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manures or to break up the subsoil and allow the roots of plants to penetrate it, and bring up mineral food to the surface; and if the latter, the question will then arise whether to plow under these plants, or feed them to stock and return the manure. In growing wheat is it best to buy bones, or to subsoil and plow in the clover? He would call on Joseph Harris, of the Genesee Farmer, for his views on the subject.
Mr. Harris said that he had received no intimation that this subject would come before this meeting, and he was not aware till an hour ago, that he had been selected to open the discussion. He was entirely unprepared to speak on the subject. Taking the question as it stood, and confining ourselves to the mineral food of plants, he had no hesitation in expressing the opinion that the most economical method would be to purchase mineral manures. The mineral food of plants consists essentially of eight ingredients—four acids and four alkalies, or alkaline earths. The former were phosphoric acid, sulphuric acid, silicic acid and chlorine; the latter, potash, soda, lime and magnesia. We could get phosphoric acid in bones or phosphatic guanos, such as Jarvis' or Baker's Island, which were exceedingly rich in phosphoric acid. Sulphuric acid, as well as lime, could be cheaply purchased in the form of plaster (gypsum or sulphate of lime). Chlorine, as well as soda, could be had from common salt (chloride of sodium). Silicic acid or sand, we need say nothing about. Four pounds of bones, or three pounds of Jarvis' or Baker's Island guano, contained phosphoric acid enough for a bushel of wheat. But will au addition of four pounds of bones to the soil, or three pounds of guano, give us an extra bushel of wheat? We all know it will not. All the mineral matter in a ton of barnyard manure could be purchased for twenty-five cents. But granting that we supply the soil with a sufficient quantity of mineral plant food, is that all we need to grow large crops? It is not. Mr. Lawes, of England, has grown wheat from the same soil for twenty years in succession, and the average yield of the unmanured plot is 164 bushels. On another plot, supplied with an abundant supply of phosphates, potash and other mineral manures, the average yield was 184 bushels, or only an increase of two bushels per acre. While on another plot, where ammonia had been added to the minerals, the average yield was over 34 bushels per acre-or an increase over minerals alone of 16 bushels per acre. Plants must have mineral manures, but these alone will not give us large crops. We need ammonia, and there is no practical or economical method of furnishing ammonia that does not at the same time furnish all the mineral matter which the increase caused by the ammonia requires.
Solon Robinson.-Tell us how to get ammonia.
Joseph Harris.—Sow clover, peas, beans, &c. Consume them on the farm, and carefully preserve and return the manure to the soil. Feed more grain; straw will not make rich manure. Clover hay will make manure four times as rich as straw, and nearly twice as rich as that made from timothy hay. Peas afford manure twice as rich as corn. Oil cake is even still better than peas and beans.
Solon Robinson said there were parties in New York who bought up all the chandlers' greaves and shipped them to Europe. They paid $25 per
ton for them. These greaves are rich in ammonia, and the British farmers seem to appreciate their value.
The Hon. T. C. Peters, of Genesee county, would ask Mr. Harris how we are to get ammonia where clover is not grown? There is only 19 per cent of land in the State where we grow wheat. In Dutchess county where fifty bushels of wheat per acre was once grown, the average now is only five busbels per acre. The farmers there are now growing rye. In the dairy districts, where farming is quite as profitable as in any other section of the State, but where clover is not grown, how are we to get ammonia?
Mr. Harris did not wish to be understood as saying that clover was the only crop that would furnish ammonia. He thought on soils where clover flourishes as well as it does in Western New York, clover was the best crop that could be grown to enrich the land. But of course grass would also enrich the land when fed to cattle, and the manure carefully husbanded and returned to the soil; but he thought grass was not as good for this purpose as clover. He thought it quite probable that in the dairy districts, bone dust or American guano, or superphosphate, might be used as a manure for grass land. But the great need was barn-yard manure of better quality. Farmers should feed more grain. He thought, too, that in the dairy district irrigation might be practiced with advantage. He had seen many little streams running down the hill sides, that might, with a little engineering skill, be turned on a portion of the grass land. This would give a heavy crop of grass—and this would enable the farmer to keep more stock and make more manure, which could be used to enrich other portions of the farm.
Gen. Miller, of Delaware county, said there was land in his neighborhood that would not grow clover, and much that could not be plowed. Ashes are used with great benefit on grass lands. He believed in barn-yard manures; but he also thought mineral manures were valuable. Ammonia acts as a stimulant. Scientific men tell us that there is a certain definite quantity of mineral plant-food in the soil, and if we keep taking it from the land, the time will come when we can no longer grow crops. We should return to the soil all the elements that we take from it. In no other way can we keep up its fertility.
