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fields in which broom corn, Doura corn, millett, sorghum, and two or three kiuds of Imphee have been growing together, although the three first are entirely worthless for syrup, yet the farmer had been assured by his seedsman that the seed purchased was pure sorghum.
The only way to be secure, is for farmers to make themselves perfectly familiar with the appearance of the kinds deposited in the museum of the society in Albany, and then to purchase no seed except that sold in the head. Even pure seed will ripen very unequally. I have seen specimens of sorghum where one stalk would be entirely ripe, while others had scarcely begun to ripen. The great desideratum is to have seeds that will all ripen together, and such can only be obtained by the exercise of great care on the part of the seedsmen.
As it may be useful to new beginners to know where they can obtain reliable seed, I refer to Wm. H. Belcher, of Chicago; Eben S. Rickert, Locust Corners, Clermont co., Ohio, and William Edgerton, Coffin's Station, Henry co., Indiana. Several farmers told me that they had obtained reliable seeds of the Clark Sorgo Co., Cincinnati. Jr. Hedges assures me that the purest and best ripened seed at the west is sold by Mr. A. W. Nason, St. John's, Perry co., Illinois. I think any of these gentlemen may be relied upon for skill and integrity, and that they will give entire satisfac tion to any one who may purchase seed from them.
Most of the cultivators of sorghum are fully convinced of the strong tendency to hybridization which exists among the various members of the sorghum family; they believe that cane will mix with broom corn, Doura, and even Indian corn, as well as with the various kinds of Imphee. Others have resisted this idea on botanical grounds, and it must be confessed that they give some very strong reasons for their opinion.
Fully recognizing the force of the botanical objections, and unprepared to give a positive opinion upon the matter in controversy, I have seen so many cases of apparent hybridization that I should recommend great care in planting different varieties contiguous to each other, at least until the question is morė authoritatively settled. I saw many fields where the cane appeared to have departed widely from the normal type, and was told that the seed from which it came was raised adjoining Indian corn. I was told that sorghum and something closely resembling broom corn, grew from seed taken from a single panicle, and there is beyond question a constant tendency to deterioration in the cane everywhere. Such facts as these constantly accumulating, induced me to suppose that it might be possible that an unusual tendency to hybridization or mongrelism might exist in this family of plants.
The attention of western vegetable physiologists onght to be turned to the subject and the question definitely settled by a series of well directed experiments.
PLANTING THE SEED. It is quite impossible to state with certainty the exact time for planting the seed of the sorghum. I have seen it planted from the 15th of April to the 1st of June. The earlier it is planted the better, provided the ground is warm enough to start it and keep it growing, it is useless to put it into cold ground, it either rots, or, if it starts, it is pale, sickly and never attains to a vigorous vitality. Probably no better rule can be given than the old one for planting Indian corn, that is, when the oak leaf has grown to the size of a squirrel's ear. I have seen plants taken from a hot bed six inches high, set out at the same time that other seeds were planted At the beginning of October, no difference in either size or ripeness could be observed between the plants taken from the hot beds and those grown from the seed. Mr. Hedges tells me that he is very confident that this want of success in transplanting arose from misjudgment of the time. that he has uniformly succeeded in advancing the period of ripening, by transplanting from the hot bed, when the ground was warm and the weather propitious for continuous growth.
I met with many farmers who had soaked their seed before planting and were very much disgusted with the result of it. Others highly commended the practice. In the hands of careful and observing men, sprouting is without doubt a great advantage, the sprouted seed judiciously managed will come to maturity a week earlier than that which is unsprouted. Some have allowed the sprouts to grow three or four inches, which broke off in planting and the sprouts did not come up, others planted sprouted seeds towards the last of April, cold rains came on and the seed rotted in the ground. Such men are, of course, opposed to sprouting seed.
Those who wish to sprout their seeds, may pour scalding water upon them in a covered vessel, where they must remain for twenty-four hours, the water is then poured off and the vessel covered with three or four thicknesses of thick cloth wrung out of hot water. The vessel is then put into a tight box with a pot of boiling water, which is renewed every four hours. At each renewal of the boiling water, the seeds should be well stirred, in order to give them access to the air. As soon as the sprouts are a quarter of an inch long, they should be taken out, rolled in plaster or lime, and planted. Some planters recommend chemical steeps, such as chloride of lime, nitrate of soda, etc., but these require further verification before they can be positively recommended.
