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BROOM CORN, ITS HISTORY, CULTURE, AND MAN
BY MITCHEL C. HOWARD.
The cultivation of broom corn has never been brought before public attention to any considerable extent. It forms, however, an agricultural product in the State of Ohio, amounting, probably, to as much in value as the production of flax. It would be difficult to approximate near accuracy in estimating the amount annually grown, as we have no official reports or tables on the subject. It is a native of India, and its introduction into this country is attributed to Dr. Franklin. He, it is said, discovered a seed while examining an imported whisk in the possession of a lady in Philadelphia, and from it planted in his garden sprung all our broom corn.
Difference of soil and climate bas produced four varieties, separate and distinct of themselves, but will readily hybridize if cultivated together. They are generally known as the Common, Early Eastern, Sampson, and Dwarf. For general purposes the Common is preferable. The Early Eastern will come into market three or four weeks sooner, but it is smaller in size and yields less per acre. The Sampson will yield more pounds per acre, but its coarse, large size renders it objectionable to the manufacturer. The Dwarf possesses fineness and flexibility of fiber, thus adapting it for making brushes and fancy brooms, but its cultivation and curing is usually attended with much more labor than the other varieties.
Soil well adapted to Indian corn is likewise adapted to broom corn. Good soil is of course preferable. The best soil for it is a deep, alluvial sandy soil, such as is found on our first river bottoms. The ground should be freshly plowed and well harrowed, then drill in rows three and a half feet apart. The seed should be perfectly clean, and free from any fibers of the brush, as they will clog the drill. Four quarts of seed is sufficient to plant one acre. The space between the seeds should be about four inches; if planted on good strong land it will do well if closer together About the tince it begins to appear roll the ground with a heavy roller
this pulverizes the lumps, presses the fresh earth around it, and on some kinds of land will do as much good as once tending.
We often hear the remark, “it is so slow in starting,” this is because it is then sending out its long roots and preparing for a more vigorous growth.
As soon as the rows appear plainly, go through it with a barrow made for that purpose, twice in a row, allowing it to go into the row, thereby loosening the earth and destroying the grass and weeds; there is not much danger of injuring the corn. Some will be covered up, but a boy with a steel-toothed garden rake will uncover it as fast as a man will harrow. The harrow used for this purpose should be made of solid, seasoned oak plank, triangular shaped, the sides three and a half feet, the base two and a half feet, set full of one-half inch iron or steel teeth, to the number of twenty-five or thirty. A rope attached to each side serves as a handle to control it.
The tool used the second and third times of tending is "Gibbs' Patent Cultivator," of which too much cannot be said in commendation as an implement for destroying weeds and loosening the grounds; it should be in more general use for the cultivation of other crops. The first time in going through the corn with the cultivator, set the teeth to throw the earth from the corn, as it will not bear much earth, go twice in a row, the closer the better. The next time of tending, wbich should be in a week or ten days, set the teeth to throw the earth towards the corn, this gives it fresh earth and covers up the smaller grass and weeds. If there are any larger weeds remaining at this time they should at once be removed. In two weeks more go through it again twice in a row with a good sized single shovel plow, banking up the earth around the roots of the corn, so it has plenty of nourishment for its future growth and maturity. The tending of the crop is in general at this time completed; we say in general, because it is impossible to prescribe one rule for all kinds of soil and seasons. The object must be to keep the soil free from grass and weeds, and in a loose, healthy condition. If the spring is wet, and the weeds have the advantage, hoeing, especially in the wet places, is almost indispensable. If the season is very dry, a constant stirring of the ground is very beneficial. Sometimes one tool is best adapted for this purpose, and sometimes another. An individual that cannot tell what is best to accomplish these ends without a written rule had better let its cultivation alone.
The proper time for cutting or gathering the brush, if the best market price is desired, is after the blows have fallen and before the seed passes into the milk. This secures the brush in the best condition, but the seed is then worthless. This method is generally used where it is cultivated on an extensive scale and shipped to the eastern market.
If the seed is made an object, it should stand until the seed passes into the milk, and the kernel attained full size, but not hardened. The brush will have lost some of its fresh, green appearance, but is, nevertheless, good and merchantable.
There are two methods used in harvesting: one, in which the value of the seed is disregarded, is to break over the tops of each row separately four or five feet high; the brush, when cut is immediately taken to the scraper, cleansed, and dried on scaffolds in sheds or barns. The scaffolds are generally constructed of lath 10 or 12 feet in length and laid successively one above another 8 or 10 inches apart, the brush spread on them to the depth of two or three inches. In this way the brush is kept straight from the time it is cut until deposited on the scaffold. Two sets of hands are required-one in the field, the other at the scraper. The process of drying the brush by means of kilns is now generally discarded, as it renders the fibres harsh and brittle.