Joseph Harris said there was one thing of which we might be certain60 long as we could grow clover there was sufficient mineral matter in the soil to grow wheat. The first symptom of exhaustion would be manifested in the clover crop. There may be soils where clover will not grow, and it might be necessary to apply mineral manures to the soil; but even in this case it was a question whether we had not better use manures which furnish ammonia as well as mineral matter.
Luther H. Tucker, of the Country Gentleman, said that though it was true that there was a definite amount of mineral matter in the soil, yet tables had been prepared by eminent chemists, showing that there was enough in most soils to last for thousands of years.
S. Walrath, of St. Lawrence county, believed in deep and thorough cultivation of the soil. He does not use mineral manures—does not think we need them. Underdraining and subsoiling had doubled the crops on his farm. He grows clover and roots. Formerly his land was infested with
thistles, but in a few years after subsoiling, and good, clean culture between the rows of his root crops, they had disappeared. He makes all the manures he can-never sells any grain. Would rather buy a hundred bushels of grain than sell it.
The Rev. Mr. Loomis, of Cayuga, alluded to the fact that many grave yards exhibited every symptom of poverty, while just outside the wall, where the land is under cultivation, the crops are good. He did not think we could stimulate the soil. Had no fears that our lands could be exhausted.
Mr. Walrath differed with many in regard to deep plowing. On his land very deep plowing was injurious, but subsoiling (that is, merely breaking up the hard pan and loosening the soil without bringing it to the surface) was very beneficial.
Luther H. Tucker asked if we do not get in barn-yard manure just that mixture of ammonia and mineral matter that our crops needed? He had spent some time recently in a dairy district of this State, and he observed that those farmers succeeded best who paid most attention to top-dressing. One farmer in Chenango county had rented out half of his farm, and by the aid of top-dressing was enabled to raise more hay from the other half than he formerly raised from the whole. Many farmers let their barn-yard manure lie exposed to winds and rains till it is almost worthless; but others are paying more attention not only to making more and richer manure, but to its careful preservation. In some experiments made in Massachusetts on grass, where various kinds of manure were used, such as ashes, superphosphate, guano, &c., the land dressed with cow dung was the best; at least if not so the first year, it was so in the end. In some experiments made by Mr. Harris near Rochester, where various mineral and ammoniacal manures were used alone and combined, it was found that the mixture of the two together gave a greater increase of hay than the total increase obtained from the various plots where the ingredients were used separately. In other words, the plot dressed with manures that most nearly resembled the richest kind of barn-yard dung, gave the best results. If you feed high, you get better manure, and if you buy grain, so much the better. The president of the Society, who had a farm in Westchester county, where he was carrying out many useful experiments, used bone dust to bring up his land to a productive stand point to produce grass, and thus make manures; and the question is, whether such mineral manures can be used on land too poor to produce good crops of clover or grass, more economically than resorting to the slower process of subsoiling, &c.
Gen. Miller, of Delaware county.-Suppose we make all the manure that we can, shall we not still have to use bone dust, &c., to “keep the machinery running?"
Solon Robinson. The question is not whether barn-yard manpre is good; we acknowledged that but how to get enough of it. He had for several years been trying to ascertain which is the best manure to purchase, but had not yet discovered. Does not know which is the best. Salt he knows is good. Five bushels has given him a ton of hay increase per acre. But it might not be useful on all soils—farmers should experiment with it for themselves. He uses ten bushels per acre on old meadows and on clover,
and it has a good effect. He has also raised excellent turnips on salted land. It is a question whether any man can afford to draw manure two miles, or whether he had not better buy concentrated manures.
Hon. T. C. Peters would make a suggestion in regard to this question. In all the “soft water regions" of this state ashes were beneficial, and in the wheat regions plaster is beneficial. That settles two points. Taking the State through, he thinks that at present these two manures—ashes and plaster-are all that the generality of farmers can afford to use.
The following is the summing up of the discussion by Hon. Mr. Conger:
1. The most essential elements of the food of all plants found in their ash after combustion, and therefore styled “mineral food,” are phosphoric, sulphuric and silicic acid, in their several combinations with potash, soda, lime, magnesia and iron; and chlorine, in its combination with the second of these bases, in the form of common salt.
