« PreviousContinue »
waste it. There is the whole trouble, - in the waste, not in the little butter and meat and corn that we want for ourselves. The rest is all to be carried back finally, every bit of it, and so there should be no loss.
Now, I do think, gentlemen, that, if there is anything that is needed in the United States above all other things, it is a reformation in regard to the care and preservation of farm manures. Some six or seven years ago I sampled every load of manure that went out of our covered barnyard. I found that we had produced in our barnyard upwards of sixteen hundred dollars' worth of potash, phosphoric acid and nitrogen, computed at the ordinary prices. Well, this so astounded me that I dared not publish it; and so the next winter I took particular pains to count all the animals, to estimate very carefully the amount of food they consumed, and to sample again and weigh every load of manure that went out of the covered barnyard ; and lo and behold, I found the results of the winter before verified. There were about forty-five head of cattle, some eighteen or twenty horses, and so on. And don't forget this, if you forget all the rest, that, with an ordinary ration and an ordinary animal, with ordinary prices, the manure produced by an animal is worth half of the cost of the food fed to it. Can any man afford to waste such a large percentage as one-half of the cost of the food? That is what it amounts to. Now, if I went to your barn and saw the wheat running out of your granary through a rat hole, would you ask me,
· My dear professor, would you stop that rat hole with an oak pin or a hemlock pin, or don't you think an iron bolt would be better to stop that rat hole?” You would not do any such thing; you would run and get the first thing that you could lay your hand on, and plug that hole. If it was not anything more than your wife's last year's sun-bonnet, that hole would have to be plugged. Therefore I need not say a word about the details of saving manure. I know that you have good sense, and I know that every drop of solid and liquid manure is under your control as perfectly as the wheat in the field.
Mr. BOWKER. Would you compost in the field, or in the barn?
Professor ROBERTS. I would not compost; I would get it from the stable to the field and to the plant the first opportunity.
Mr. BOWKER. If you were a market gardener?
Professor ROBERTS. I cannot speak of market gardening; I know nothing about the business.
Mr. Shaw. I would like to ask if clover sown at the second hilling of corn or a little later will attain sufficient growth to be of any benefit to the next crop?
Professor ROBERTS. Yes, sir; it will be of some benefit, but it is pretty expensive seed, you know, and the clover plant does not do its best until it is about a year old, and you would only get about five, six or seven months. The soil seems to be much richer in nitrogen after a clover crop. That is the work of the microbes, the living organisms in the soil. I thought I made that clear, – that recent discoveries have proved beyond a doubt that even without clover, if we have vegetable matter in the soil, by careful culture in hot weather we may add materially to the nitrogen in the soil.
Mr. J. H. HALE of Connecticut. I am particularly interested in this subject, and have been greatly inter sted in what Professor Roberts has said. I have always had to study the question of fertilizers; it is a matter of life and death with me and with a good many New England farmers. In my observations when visiting other farms and learning what I could about agricultural and horticultural matters, I have never found an unsuccessful farmer who practices Professor Robert's method of hauling out manure in the fall or in the winter, or at any time except mid-summer, and spreading right on the field. Wherever I have found a man doing that, I have found a successful farmer every time. This is the practical side of the question which has always interested me.
Now, as to the matter of commercial fertilizers and the purchase of nitrogen. Our farm is a small one, but we need to cultivate pretty thoroughly, and, as the professor says, we are continually stirring the soil. We keep the horse harrows moving all the time from early spring until late fall, and while we have bought a great deal of manure and
thousands of dollars' worth of commercial fertilizers in the last fifteen years, we have found that we have been able to grow crops at a profit, and that our land has improved in fertility every year. The productive capacity of the farm has doubled over and over again in the last fifteen years. We have bought only potash and phosphoric acid. We have never bought nitrogen except what little we have got in fine-ground bone, buying simply those two cheap elements of plant food, and but very little of the high-priced nitrogen, trusting to luck, perhaps, to get it in some other way, or trusting to cultivation.
Professor ROBERTS. Trusting to the microbe.
Mr. HALE. We did not know it was the microbe, but if that was the fellow we have trusted to him. I am satisfied that, by thorough cultivation, and, as the professor says, never letting the ground lie bare, but when one crop is off have something else growing there, and simply purchasing potash and phosphoric acid, you can not only grow crops at a profit, but you can build up the worn-out New England farms. If there are any such they are simply mismanaged,
I should say.
