps it would. But we should have starved too; and the midge would have returned when we returned to wheat culture. Wherever wheat is grown, there you will find the midge. In a new country we escape for a few years, but it is not long in making its appearance. In 1812-13-14 in Scotland it destroyed millions of bushels of wheat, and several years ago Prof. Henslow stated that the midge in England did much more damage than the farmers had any idea of. I suppose the
crop of wheat is so good that they do not miss a few bushels per acre ?
I shall be told that the midge and Hessian fly drove wheat from New England. I very much doubt it. New England never was a good wheat region-and it never will be. It was you—the farmers of the “Genesee Country," and not the midge that forced the farmers of New England and of the eastern counties of this State to abandon the cultivation of wheat. In a word, you could raise it cheaper than they could. It is just so now. As good wheat can be raised in New England to-day as when the first Pilgrim landed on Plymouth Rock. I have within the last two or three years, seen as good wheat raised in Connecticut and New Hampshire as I ever saw in this State. But it won't pay. Wheat can he brought from the west cheaper than it can be raised in the east. This competition with the west has more to do in moulding the character of our agriculture than is generally believed. We feel it bere, and we are destined to feel it still more. I do not fear competition with the west in growing wheat. Our soil is better adapted to wheat than most of the land in the west, and the freight is to a certain extent, equivalent to a protective duty. It is not in the production of grain, but in the production of beef, pork, mutton and wool, that the west has the advantage of us. I know this is contrary to the generally received opinion, but as long as the Atlantic cities continue to be the great markets of the country, so long will it be cheaper to send beef, pork, mutton and wool to these markets than wheat and corn, for the simple reason that the freight on a hundred dollars' worth of these articles is much less than on a hundred dollars worth of wheat and corn. It costs the western farmer much less to send five pounds of pork to New York, than to send the sixty pounds of corn from which this pork is produced. And so it is in regard to beef, and mutton, and wool. We shall be obliged to submit to a much keener competition in the production of these articles than in the production of wheat, corn, oats, barley and other bulky articles on which the freight from Iowa amounts to five or six times as much as the farmers there receive for them.
It behooves us to look this matter squarely in the face. Some gentlemen with whom I have conversed on the subject, say we can raise beef, and mutton, and pork, and wool, as cheap as they can at the west, because we understand the matter better, and because we have better barns and better breeds, and give our cattle and sheep better care. There may be somo truth in this at the present time. But the farmers of the west are by no means deficient in enterprise and intelligence, and the fact remains that it costs them much less to send meat and wool to the market than it does grain-and they will adopt that system which is most profitable.
We can compete with them in the production of grain, but to produce grain we want manure, and to make manure we must keep stock. I do not say we can not compete with them in stock; but certain I am that so long as the eastern cities are the markets, we can not compete with them so well in this respect as we can in the production of grain. It would be much better for us if the reverse were true. If the competition was in producing grain instead of meat and wool, we could stand it. The more beef, and pork, and mutton and wool we raised, the more manure should we make, and the richer would our land become. But now the more grain we raise, and the less stock we keep, the more we impoverish our soil.
I never feared the midge; and I fear it less to-day than ever. The farmers of Monroe county and of western New York have demonstrated that the principles I deduced from scientific investigation in 1857 are correct. We have not abandoned wheat culture in western New York, and we never shall. The midge has proved a blessing rather than a curse. It has compelled us to sow less land and cultivate it better.
A few weeks ago-just before harvest-I took a ride through the towns of Wheatland, Caledonia and York, and saw no indications of any intention to abandon wheat culture. The magnificent crops then on the ground, and the number of excellent fallows, would have convinced the editor of the London Mark Lane Express that his prophecy that the United States would soon be compelled to import wheat was not likely to be fulfilled this year or next. Mr.John McVean, who accompanied me, and who has lived in Wheatland for over fifty years, stated that he had never in all that time seen the wheat look better. On these oak openings the soil is undoubtedly more productive to-day than it was twenty or thirty years ago. This may seem strange, and the more so because the great portion of the soil has never been manured. How has this been brought about? One word explains the whole: Clover.
When I first came to this country, many things surprised me.
I was surprised at the excellence of American beef and inferiority of American mutton, and I was not surprised that the beef sold for half as much again as the mutton, while in London, mutton was, worth a cent a pound more than beef.
I was surprised that farmers paid so little attention to their gardens.
I was surprised to find so many farmers with large, handsome houses and elegantly furnished parlors that they seldom used. In England, at that time, we had a window tax, and the houses there have few windows. One of the first things that struck me was the number of windows in American houses, and the great effort that was made to shut them up and exclude the glorious American sunshine and the invigorating American atmosphere
I was surprised that everywhere I went the people thought that particular spot the most fertile, the healthiest, and the best place on the continent. I was surprised, nevertheless, that everybody was willing to sell.
I was surprised at the excellence of the wheat and the inferiority of the barley.
I was surprised to see the farmers so rough-looking, and yet so intelligent.
I was surprised to see the country ladies so much better looking than the men, and withal so interesting and fascinating.
I was surprised to find that farmers sowed but one kind of grass-seed, and they paid so little attention to their permanent meadows.
I was surprised to see them plow so wide, and still more surprised that under the influence of our cold winters and dry, hot summers, these wide furrows tumbled all to pieces and formed, after all, a very fair seed bed.
I was surprised that farmers raised so few peas and beans, and thought so lightly of clover-bay.
I was surprised that farmers could make a living from crops of wheat of from ten to twelve bushels per acre.
I was surprised to hear rotten straw called manure.
I was surprised at many other things—at the grand network of railroads-at the magnificent rivers and lakes-at the marvelous rapidity with which the country was settled, and at the enterprise and practical intelligence which has accomplished such astonishing results in so short a time. But I do not think that any one thing surprised me more than this: the lururiance of the clover crop in western New York! I had just come from the very fountain-head of agricultural science, and from the greatest experimenting farm in the world; but never had I seen such crops of clover as I saw on many farms in this section.
I am not alone in this opinion. Robert Russell, an intelligent Scotch farmer, and the editor of the Journal of the Highland and Agriculture Society of Scotland, who visited this country in 1853, and on his return wrote an excellent work on American agriculture, says:
"I drove about twelve miles to the west of Rochester, N. Y., to visit some farms in the township of Riga. The sowing of wheat was going on very briskly on many of the farms that we passed, and on some it was already finely braided. The system of cultivation which is pursued is interesting. The land does not strike one as being particularly fertile, but rather of middling quality. It consists of a light colored sandy loam of considerable depth, and having some boulders strewed over it. But this soil seems to be as suitable to the grouth of red clover as the limestone gravels of Ireland are to the growth of grasses, and hence its fertility is maintained by clover as our fields in Scotland used to be by grass. The rotation that is followed is usually clover one year and wheat the next. There are few or no soils in Britain upon which clover would grow with vigor every second year; but were it not for this property of many of the American soils, much less wheat would be raised than at present. On the light soils in this region, I was astonished at the fine healthy plants of clover in the wheat stubbles. When the autumns are somewhat moist, a considerable growth of clover takes place before winter; but the farmers do not like to pasture it too close. An intelligent farmer informed me that the common clover would last for ten or fifteen years on these soils if it was cut carly in the season and not allowed to seed."