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acres of cane, inspecting them carefully and interrogating the proprietors closely, but I never saw a single acre that had been fertilized by any manure whatever, either animal, vegetable or mipcral.
Still, I think we know enough of the general principles of agriculture, and of the nature of sugar, to enable us to draw some conclusions which cannot vary very widely from the truth. We may, for instance, be tolerably sure that lime will prove a very useful auxiliary, and that gypsum will favor the early starting of the plant, which is a matter of no little importance. Since it is well ascertained by repeated analyses that a crop of sorghum takes twice as much phosphoric acid from the soil as wheat, and four times as much as a crop of Indian corn, this substance should in some form be returned to the soil, in order to maintain its fertility unimpaired, and no way of doing this seems more likely to be successful than by the application of superphosphate of lime.
The elements of sugar are wholly derived from the atmosphere; if, there fore, nothing but sugar were contained in the cane, the soil would never be exhausted by its cultivation. A very small quantity of mineral matter, as we have seen, is contained in the expressed juice; but the great amount is retained by the cane, wrapped up in its constituent tissues. If, then, the bagasse is returned to the soil, sorghum might be cultivated for ages without impoverishing it. I saw this done in three instances during the present year, but I do not know that it has been done before. In one of these cases the bagasse was carried from the mill on an endless apron, from which it fell into a wagon rack, which, when full, was drawn out into the cane field and spread in heaps. A load of fresh cane was then taken to the mill. The bagasse was thus got out of the way without any other extra labor than the unloading in the cane field. Bagasse rots more rapidly than any similar substance that I have ever met with; after laying in heaps four months, it breaks up almost into a powder, and may be plowed in without incurring the slightest danger of clogging. This loose matter improves the mechanical condition of the soil, and facilitates its aeration to the great advantage of the crop. The practice cannot be too highly recommended.
From what has been already said, it appears that the usual saline manures, such as the nitrates, common salt, &c., are injurious when applied to sorghum; still, we greatly need well-conducted experiments repeated onder various conditions, before we can pronounce a positive opinion with respect to them; and it is to be hoped that the agricultural societies in the States that have the deepest interest in the matter, will, in the course of another year, institute a series of experiments sufficiently comprehensive to put all these questions entirely at rest.
PREPARATION OF THE GROUND. No canon of husbandry is better understood than that which ordains the thorough pulverization of the soil, though obedience to the rule very rarely keeps pace with knowledge. What is true of the other members of the vegetable kingdom is emphatically so of sorghum; it requires that the land be made mellow to a considerable depth, under penalty of the loss of remunerative returns. The roots of the plant are greatly ramified, and when
they have an opportunity they will grow to a great length. I have myself seen them three feet long, and have been assured by intelligent gentlemen that they have traced them for four and even five feet.
The soil in Illinois is much more friable than ours, yet even there, where the land had been plowed carelessly, the crop was not worth gathering; where it was better plowed it yielded a small profit over the expense of cultivation and manufacture; where it was well plowed, it was richly remunerative; in a word, the profit of the crop was in direct proportion to the thoroughness with which it has been plowed.'
Thorough plowing diminishes the liability to failure, through drouth and frost. I saw two hundred acres of cane at Pera, in Iroquois county, Illinois, which had been abandoned as not being of sufficient value to pay the expense of manufacture. The land had been skim plowed and the after culture had been slighted. Not far from it was a field of twenty-five acres of precisely similar soil, which had been well plowed and subsoiled; the crop on this piece was good, and had hardly been affected by the frost; the cane had grown thriftily, was well ripened, and yielded twice as much profit as would have been obtained from corn. I saw many fields abandoned, but on enquiry I always found that they had been hurriedly plowed, and the furrow was very shallow. I did not see a single field abandoned that had been carefully plowed with a Michigan plow.
From the best data I could obtain, I estimated the loss of sorghum to the farmers of Illinois, in consequence of the early frosts, at two millions of dollars. If the land had been well drained and thoroughly plowed, there can be no doubt that a very large proportion of this cane would have ripened, and this great loss would thus have been avoided.
The importance of deep and thorough plowing, and the excellence of the Michigan plow, were forced upon my attention so frequently, and in so great a variety of forms, that I cannot too strongly urge upon such of our farmers as may design to enter upon the cultivation of the cane, the importance of deep and thorough pulverization of the soil.