The CHAIRMAN. Two years ago a man who keeps one of our first-class restaurants called me into his store and said he wanted to show me some peaches. He said, “Why is it you Worcester fellows cannot raise peaches like these?” I did not tell him we did not know how to do it. He said, “ These peaches came from Mr. Hale in Connecticut.” This is the man who two years ago raised about fifteen thousand baskets of peaches. I speak of it to show you that his remarks are backed up by results. He is known all through the East and even in New York State as the most successful peach grower that we have in New England.
Mr. WEST. From what material do you obtain your phosphoric acid ?
Mr. HALE Finely ground raw bone.
Mr. PETERSON. It would be profitable to us if we could raise peaches as Mr. Hale does. Can he throw any light upon this difficult question of peach growing without taking up too much time?
Secretary SESSIONS. He has given you a little light on
1 1 1
it. He has told you that he keeps his cultivators going from early in the spring until late in the fall.
Mr. Rice of Worcester. There is quite a controversy in regard to clean culture and having crops in an orchard. I would like to have Mr. Hale's idea in regard to clean culture for orchards.
Mr. HALE. Keep the horse cultivator in there. That is the only crop I would let in.
Professor ROBERTS. When the orchard gets large, put in a flock of sheep and manure it in that way. If you have an orchard that would pasture a hundred sheep, put in two hundred and fifty, and then give them enough grain to supply the deficiency of grass. Every apple that falls will be eaten, and the ground will be richly manured.
Mr. Rice. Should you object to keeping an orchard entirely uncultured all the time, and have nothing grow on the ground except the trees?
Professor ROBERTS. No, I would not, after your trees get large. I think you can accomplish the result quite as easily by feeding sheep in your orchard, and make a good round sum from the sheep, and also make quite as much from the apples as you would if you cultivated it. Swine in an orchard are not nearly as good as sheep.
Mr. Gold. Mr. Hale’s remarks in regard to culture referred to peach trees.
Mr. BOWKER. I do not want to have this discussion digress into a talk about commercial fertilizers, but I do want to say a word with reference to this matter; for my friend Mr. Hale raises fruit, and, as Professor Roberts will tell you, fruit is made up largely of sugar and water, very little nitrogen enters into it. But, if the professor were raising a crop of cabbages, would he depend entirely upon the air for the nitrogen, or on the microbe in the soil? Or, if he were raising a crop of tobacco, one of the largest feeders that we have, or a crop of potatoes, would he depend upon that little fellow in the soil to develop the nitrogen that he wanted, especially when the potato grows, as we know, in thirty or sixty days? You see, we must consider just what we are growing. One man grows wheat out in New York State, where clover is not worth much to feed, and another man grows it in Massachusetts, where clover is worth something; and one man raises fruit down in Connecticut, where the air and the sunshine give him a large part of the material which he wants, and another man, my friend Rawson, for instance, raises early cabbages out in Arlington, and he wants to get his crop in the market just as quickly as he can. Now, these are conditions, and not a theory.
Professor ROBERTS. I do not think I can answer all those questions in a specific way. I should say that I would prefer to take for illustration the corn plant.
Mr. BowKER. Now, professor, that is hardly fair, because the corn crop is not a great feeder on nitrogen. Well,
Professor ROBERTS. In the corn crop we want an early, rapid growth. Nitrogen is largely used in the early stages of growth. So, if you want to push a corn crop, push it with nitrogen ; but, if you get too much nitrogen in the soil, the plants will be weak and watery. I can spoil a root crop with a heavy dose of raw manure produced from feeding rich food. So I would put my commercial fertilizers on my roots, I would put my nitrogerous manure on the grasses and on the corn crop, but I would be careful not to get too much of it on the corn, because I shall want phosphoric acid to mature the kernel.
Mr. GERRISH, of the “ Mirror and Farmer," New Hampshire. I want to say just a word on this nitrogen question. I want you to understand that I am a practical working farmer; I work my pencil as a little side issue, using it from a practical farmer's stand-point. Nearly fifteen years ago, when Professor Sanborn was on our college farm, he wanted me to take part in a series of experiments on corn, and wanted me to furnish the chemicals. I sat down and wrote him, " Professor Sanborn, I have always raised sheep and clover on my farm, and I cannot afford to buy nitrogen to raise corn ; but, as a matter of experiment, I will buy it in order to be uniform with the experiments in other towns." Pretty soon Professor Sanborn and the scientists got my idea, and Professor Sanborn came out and those gentlemen came out and Lawes and Gilbert of Eng