Much seed is lost at the west in consequence of too deep planting. When buried one inch beneath the surface, not one seed in a hundred will come up; at half an inch, a much larger number will germinate, but the plants remain for a long time yellow and sickly, which causes much loss of time. No seeds should be covered more than a quarter of an inch in depth, it is quite sufficient if they are covered just deep enough to exclude the light.
When the sheath is stripped from the stalk, a groove on one side is disclosed, in which a bud is found contiguous to the joint, which encloses the germ
of a new cane. In the West Indies these joints are planted instead of seed, and are called rattoons, and they are first, second, third, &c., according to the age of the parent root. They diminish every year in thickness and length of joint, and are said to yield a richer juice and to produce finer sugar than the original plant. (Encyc. Brit. art. Sugar.) This plan has been tried with the Chinese cane, but, hitherto, with little success. In the few cases where it has been grown in this way, it has matured earlier than that grown from seed and has proved considerably richer in saccharine matter. It is supposed that if the proper conditions of heat and
moisture are observed during the winter the bud will invariably germinate in the spring. Many intelligent men are trying to discover those conditions, some of whom will doubtless be successful. Since the seed, either from hybridzation or some other cause, is very liable to deterioration, rattoons can be much more surely relied upon to give certain results than has hitherto been the case from seed.
AFTER-CULTURE. For four or five weeks after the seminal leaves manifest themselves the growth of the plant above ground is very tardy, in this stage the plant is more tender than either Indian corn or broom corn, its activities being all directed to the formation of the root which enlarges with great rapidity. Its tendency is to grow downward without throwing out lateral roots on the surface of the ground as is the case with Indian corn. When the roots have attained a sufficient growth, the vital energies of the plant are directed to the stalk which then grows with great luxuriance. All the after culture must be bestowed before or very soon after this transference takes place, all that is done afterwards is au injury rather than a benefit.
As soon as the young plants can be discerned, the ground between the rows should be scarified by the cultivator taking care not to go too near the young plants which should be dressed, and the ground around them made mellow by the hand hoe. The cultivator should be run between the rows again in the second week. In the third week the intervals should be well stirred up with the plow. The cultivator should thereafter pass between the rows once a week until the plants get knee high, when after culture must be suspended, unless there is a vigorous growth of weeds, in that case they must be cut out with the hand hoe.
Men of experience differ very much about the expediency of removing the suckers, which spring up very abundantly. Some of the most intelligent men that I met with deemed it very essential to remove them as fast as they appeared, but my personal observations led me to adopt a conclusion diametrically opposite to theirs. I found that when the suckers were removed there was a decided enlargement of the main stalk, but no increase of sugar. It appeared that the energies of the plant had been directed to the formation of new cells both horizontally and laterally long after the natural period for this process had passed away. Since the transformation of starch and gum into sugar does not begin until the cell formation ceases, and since this transformation requires the greatest amount of heat, it will be seen there is not time enough left to effect it before the cool weather begins to diminish the rapidity of the operation, or put a stop to it altogether. The cutting off of the suckers not only prevents the formation of sugar, but by forcing the cane to an unnatural height increases its liability to be beaten dowu by the winds. I am very sure that in the year 1863, the cane was much riper and abounded more in saccharine matter where the suckers were left untouched, than where they were cụt off. Still, as the meteorological conditions of that year were anomalous, it is scarcely safe to deduce general conclusions respecting more regular seasons. I can only report upon what I actually saw.
In case it is determined to remove the suckers, they must not be cut off, as they will soon start out again, and the vitality of the plant is wasted in repeated efforts to reproduce them. They must be buried with the hoe as soon as they appear, which effectually disposes of them.
CUTTING AND GATHERING. The seed of the cane continues in the dough for about a week. It is the general impression the cane should be cut during this period, as it is then supposed to have the greatest amount of saccharine matter; at least, this is thought to be true of all the varieties except the white Imphee (Nee-a. za-na) which is usually cut just as it is going out of the milk or just en tering the dough. This, perhaps, answers very well as a general rule; but it is not infallible. I have found the cane unripe when the seeds were quite hard. The most certain test of ripeness is when the color of the stalk be. comes greenish yellow, we may then be assured that the compounds of carbon are all converted into cane sugar.
When the leaves are green, they are stripped off very easily; but it is difficult to get them off after they become brown. When they are taken off in the field, it is usual, at the time when the lowest leaves begin to turn brown, to strip them. Some use a wooden instrument, shaped like a swing. ling knife, for the purpose; others use a sort of wooden fork, as in the annexed figure, which is thought to accomplish the work rather faster. (See figs. I and 2.)
