Page images
PDF
EPUB

means.

atmosphere in great abundance, and there has been much dispute over the question, whether or not plants get their supply of nitrogen from the ground or from the atmosphere. If they can get it from the atmosphere, then there is no need of furnishing this important element, nitrogen, in fertilizers. Professor Atwater, following up the work which was started by the French chemist Ville and carried on by Boussingault and others for several years, has found that some plants do actually avail themselves of the nitrogen in the atmosphere. He found that clover, beans and other leguminous plants, can and do gather nitrogen from the air. He states very strongly that he is convinced --- and from the evidence given in this bulletin I think he is right — that they can take up nitrogen from the air and store it in the soil, where it can be used as food by other plants. What does that mean? I have a few figures here which show what it

In New Hampshire we uso $200,000 worth of fertilizers every year.

One-third of the cost of these fertilizers is in nitrogen; therefore, $66,000 of this $200,000 represents the cost of the nitrogen that is contained in these fertilizers. The farmers of New Hampshire are paying every year $66,000 for nitrogen. In Massachusetts they are paying very much more.' How much is paid in the whole country I have no idea ; but the point is, that a portion of tbis, at least, can be saved. Now, it has been known for some time, it has been brought out very clearly by the experiments of Lawes and Gilbert, that clover, in their country, under their conditions, takes up nitrogen; and there it is the custom to grow clover and plough in the stubble to furnish a supply of nitrogen for the succeeding crop, say of wheat. Now, if there is stored up in the atmosphere a supply of nitrogen, and if the leguminous plants can gather and make use of this as food, then we can save this great expense which is incurred in furnishing it to the plants in the form of nitrate of soda or in other forms. This is another point which has been brought out before the country by an experiment station. What its value will be to the whole country, nobody can tell. I have simply undertaken to give some idea of its value to the State of New Hampshire, as an illustration.

I pass on to Bulletin No. 32, from the Massachusetts Experiment Station. In this bulletin Dr. Goessmann gives the results of certain tests which he has been making, with which you are much more familiar than I am, with reference to the production of milk and the relative economy of different cows. I have condensed the whole of it. Here is the excess of income over the cost of food. That is, taking the cost of the food of each cow for a given length of time, and the total income from the milk, I find that the best cow gave an excess of income of $93.25, and the poorest cow showed a deficiency of $3.97; that is, $3.97 worse than nothing, besides all the time spent in taking care of her. Now, the question for Massachusetts farmers, — and I want to say right here that it is equally true with us in New Hampshire, - the question for Massachusetts farmers to consider is, how many best cows they have, and how many of the poorest. I want to say to you that if you will study the bulletin of Dr. Goessmann you will be bound to study the character of the cows you are feeding, in order to be able to answer that question. I find that there are about two of the poorest to one of the best. We want to find the cows that are worse than no cows at all. How are you to do this? Right here is where the experiment stations have aided the farmers of the country. They have given to every farmer the means of finding out what his cows are worth, because they have put into the hands of every farmer methods of determining the percentage of fat in his milk. Now, it is not expected that every farmer will become a chemist, and be able to analyze his own soil and find out just what should be applied to it, in order to raise a given crop; but it is possible, by the simple methods of milk analysis, now so numerous, for almost every one, with a little care and experience, to make very accurate determinations of the butter value of milk, both of herds and individuals. Of the numerous methods, the simplest seems to be that of H. F. Beimling of Philadelphia. Its superiority for general use is that only about ten minutes' time is required to complete a test of six or twelve samples, according to the size of the machine. Babcock's test is also a promising one ; while Parsons, Short, Patrick, Cochran and others have methods each of which gives satisfactory results. Now, what does that mean? It means that a man who has ten cows should purchase this little invention, which costs from twenty to thirty dollars, and test the milk from those cows, keep a record of the tests, and the one that is a defaulter to the amount of three dollars a year, less or more, should be sent to the butcher, and the one that just barely pays her way should go also.

