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The second point of difference between the two countries lies in the soil. The soil of England is mainly argillaceous, a soft and unctuous loam upon a substratum of clay. This may be considered as the predominant characteristic in the parts which I visited. The soil in some of the southern counties of England is thinner; some of it is what we should call stony; much of it is a free, gravelly soil, with some small part which, with us, would be called sandy. Through a great extent of country, this soil rests on a deep bed of chalk. Ours is a granite soil. There is granite in Great Britain; but this species of soil prevails in Scotland, a part of the country which more resembles our own. We may have some lands as good as any in England. Our alluvial soils on Connecticut River, and in some other parts of the country, are equal to any lands; but these have not, ordinarily, a wide extent of clay subsoil. The soil of Massachusetts is harder, more granitic, less abounding in clay, and altogether more stony, than the soil of England. The surface of Massachusetts is more uneven, more broken with mountain ridges, more diversified with hill and dale, and more abundant in streams of water, than that of England.
The price of land in that country, another important element in agricultural calculations, differs greatly from the price of land with us.
It is three times as high as in Massachusetts, at least. On the other hand, the price of agricultural labor is much higher in Massachusetts than in England. The price of labor varies considerably in different parts of England; but it may be set down as twice as dear with us here.
These are the general remarks which have suggested themselves to me in regard to the state of things abroad. Now, have we any thing to learn from them? Is there any thing in the condition of England applicable to us, or in regard to which the agriculture of England may be of use to Massachusetts and other countries?
The subject of agriculture, in England, has strongly attracted the attention and inquiries of men of science. They have studied particularly the nature of the soil. More than twenty years ago, Sir Humphrey Davy undertook to treat the subject of the application of chemical knowledge to agriculture in the analysis of soils and manures. The same attention has been continued to the subject; and the extraordinary discoveries and advances VOL. I.
in chemical science, since his time, are likely to operate greatly to the advantage of agriculture. The best results may be expected from them. These inquiries are now prosecuted in France with great enthusiasm and success. We may hope for like beneficial results here from the application of science to the same objects.
But although the circumstances of climate and situation, and nature of the soil, form permanent distinctions which cannot be changed, yet there are other differences, resulting from different modes of culture, and different forms of applying labor; and it is to these differences that our attention should be particularly directed. Here, there is much to learn. English cultivation is more scientific, more systematic, and more exact, a great deal, than ours This is partly the result of necessity. A vast population is to be supported on comparatively a small surface. Lands are dear, rents are high, and hands, as well as mouths, are numerous. Careful and skilful cultivation is the natural result of this state of things. An English farmer looks not merely to the present year's crop. He considers what will be the condition of the land when that crop is off; and what it will be fit for the next year. He studies to use his land so as not to abuse it. On the contrary, his aim is to get crop after crop, while still the land shall be growing better and better. If he should content himself with raising from the soil a large crop this year, and then leave it neglected and exhausted, he would starve. It is upon this fundamental idea of constant production without exhaustion, that the system of English cultivation, and, indeed, of all good cultivation, is founded. England is not original in this. Flanders, and perhaps Italy, have been her teachers. This system is carried out in practice by a well-considered rotation of crops. The form or manner of this rotation, in a given case, is determined very much by the value of the soil, and partly by the local demand for particular products. But some rotation, some succession, some variation in the annual productions of the same land, is essential. No tenant could obtain a lease, or, if he should, could pay his rent and maintain his family, who should wholly disregard this. White crops (wheat, barley, rye, oats, &c.) are not to follow one another. Our maize, or Indian corn, must be considered a white crop; although, from the quantity of stalk and leaf which it produces, and which are such excellent food for cattle, it is less exhausting than some other
white crops; or, to speak more properly, it makes greater returns to the land. The cultivation of maize has not, however, been carried to any extent in England. Green crops are turnips, potatoes, beets, vetches, or tares (which are usually eaten while growing, by cattle and sheep, or cut for green food), and clover. Buck or beech wheat, and winter oats, – thought to be a very useful product, - are regarded also as green crops, when eaten on the land; and so, indeed, may any crop be considered, which is used in this way. But the turnip is the great green crop of England. Its cultivation has wrought such changes, in fifty
. years, that it may be said to have revolutionized English agriculture.
Before that time, when lands became exhausted by the repetition of grain crops, they were left, as it was termed, fallow; that is, were not cultivated at all, but left to recruit themselves as they might. This occurred as often as every fourth year, so that one quarter of the arable land was always out of cultivation, and yielded nothing. Turnips are now substituted in the place of these naked fallows; and now land in turnips is considered as fallow. What is the philosophy of this? The raising of crops, even of any, the most favorable crop, does not, in itself, enrich, but in some degree exhausts, the land. The exhaustion of the land, however, as experience and observation have fully demonstrated, takes place mainly when the seeds of a plant are allowed to perfect themselves. The turnip is a bien
. nial plant. It does not perfect its seed before it is consumed.