Others use White's patent cane stripper (3), which at one operation cuts off the heads and strips off the leaves. It is figured below. (See fig. 3.)
It is asserted that half an acre a day can be stripped by this machine, and that the work is done with much less injury to the cane; but I have never met with any one who has succeeded in stripping over a quarter of an acre with it. It is, however, possible that greater expertness, derived from long practice, would enable a man to do what is claimed for it.
Others cut the cane from the bottom, just like corn, above the first joint, and about two and a-half or three feet below the panicle. Children then strip the leaves from the stalks at a fixed price, which usually averages two dollars per acre. Others load the cane into a wagon as fast as it is cut and topped, with the butts towards the horses. When it is brought to the mill each stalk is drawn out separately from the bottom of the load, the weight of the superincumbent mass strips off the leaves completely. Many think that this is the cheapest and most convenient mode of stripping.
Whatever plan of stripping is adopted, it must be borne in mind that the cane is injured by bruising quite as much as an apple; a brown spot immediately forms which rapidly enlarges, decay goes on, and in addition to the loss of sugar, it communicates an unpleasant taste to the mass.
It seems well settled that freezing does not injure the cane, that is, it does not cause the transformation of the cane sugar already deposited, although it prevents the farther transformation of the lower forms of carbon in the juice into cane sugar; but if it is allowed to stand in the field, and warm weather ensues, fermentation takes place, and it spoils very rapidly. After a hard frost it should be cut as soon as possible, and placed under cover in a cool place. If kept at a low temperature the canes will sustain no injury for three months; they may, perhaps, be kept longer, but I have not met with any instance where they were actually kept longer than this.
The cane, I believe, has no insect enemies except the aphis, and the chinch bug (micropus leucopterus). It is recommended to surround the cane with a narrow strip of buckwheat or Hungarian grass, through either of which it is said they will not pass. I know of no compendious way of destroying the aphis, but one gentleman told me that he had attempted to kill them by sprinkling them with lime, and succeeded in killing—not the aphis, but the cane.
I could only find two persons who had weighed the product of an acre. Mr. Pomeroy found the cane at Sycamore, Ill., to weigh sixteen tons. Mr. Hedges ascertained the weight of half an acre to be eight and a half tons, or seventeen tons to the acre.
In consequence of immature seed and the growth of suckers, nothing is more uncertain than the number of stalks upon an acre. Several gentlemen have actually counted them, those that I met with varied very much in their statements; some were as low as sixteen thousand, others as high as twenty-four thousand, but the greater nuniber were in the neighborhood of eighteen thousand, which is probably near the average. I have weighed many of the stalks and found them to vary from three-quarters of a pound to two pounds and a half. The average weight was a pound and a half. Taking these averages, as correct, they give thirteen and a half tons as the average weight of cane on an acre.
The average weight of the dried seeds on each panicle is one ounce and a half, at least, such is the average so far as I have weighed them, but I have seen much larger estimates. The average weight of the seeds of the so-called early Imphee is 50 lbs. to the bushel. The average weight of a bushel of a sorghum seed, so far as I tried it, was 45 lbs. If thesc figures are correct the average amount of seed to the acre is thirty-eight bushels. An acre of cane will yield something over a ton of dry leaves which make an excellent fodder that is much relished by cattle in winter.
COST OF CONVERTING THE CANE INTO SYRUP. As with the manufacturers of cheese and cider, there are two distinct methods of working up the cane into syrup, which may be called the factory system and the domestic system. If there are found any districts in the State of New York large enough to furnish three or four hundred acres of cane, contiguous to each other, it will be altogether better to work on the factory system, as will be readily understood when we consider that cane juice is a highly complex fluid, and that the object of the sugar maker is to save one of its constituents and get clear of all the rest. It is plain that a considerably greater amount of chemical knowledge and practical skill is required for the accomplishment of this object than farmers can ordinarily acquire, hence the services of a skilled workman must be procured in order to successful results; but skilled labor commands higher remuneration. Now, a factory making one thousand gallons a day, can afford to pay ten times as much to such a workman as a farmer can, who is only making one hundred gallons a day, without increasing the cost per gallon.
The factory can afford to procure much better machinery; more laborsaving contrivances, the interest of capital is diffused over more gallons of [Ag. Trans.]