Messrs. Brainerd and Hedges both urged upon me the importance of throwing the land into ridges after it is plowed. I have great confidence in their judgment, and the recommendation scems intrinsically reasonable, but I had no opportunity of verifying the plan by my own observation, as every field that I visited was planted on a level soil, without ridging.
All that is necessary after this is to furrow out the land just as it is done for corn; where machine drills are used furrowing is unnecessary. Much difference of opinion exists as to the comparative merits of hilling and drilling. Judging from what I saw myself, I should give the preference to drilling, though a majority of the farmers plant in bills. Where the stalks are tall, the drills should be four feet apart; smaller varieties will answer with an interval of three feet. If planted in hills, they should be from two and a-haif feet by three feet to three feet by four feet apart, according to the altitude of the variety planted. In Indiana sorghum is almost uniformly planted in hills, at a distance of three and a half feet by three and a half feet, and the variety known as early Imphee is planted three feet each way.
In general, the drills are run as nearly north and south as possible, in order to secure the benefit of the sun on both sides of the plant; but in places subject to strong winds, in one prevailing direction, the drills are run in that direction, as they are less liable to be prostrated.
SELECTION OF THE SEED. Like all else connected with the cultivation of the cane, there are very serious disputes respecting the comparative values of the Chinese sugar cane, and the various kinds of Imphee introduced into the country by Mr. . Wray. Farmers maintain the merits of their favorite canes with great
vehemence, but thus far there has been a great deal more of acrimony than experimentation brought to bear upon the controversy. I have heard a great deal of positive assertion upon the subject, but the foundation upon which the assertions were based, have in most cases been exceedingly narrow. The principal kinds of cane cultivated at the west are:
1st. The Chinese sugar cane or Sorghum Saccharatum. It is character: ized by a rachis or central spindle, with a loose, spreading panicle; the branches are slender, drooping, bearing brownish colored seeds, enclosed in blackish, shining glumes. It is unnecessary to go into a minute botanical description, as I have deposited well marked, labelled specimens in the museum of the Society at Albany, where those interested can examine them for themselves.
2d. Nee-a-za-na, which farmers generally call White Imphee. The panicle is shorter than that of Sorghum, with long branches, generally bending over to one side. The sced is nearly white. It is a small variety, and it is asserted that it is very early, but I have not seen the statement verified.
3d. E-a-na-moode. The panicles are long, stiff and compressed; the seeds of a fine yellow color, plump and round; the branches wavy.
4th. Oom-see-ana. Panicle tall, slender, more so than the preceding; branches short and closely appressed; seeds of a brown color, enclosed in purple glumes. I saw more of this kind planted than of any species of Imphee.
5th. Boom-vwa.na. I met with a good deal of this cane, sometimes so called, and sometimes called Otaheite. The panicle is more bulky than Oom-see-ana, and the glumes are lighter in color, otherwise the two species resemble each other very closely.
6th. Au unnamed variety, sometimes called Liberian cane, seems to me to be a very promising variety. It may be recognized at a glance by the stiff appearance of its panicle, which resembles a shaving brush turned upwards, or the stiff plume worn by U. S. artillery soldiers, the color is a brownish red; the seeds form upon the branches nearly to the rachis; they are smaller than any other kind; the stalk is generally tinged with redish streaks. It resists the action of the winds better than any other species, and if my taste was correct, it had a sweeter taste. It is said to be late in ripening, but when I saw it at Mr. Belcher's plantation on the 6th of October, it appeared quite as ripe as any other.
7th. Early Imphee. This is the name by which it is generally known; but it is denied by several gentlemen, well acquainted with all the varieties of Imphee introduced by Mr. Wray, that this is an imphee; they say that it is a variety of the Chinese sugar cane, and I concur with them in the
opinion. Its stalk is smaller than any other; its glumes are black, or a very dark purple, they peel off easily, disclosing a whitish seed.
Mr. Belcher had four hundred acres devoted to these canes, which gave me a rare opportunity of comparing all these varieties, but as his works had not then started, I had no opportunity of testing their comparative values as sugar-producing plants. Mr. Beleber promised to furnish me with a report at the close of the season of the results of experiments with each variety, but I have since received a message from him that in consequence of the tendency of his canes to ferment he had been compelled to rush them through so rapidly that he was unable to make the experiments that he had proposed. I subjoin such evidence as I have been able to collect upon this point.