The other method of harvesting, and by which the seed is preserved, is by breaking alternate handsful of two rows across each other at an angle of about 45°; this forms what is called a table on which the brush, after being cut, is laid to dry. The stalks should be cut six inches in length and stripped of husks at the time of cutting. If the weather is favorable it can remain out over one night-if it remains out longer, it is bleached and injured by the dew. It is not expected, however, to be perfectly dry when suitable for hauling in. It should be thrown promiscuously on scaffolds 2 or 3 feet apart in a well ventilated building. Great care must be taken that it does not heat from the moisture it still contains; if tolerably dry, it might be scaffoled 6 or 12 inches deep, but should be handled over once a day for two or three days. It can then remain until scraped, the process of which will be next described.
An expeditious and easy manner of scraping is by means of two wooden cylinders, 24 feet in length by 10 inches in diameter, securely held by iron bands around each end. The teeth, 24 inches in length, are made of wrought iron and a screw cut on the end by which they are fastened in the cylinder. The cylinders are made to revolve in opposite directions, and can, by means of belts, be attached to any ordinary horse-power or other machinery.
After the brush is scraped it is next baled. For this purpose a substan. tial frame is necessary 3 by 44 feet around and 4 or 5 feet high. The frame is filled with brush laying the stems out at each end, it is then pressed down into as small compass as possible by means of iron or wooden screws, bound with wire, and is now ready for market.
It is an erroneous idea that broom corn exhausts land. Any crop culti
vated for a number of years on the same soil will impoverish it unless en. riched by manures or alluvial deposits. While the entire growth of Indian oorn and other crops is removed from the field in which it is grown, the stalks and blades of broom corn remain upon the ground and are plowed under the following year. The decomposition of so large an amount of vegetable matter cannot fail to enrich and fertilize the soil. Thorough and repeated applications of manures, leached ashes, compost, etc., will improve the crop, and what crop will it not improve ?
The yield of brush depends upon the soil, season, extent of cultivation, and varies from 350 pounds to 850 pounds per acre ; 600 pounds is a fair, average yield.
The price of the brush ranges in this State from 4 to 9 cents per pound. In the eastern market from 6 to 12 cents. The price depends on the quality, quantity raised, and the amount in market. All these considerations are very liable to fluctuation. Its intrinsic value depends on its color, size, fineness and flexibility.
The seed of broom corn, when ripened and cleaned, forms a very important item in its cultivation. All kinds of stock will eat it readily; it is especially good for fattening sheep and when ground makes excellent slop for milch cows. It gields, in a fair season, from 40 to 80 bushels per acre, and weighs 42 pounds to the bushel.
Following is subjoined an account of the expenses of cultivating and profits of one acre for 1863: To plowing, harrowiug and rolling.... " 4 quarts of seed at $1 00 per bushel, and planting.. “harrowing and uncovering....... * cultivating first time and boeing... "cultivating and plowing second and third times.. ** harvesting.......... " scraping and cleaning seed.... * rent of land.....
25 50 By 712 pounds brush at 7} cents.
$53 40 * 60 bushels of seed at 40 cents..............
Total profits from one acre....
AN ESSAY ON THE VARIETIES OF SHEEP, AND
SHEEP CULTURE IN OHIO.
Ohio Agricultural Report for 1862.)
COMPILED BY JOHN H. KLIPPART.
THE GROWTH OF LUSTRE WOOL.
[From the London Farmer's Magazine.] Wool had ever formed an important item in the receipts of the stock farmer. It had commanded of late years a very satisfactory price, and, in consequence of the cotton supply being interrupted by the fearful American war, it appears likely to do so for some years to come, and therefore it behooved them, as British farmers, to endeavor, by every means in their power, to increase the growth of that kind of wool which was likely to fetch the best price in the English market, other matters of course being considered. It must be the object of the British farmer to produce as much stock as possible—a subject which was to be introduced next month by their old and esteemed friend, Mr. Robert Smith. He would remark that there was no animal that would so well repay the attention of the farmer as the sheep. The gentleman who was about to introduce the subject for consideration that evening bad had considerable experience, both of English and foreign wool, and no doubt they all looked forward to an interesting paper, and one from which they could derive most useful lessops.
Mr. ANDERSON then said : When some months ago a conversation on this important subject, the desirability of increasing the growth of lustre wool, took place between myself and a few members of this club, I little thought I should be called upon to write a paper in support of this proposition. I regret exceedingly that my time has been so occupied with my numerous business engagements that I have not been able to give that attention to the subject which it deserves. Indeed, had I consulted my