There is another circumstance in respect to the turnip plant which deserves consideration. Plants, it is well understood, derive a large portion of their nutriment from the air. The leaves of plants are their lungs. The leaves of turnips expose a wide surface to the atmosphere, and derive, therefore, much of their subsistence and nutriment from these sources. The broad leaves of the turnips likewise shade the ground, preserve its moisture, and prevent, in some measure, its exhaustion by the sun and air.
The turnips have a further and ultimate use. Meat and clothing come from animals. The more animals are sustained upon a farm, the more meat and the more clothing. These things bear, of course, a proportion to the number of bullocks, sheep, swine, and poultry which are maintained. The great inquiry,
then, is, What kind of crops will least exhaust the land in their cultivation, and furnish, at the same time, support to the largest number of animals?
A very large amount of land, in England, is cultivated in turnips. Fields of turnips of three, four, and even five hundred acres, are sometimes seen, though the common fields are much less; and it may be observed here, that, in the richest and best cultivated parts of England, inclosures of ten, fifteen, twenty, or thirty acres seemed more common. Since the introduction of the turnip culture, bullocks and sheep have trebled in number. Turnips, for the reasons given, are not great exhausters of the soil; and they furnish abundant food for animals. Let us suppose that one bushel of oats or barley may be raised at the same cost as ten bushels of turnips, and will go as far in support of stock. The great difference in the two crops is to be found in the farmer's barn-yard. Here is the test of their comparative value. This is the secret of the great advantages which follow from their cultivation. The value of manure in agriculture is well appreciated. M'Queen states the extraordinary fact, that the value of the animal manure annually applied to the crops in England, at current prices, surpasses in value the whole amount of its foreign commerce.
There is no doubt that it greatly exceeds it. The turnip crop returns a vast amount of nutritive matter to the soil. The farmer, then, from his green crops, and by a regular system of rotation, finds green fodder for his cattle and wheat for the market.
Among the lighter English soils is that of the county of Norfolk, a county, however, which I had not the pleasure of visiting. Its soil, I understand, is light, a little inclined to sand, or light loam. Such soils are not unfavorable to roots. Here is the place of the remarkable cultivation and distinguished improvements of that eminent cultivator, Mr. Coke, now Earl of Leicester. In these lands, as I was told, a common rotation is turnips, barley, clover, wheat. These lands resemble much of the land in our county of Plymouth, and the sandy lands to be found in the vicinity of the Connecticut and Merrimack Rivers. The cultivation of green crops in New England deserves attention. There is no incapacity in our soil, and there are no circumstances unfavorable to their production. What would be the best kind of succulent vegetables to be cultivated, whether turnips or carrots, I am not prepared to say. But no attempts,
. within my knowledge, have been made among us of a systematic agriculture; and until we enter upon some regular rotation of crops, and our husbandry becomes more systematic, no distinguished success can be looked for. As to our soil, as has been remarked, there is no inherent incapacity for the production of any of the common crops.
We can raise wheat in Massachusetts. The average crop in England is twenty-six bushels to the acre.
From my own farm, where the soil is comparatively thin and poor, I have obtained this summer seventy-six bushels of wheat upon three acres of land. It is not, therefore, any want of capability in the soil; but the improvement and success of our husbandry must depend upon a succession of crops adapted to the circumstances of our soil, climate, and peculiar condition.
In England, a large portion of the turnip crop is consumed on the land where it grows. The sheep are fed out of doors all winter; and I saw many large flocks, in the aggregate thousands and even millions of sheep, which were never housed. This was matter of surprise, especially considering the wetness of the climate; and these sheep are often exposed in fields where a dry spot cannot be found for them to lie down upon. Sheep are often folded in England by wattled fences, or hurdles temporarily erected in different parts of the field, and removed from place to place, as the portions of the crop thus fenced off are consumed. In some cases they are folded, and the turnips dug and carried to them. In such cases, they are always fed upon lands which are intended the next year to be, as far as practicable, brought under cultivation. I have seen many laborers in fields, employed in drawing the turnips, splitting them, and scattering them over the land, for the use of the sheep, which is considered better, often, than to leave the sheep to dig for themselves. These laborers are so employed all winter, and if the ground should become frozen, the turnips are taken up with a bar. Together with the turnips, it is thought important that sheep should have a small quantity of other food. Chopped hay, sometimes a little oil-cake, or oats, is usually given. This is called trough food, as it is eaten in troughs, standing about in the field. In so moist a climate as that of England, some land is so wet that, in the farmer's