There are other points that might be touched upon; in fact, there are so many that I do not know that I will attempt to refer to any others. I will simply say that, while the experiment stations are making a great many mistakes, yet they are doing much good work. But there are certain duties on the part of the farmers toward the experiment stations. Do not for a moment think that all the duties are with the experiment stations. It is simply the old story of leading a horse to drink. It does not take a very able-bodied man to lead a moderately docile horse to drink, but it certainly does require a good deal of engineering and a good deal of skill to make the horse drink if he is not disposed to do so. Now, the same thing is true of the experiment stations. The results which Professor Goessmann, Professor Henry, or anybody else have given, if you do not study them and do not apply them, are of no use to you. But the experiment stations are not to blame for that. Take the matter of stock feeding. I will just allude to it, as showing the importance to the farmers of this country of saving one cent per day in the cost of feeding cows. It seems like a small matter, but the aggregate amount is quite a large sum. The experiment stations of this country have published bulletins giving instructions that will enable almost any farmer to save one cent per day in the food of every cow, and at the same time secure as good results as he does with his present method of feeding. What does that mean? A saving of one cent per day on cows alone in the State of New Hampshire means $1,000 per day, or $200,000 per year. There are some of our farmers who appreciate the importance of this saving, and some are saving two or three cents a day in feeding their cattle ; and I believe that it is possible to save three cents a day by studying and applying the most economical methods of feeding. A saving of one cent a day means $400,000 per winter in the State of Massachusetts, and in the United States it means $30,000,000. I do not mean to say that $30,000,000 will be saved in the United States, or that $200,000 will be saved in New Hampshire, or that $400,000 will be saved in Massachusetts; but I do say that these amounts can be saved in the cost of feeding our Cows.

I will not take up any more of your time, unless there are some questions asked.

Secretary SESSIONS. I would like to call your attention to one point. You spoke of feeding pigs with ashes and bone. Would the same result follow where skim-milk formed a considerable part of the ration? Professor WHITCHER. No, I think not.

But the great mass of hogs in this country are fed on corn from the time they are weaned until they are slaughtered. It would not be true where skim-milk is a part of the ration, because that contains the ash constituents which are necessary.

Mr. ELLIOTT MOORE. I would like to inquire of the speaker whether manure that was spread on the field say this last week, and is allowed to remain there until next spring, will waste?

Professor WHITCHER. I am very glad to have that question brought up. We have been studying it at our station for the last four years, and I will say, to answer the question as directly as possible, that I do not believe there is any loss to speak of, and I do believe that the gain there is in the condition in which the manure will be next spring will more than offset any little loss that there may bave been. Now, I must qualify that a little, because I know there are some in the audience who will take exception to that statement unless it is qualified. There is one way in which you

I would not put it on a steep hill-side, but, if the field is level or comparatively level, I do not believe that any loss results from that method of dealing with it, and for this reason: the first thing that takes place in the spring after the snow goes off is a softening of the earth under the manure, the water dissolves the plant food that is contained

may lose

manure.

in the manure, and it is washed down and settles in the soil. Now, it is a fact that, if you can filter the water that comes from the manure through three inches of earth, it takes up that manure. Consequently, if the water passes into the ground before it runs off, there is no loss. There is no loss in the atmosphere.

One of the old notions was that, because you could smell manure at a long distance, there had been a great loss of the elements of fertility in that

The fact is, that what passes off into the atmosphere is not plant food at all. I have a record of some experiments with manure spread on the field in the fall which show that it had fifteen per cent more value than the same manure spread and ploughed under the next spring.

Mr. EDMUND HERSEY of Hingham. I have noticed in going around the country that a great many farmers leave their manure in heaps. I wish the lecturer would explain to the audience the loss or gain in so doing.

Professor WHITCHER. That gain will be a loss. The reason why it will be a loss is simply this. I do not mean to say that there will be an absolute loss of material there, but its effect will be concentrated in spots. For ten years after manure has been left in that way, you will be able to distinguish the spot where a heap of manure was left. I have had considerable experience in this matter. Two or three years ago I drew out about a hundred loads of manure, and left it in that way through the winter. It came on quite cold before we could spread it. We ought to have had one of those manure spreaders which the Richardson Manufacturing Company sell. That manure laid in heaps through the winter, and we did not get more than half its actual value. I doubt if we ever shall.

Mr. HERSEY. I would like to ask if there is not an actual loss by leaving manure in the field, provided it heats ?

Professor WHITCHER. There is no doubt about that ; but, when left in small heaps, such as I have in mind, it very seldom heats. Of course you get fermentation when you get heat, and in that case you lose some of the value of the manure, especially of the liquid part. But, when left in small heaps, say seven or eight to a cart-load, it seldom beats.

« PreviousContinue »