In one case in Ohio 35 rods of land planted with sorghum yielded 40 gallons of syrup, while on the same field, and precisely the same culture, 40 rods of white Imphee gave only 10 gallons of syrup. This result was clearly accidental, probably it was over ripe. There is certainly no such difference in the sugar-producing qualities of the plants.
Apparently the most conclusive results are those obtained by Professor Wetherell, the chemist of the U. S. Agricultural Bureau, which are given in the tables below:
Per cent. Per cent.
cane sugar. grape sugar. 11 samples of sorghum cane gave an average of ..... 4.92 ..... 6.11
imphee do do ...... 4.65 ..... 7.03 Difference in favor of sorghum ............ 27
Per cent. Per cent.
cane sugar. grape sugar.
Per cent. Per cent.
cane sugar..grape sugar. 4 samples of sorghum sugar gave an average of... 84.44 ..... 8.30
10 do imphee do do ... 84.36 ..... 7.76 These experiments, as far as they go, show the superiority of sorghum over Imphee; but they are not conclusive, and the whole question needs a careful and accurate investigation.
As nearly as I could estimate, both from my own examination and by enquiries at the seed stores, at least three-quarters of the cane planted at the west was of the Chinese variety.
Certain varieties are strongly commended by their friends for their early maturity. Some persons maintain that Oom-see-a-na ripens two weeks earlier than any other variety. Others contend that the white Impbee is much the earliest. Others claim the pre-emidence for early ripening for sorghum; and others for the red Imphee,
I was unable to perceive these alleged differences in the time of ripening, and am inclined to believe that there is not any material difference between the Chinese cane and the Imphee in this respect.
Mr. Belcher's large plantation afforded me a very excellent opportunity for observation, as they were all growing there side by side. After a careful comparison, it appeared that the average ripeness of all the kinds was about alike. There was a great inequality among plants of the same kind: in the sorghum, for example, some seeds were quite hard, while others were hardly out of the milk. In all the varieties that I saw there, some were quite ripe, while others would require ten days to ripen them; and in no way could the question be settled short of actually counting the ripened stalks of each variety.
I sometimes found a field of sorghum contiguous to a field of the so-called Otaheite; the sorghum would be found riper by a fortnight. Pehaps in the next case I met with the facts would be exactly the reverse; and at the next they would appear in a precisely similar stage of ripeness. I feel, therefore, quite confident that in the present state of our knowledge no one is entitled to assert that any one of these kinds ripens earlier than the other.
There are, however, two kinds which undoubtedly ripen from three to four weeks earlier than any of the abore enumerated varieties. One of them is the so-called early Imphee; the other is a variety of the sorg. hum produced by Wm. Edgerton, by a careful selection of the earliest and plumpest seeds for five successive years. The heads that were first developed were marked with a thread, and, when ripe, the plumpest seeds were obtained by lightly striking the panicles across a beam. In this way he has obtained a variety which is fully four weeks earlier than the common Chinese cane.
Both of these varieties have been secured at the expense of height and bulk; they rarely exceed eight feet in height. It is possible, as has been claimed, that they may give as much juice to the acre as the larger kindssome of which attain to a height of sixteen feet-inasmuch as they may be planted more closely together; but I am not aware that this has been confirmed by actual experiment.
One of the best founded objections to the sorghum business is that it requires a large number of hands to work night and day for a very short period. There are few places where these can readily be obtained; and the increased wages which must be paid to attract them from other departments of labor diminishes the profits at all times, aud sometimes swallows them up entirely. It is, therefore, very desirable to extend the period of working as far as can be done; but as this can only be done at the beginning of the season, the introduction of early varieties is a matter of very great importance.
For these reasons, I would advise the farmers of New York who may be disposed to embark in the cultivation of the cane, to plant the sorghum mainly, in the first instance, say one-fourth' of Mr. Edgerton's early variety, and three-fourths of the common kind, at the same time it would be well to plant small experimental patches of other kinds, as they could thus learn with certainty the adaptation of each variety to their respective soils and climates. No doubt one kind has a more special adaptation to a given soil and climate than another, but until this adaptation is fully ascertained, the Borghum will be the safest for the main crop.
As has been the case with all the crops at their first introduction, gross frauds have been committed by unprincipled seed dealers, and much trash has been palmed off upon unsuspecting purchasers. I have seen