8. As the presence of each one of these elements in a soluble form (that is so that each may in due proportion be easily appropriated by every plant) is an indispensible condition of a fertile soil, it may happen, under an exhaustive process of cropping, or an inefficient system of tillage, that one or more of these elements, though existing in the soil, are no longer in a state of sufficient solubility, or that from the foregoing causes, or from the natural condition of the soil, are wanting, or their relative proportions disturbed by the presence of some elements in excess.
3. Whenever any crop fails to reach a full maturity, the attention of the farmer should be at once directed to a careful study of chemical analysis, not only of his surface soil, but of his subsoil. If both are deficient in any of the above elements there is no remedy but to apply them directly to the surface.
4. Where the subsoil contains all the mineral sources of food, it is to be made of easy access to the fine branches of the roots or plants, by very thorough plowing and deep subsoiling; and their power to permeate the subsoil in search of the food needed, may be partly estimated by some facts Devealed in botanic studies, to wit: that the roots of rape have been found over five feet in length, that of clover over six, and those of lucern over thirty, while the fibers of turnips (Swedish) diverging from the root stock are very numerous, and in common with most cultivated plants will strike deep into pliable subsoil when the top fibers of the roots have, in a porous surface soil, received their necessary food and their proper care; as for instance, when rye plants, six weeks after sowing, having leaves only five inches long, had produced roots two feet in length, soon to be followed by the stooling of eleven shoots with roots three to four feet in length.
5. As the turnip or clover crop reaches maturity, the elements of food drculating throughout the entire plant, are gradually concentrated in the bulk of the root, and the former, after feeding to stock and returned in the shape of barnyard manures, or the latter, if plowed in, bring to the surface soil those elements of mineral food which the deep-stretching fibers of the roots have gathered from the subsoil.
& Careful experiments have shown that madures in which the nitrogenous and mineral elements are properly blended, produce the greatest returns from a given area of cultivated soil; while if the former is separately used, the ash residuum shows that it has secured to the plant a larger proportion of the latter, and vice versa.
7. As barnyard manure, carefully husbanded from animals properly fed and cared for, contains not only all the nitrogenous but the mineral food of the plants fed to them and not appropriated in the formation of flesh and bone, &c., it is clear that it is the most economical source of mineral as well as nitrogenous food to plants, provided always that it is made on the farm in sufficient quantities, and the expense of its application, both as to the distance to which, and the time within which it is to be carted, is kept within reasonable limits.
8. But as the larger efficiency of barnyard manure lies in the evolution of its nitrogenous elements, and, in obedience to the law observed in the 6th section, tends to the appropriation from the soil by the plant of its mineral food, it is evidently desirable to resort to the use of mineral manures, especially when experience has shown that if judiciously applied they produce a larger crop than if not so applied, whether in combination with barnyard manures or not.
9. Artificial manures are too expensive for their profitable employment by the farmer, and economy of expenditure demands the selection of those found on the farm or obtained by inexpensive processes.
Thus common salt (one of the mineral elements of the food of plants as above mentioned), in its application of from 12 to 20 bushels per acre (especially if the latter amount is applied in the fall), will produce large crops of clover, turnips and mangolds. Its use in a saturated solution in hot water, at the rate of eight pounds to 100 pounds of Baker's or Jarvis Island guano, will render eight per cent of the phosphoric acid in combination with the lime in these guanos soluble; that is, place so much phosphoric acid in a condition to be at once taken up by the plant. Its power then as a solvent of the phosphate of lime, existing in the soil, cannot be denied, and its application in combination with plaster (sulphuric acid and lime) and ashes, makes the cheapest possible top-dressing for grasses and grain, except in cases where the phosphate of lime is deficient in the soil.
10. Common ashes are the most easily recognized form of potash. Where not obtained in sufficient quantities on the farm, their places may be measurably supplied by muck dug from swamps, obtained from the bottom of ponds, &c., and mixed in layers with stone lime sufficiently broken up, and in the proportion of about one bushel of the latter to four or five of the former; by which process, not only the seeds long buried in the muck are deprived of their power of vegetation, but the humic and ulmic acids in the muck are made, through their combination with the lime, to play an important part in the economy of vegetation.
11. Lime, best applied in the form of gypsum, and thus yielding the element of sulphuric acid, should rarely be applied in the caustic form, or even when this last has been partially de-oxydized by water, unless on land abounding in vegetable malters, as in the case of swamps or wet lands newly drained.
In its combination with phosphoric acid it is most valuable in stimulating the growth of clover and turnips—the best precursors of grain crops. Bones pulverized and treated with salts as above, or decomposed in compost